Rudy Giuliani was asked to respond to a claim made by his indicted business associate, Lev Parnas, about a meeting Giuliani had with U.S. prosecutors on behalf of Alejandro Betancourt Lopez–a Venezuelan energy tycoon who retained Giuliani’s legal services as DOJ authorities investigated Betancourt for money laundering and bribery. Here’s what Giuliani said, according to Reuters: “Lev Parnas has no right to be talking about that meeting. It was a confidential meeting — if it did happen.”
What was the meeting that happened if it did happen? Betancourt introducing Giuliani to “the father of Venezuela’s opposition leader, Juan Guaido” at an exclusive lavish estate built on the site of a castle once used by Spanish royalty.
Parnas and another person claimed that what was proposed was a kind of, shall we say, quid pro quo to be executed as part of a shadow foreign policy. Per Reuters:
Betancourt told Giuliani he secretly helped bankroll Guaido’s efforts to take over the leadership of Venezuela, according to four people familiar with the situation, two of whom provided details about the meeting in Spain. Betancourt hoped those bona fides would enable Giuliani, his lawyer, to persuade Trump’s Justice Department to drop its probe of Betancourt in connection with a Florida money laundering and bribery case, the people said.
A month later, at a meeting in Washington, D.C., Giuliani urged Justice Department prosecutors to go easy on Betancourt, according to a person with direct knowledge of the meeting, and Lev Parnas, a former Giuliani associate, who said Giuliani told him about it soon afterward. Parnas and the other person said Giuliani told prosecutors that Betancourt had provided assistance for Guaido’s political efforts, and was therefore doing good work for the United States.
The report then included the Giuliani quote referenced above and another: “Lev Parnas’s credibility is worth nothing.”
This is an update on what was reported back in Nov. 2019. The Giuliani-Betancourt meeting reportedly happened when Giuliani met with Ukrainian officials in Spain to continue pushing for investigation into Joe Biden last summer.
The upshot of the Washington Post report was that while Giuliani has worked — he says — “pro bono” for the president, he’s also represented wealthy foreign clients when they are in the sights of the DOJ:
Giuliani’s representation of Betancourt — which has not been previously disclosed — is a striking example of how Trump’s lawyer has continued to offer his services to foreign clients with interests before the U.S. government while working on behalf of the president. And it shows how Giuliani — who says he was serving as Trump’s attorney pro bono — has used his work for paying clients to help underwrite his efforts to find political ammunition in Ukraine to benefit the president.
This was notable because it was not the first time something like this has been reported. It was previously reported that in 2017 Trump pressed former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to help convince the Department of Justice to drop a criminal case against Reza Zarrab, 34 — an Iranian-Turkish gold trader and a client of Giuliani’s. Giuliani didn’t join Trump’s legal team until April 2018.
Giuliani reportedly sought former Tillerson’s help in orchestrating a potential prisoner swap with Turkey, even though federal prosecutors had accused Zarrab of “playing a central role in an effort by a state-owned Turkish bank to funnel more than $10 billion worth of gold and cash to Iran, in defiance of United States sanctions designed to curb Iran’s nuclear program.”
That Turkish bank is Halkbank, and on Oct. 15, the DOJ charged Halkbank for “its participation in a multibillion-dollar Iranian sanctions evasion scheme.”
At the time, Giuliani denied any wrongdoing in a text to the Washington Post.
“This is attorney client privilege so I will withstand whatever malicious lies or spin you put on it,” Giuliani said.
In another similar tale, Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch facing bribery charges in the U.S. told the New York Times in Nov. 2019 that Giuliani, Parnas and Igor Fruman promised to use their connections at the Department of Justice to help him in exchange for dirt on Biden.
Parnas addressed the Firtash situation during a wild interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Parnas claimed that Firtash was also part of an effort to discredit the Mueller investigation.
Jerry Lambe contributed to this report.
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