Two Florida businessmen who are “clients” of President Donald Trump‘s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani are defying demands by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives to hand over documents.
Those Soviet-born businessmen–real estate investors Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman–are wanted by various congressional investigators spanning multiple subcommittees in the House over their recent activities in the Ukrainian energy sector and their possible role in the ongoing impeachment drama engulfing the Trump White House.
According to the Miami Herald, their attorney John Dowd–a decades-long fixture among the legal and D.C. elite and Trump’s former legal advisor–said neither will comply with a Monday deadline for documents or appear at depositions scheduled for Thursday and Friday.
“No response planned,” Dowd told the outlet via email.
As Law&Crime previously reported, Parnas and Fruman are Trump mega donors who somehow became aware of key U.S. foreign policy plans months in advance. Namely: Fruman, Parnas and oil billionaire Harry Sargeant III reportedly knew the former U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, was being fired by Trump months before she was actually given the axe by the 45th president.
The trio also reportedly attempted to use this foreknowledge to their economic advantage by dangling the information and an unprecedented promotion–as well as a potential importation deal–before an executive at the Ukraine’s national gas company Naftogaz.
A lawyer for Sargeant has disputed media reports about his client.
Christopher Kise of Foley & Lardner LLP said that news stories have “unfairly and inaccurately portray[ed] Mr. Sargeant as having involvement in Ukraine business affairs.”
“Mr. Sargeant conducts no business of any kind in the Ukraine and has not visited Ukraine, even as a tourist, in well over a decade. Attending a single, informal dinner in Houston does not place Mr. Sargeant at the center of any Naftogaz or Ukrainian business plan,” Kise said. “In March 2019, while attending the CERAWeek 2019 conference in Houston, Texas, one of the largest energy industry trade events in the world, Mr. Sargeant was asked to attend an informal dinner with Andrew Favorov, Igor Fruman, and Lev Parnas, and to offer his views on the global oil and gas industry.”
The rest of the statement:
Mr. Sargeant never discussed any role or participation in any Ukraine venture, nor any specifics regarding the potential business ventures of the other dinner participants. At the dinner, Mr. Sargeant simply provided broad industry guidance and his expert view on the challenges presented by operating in foreign markets.
Notably absent from this dinner was the media’s alleged “source,” Dale Perry. Indeed, Mr. Sargeant has never even met with or spoken to Mr. Perry. Unfortunately, however, the media has seized on the uncorroborated statements of Mr. Perry, who may well be generating stories to discredit his competitors and advance his own interests in the Ukraine. Whatever his motivation, one thing remains clear, Harry Sargeant has nothing to do with Ukrainian businesses.
Finally, Mr. Sargeant is not a member of Mar-a-Lago and has never met there with Donald Trump since Mr. Trump has been President.
The whole gas sales plan shebang, the trio claimed, was supported by Trump. And Giuliani’s fingers were all over it as well.
Two months after that “shakedown”-like meeting, Yovanovitch was recalled by Trump. Giuliani later bragged about his key role in the career diplomat’s ouster–telling the Wall Street Journal he convinced the 45th president Yovanovitch harbored “anti-Trump bias.”
Aside from their ill-fated attempt to reshuffle the Naftogaz board, Parnas and Fruman have several other projects in the Ukraine.
According to BuzzFeed News and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), Parnas and Fruman were instrumental in convincing Ukrainian authorities to initiate an investigation into whether officials there had worked to help elect Hillary Clinton U.S. president in 2016. Trump later recycled the claims and gave them further credence on national television.
Per that report:
Trump called claims that Ukrainian officials had helped Clinton’s candidacy “big” and “incredible” in an April interview with Fox News, and said that he would leave it to Attorney General William Barr to decide whether to look into them. Barr announced a probe into the origins of the Mueller investigation — in which Manafort’s Ukrainian work became a focus — the following month.
But that’s not all. Parnas and Fruman “introduced Giuliani to three current and former senior Ukrainian prosecutors to discuss the politically damaging information,” according to BuzzFeed and OCCRP.
“I got certain information and I thought it was my duty to hand it over,” Parnas told the Miami Herald on September 26. He also described the impeachment subpoenas as a “headache” and said, “It’s upsetting, being dragged into something like this.”
Aside from that alleged patriotic duty, Parnas has mostly been tight-lipped about the exact contours of his relationship with Giuliani–but he did describe the former New York City mayor as his “friend.”
Editor’s note: this story was updated post-publication with a statement from Harry Sargeant’s lawyer.
[image via Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images]