Friday, October 11, 2019

Dems are asking: "Who paid Rudy?" I have a theory.

I was away from my writin' computer for much of yesterday, and thus could not comment on the day's many events. It may not be a good idea to write much now, since we may soon hear testimony from Marie Yavonovich, former ambassador to Ukraine. It's possible that she may not have much of interest to say: The Giuliani team plotted to get rid of her precisely because she was a straight shooter. Thus, she was not privy to the bad guys' scheme.

Last night, Rachel Maddow arranged a maddeningly complex story into a straightforward, easy-to-understand linear narrative, and for that we owe her many thanks.

Much of that narrative was driven by one key question: Why were Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman -- the two Florida wheeler-dealers indicted for funneling Russian money to Trump and other Republicans -- heading off to Vienna? And why was their partner, Rudy Giuliani, heading off to the same city?

I don't think that they were incredibly eager to hear Christian Thielemann conduct Bruckner's Eighth Symphony. (Though that's how I would have spent my time.) They were obviously meeting with Ukrainian arch-criminal Dmitry Firtash, a pro-Putin gangster who apparently has cobbled together some garbage designed to smear Biden. We may call this scheme "Trash from Firtash."

Here's Mother Jones reporter Dan Friedman:
Dmytro Firtash, the Russian oligarch fighting extradition to the US, happens to be in Vienna. Giuliani has claimed Mueller tried to get Firtash to cooperate in the Trump probe, and cited an affidavit filed in Firstahs' case. They have aligned interests.
Victoria Toesing and Joe DiGenova, who have worked with Rudy and John Solomon to push BS stories out of Ukraine, agreed to work for Firtash last month.
Asked if he planned to meet with Firtash or his representatives in Austria, Giuliani said: "No planned meeting such as you state but I can't describe it anymore" and: "I have nothing to do with Firtash." Which is not quite: "No."
Now let's take this deeper. Here's a tweet from a person named Justin Hendrix (not a journalist, but astute):
I'm always reminded of the weird coincidence that Vincent Tchenguiz, the largest shareholder in Cambridge Analytica’s parent company SCL Group, was a business partner of Dmitry Firtash — who did biz with Paul Manafort. Weird little world.
And also that Tchenguiz's sister Lisa had a restaurant with Ivana Trump.
Tchenguiz -- whose holdings in the UK are huge -- may turn out to be a massively important figure in all of this.

Remember that name. "Stick a pin in that," as Rachel is wont to say. Let us now consider this important question: "Who paid Rudy?"
It’s unclear if Giuliani’s finances have been a component of House Democratic investigations into the pressure campaign that the former New York City mayor and President Trump applied to Ukrainian leadership in order to persuade them to investigate the work Biden’s son, Hunter, was doing in that country. But CNN reported that his financial dealings are under renewed scrutiny by investigators following the arrests of two clients, Soviet-born businessmen Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, on Thursday for campaign finance violations. And Maloney’s comments suggest that there is an appetite for congressional investigators to better understand the money-trail as well.
One obvious suggestion would be that Firtash has been paying Rudy (perhaps via Parnas and Fruman). But another possibility is Vincent Tchenguiz.

I wrote about Vincent Tchenguiz and Firtash a while back. Perhaps we should take another look at that material, which was part of a larger post about Cambridge Analytica. (Although CA ostensibly went under, personnel from that firm are still doing their dirty numbers, using the same filthy tricks.) Excerpts appear below the asterisks.

* * *

How does Firtash -- a notorious Ukrainian gangster linked to both Putin and Paul Manafort -- tie into the firm [Cambridge Analytica]? To be honest, we can't be sure. We know that a CA/Firtash link exists (doubters need only google Firtash Cambridge Analytica), but we don't know its precise nature.

However, we may soon have more details, thanks to the attempts to extradite Firtash.
Adding to his revelation earlier this week that the U.S. secretly recorded a phone call in which Firtash discussed a co-defendant's trip to Chicago to meet with Boeing executives, Bhachu said the government has "tens of thousands" of documents and "thousands of intercepts" that can be used against Firtash.
We've known for a while that intercepts exist, and that they involve discussions of efforts to deep six Hillary, but the scope has not been revealed until now. I hope that at least some of those intercepts will involve Manafort and Cambridge Analytica.

As noted above, the oft-heard claim that Mercer owns CA is oversimplified. The ownership of SLC -- a "private" psychological warfare group which functions as the parent firm of Cambridge Analytica -- is an absolute tangle. In fact, the ownership of this firm, or constellation of firms, has become so thoroughly convoluted that I suspect that someone has made a deliberate attempt to confuse.

British real estate tycoon Vincent Tchenguiz -- a heavy contributor to the Tory party -- is, one could argue, the British Trump. Until fairly recently, he was the major owner of SCL, and some say he still is, though not directly. (At this point, things get fuzzy.)

I mention Tchenguiz because he is the one financially involved with Dimitry Firtash -- the criminal oligarch who forms a direct bridge between Manafort and Putin. 
Tchenguiz remained involved in SCL Group for 10 years, despite its lack of financial returns. Vincent Tchenguiz is mainly known as a real estate investor; his reasons for acquiring shares in SCL in the first place are as opaque as his reason for divesting them. From the outside, it seems an odd, unprofitable sideline.
Fascinating! So why was Tchenguiz involved in this concern? It was outside his area of specialization, and it doesn't seem to have been a cash cow -- quite the opposite, in fact. As another blogger likes to say: "If it doesn't make business sense, it's gotta make some other kind of sense."

It may be worthwhile to note here that Russian oligarchs love to park their money -- or launder it -- in real estate located in western countries.

Cambridge Analytica does very sensitive work for the western intelligence services, despite the financial links to Russia. This may be the ghastliest security hole in the history of intelligence. In order to create such a hole, the Russians would have needed to recruit western moneymen to act as fronts.

Lord, this is so hard to follow. I hope the impeachment inquiry can create a coherent narrative. Thanks, Joe.
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