Despite the president’s best tweets, the reporting about the intersection between Donald Trump, his allies, and Ukraine persists. On Sunday night, the Associated Press reported that a “circle of businessmen and Republican donors” used “connections to Giuliani and Trump while trying to install new management at the top of Ukraine’s massive state gas company.” After new management came onboard, “lucrative contracts” would be steered to “companies controlled by Trump allies.”
While the election of comedian Volodymyr Zelensky caused a bit of a hiccup, eventually Energy Secretary Rick Perry would take up the effort to start a management shakeup at Naftogaz. Remember: Perry is likely going to resign before the end of November, according to Politico and Trump is throwing Perry under the bus by saying Perry is the reason Trump even spoke to Zelensky in the alleged “perfect” phone call. Perry’s candidates raise at least one (1) red flag as the prospective list “included a fellow Texan who is one of Perry’s past political donors.”
However, the Associated Press report does have an important caveat regarding Trump’s personal lawyer and brain soup haver Rudy Giuliani:
It’s unclear if Perry’s attempts to replace board members at Naftogaz were coordinated with the Giuliani allies pushing for a similar outcome, and no one has alleged that there is criminal activity in any of these efforts. And it’s unclear what role, if any, Giuliani had in helping his clients push to get gas sales agreements with the state-owned company.
So, while coordination between Perry contingent and Giuliani contingent seems unclear at best at this time, it does highlight another Republican hypocrisy. I know there’s tons of them these days, but it’s important to note for, like, posterity:
But the affair shows how those with ties to Trump and his administration were pursuing business deals in Ukraine that went far beyond advancing the president’s personal political interests. It also raises questions about whether Trump allies were mixing business and politics just as Republicans were calling for a probe of Biden and his son Hunter, who served five years on the board of another Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.
So in his quest to fulfill this management shakeup, Perry traveled to Ukraine to attend Zelensky’s coronation. At the first meeting in May in Kiev, Perry told Zelensky to fire the Naftogaz advisory board, but people in the meeting thought Perry wanted the American replaced.
At a second meeting during Perry’s trip to Zelensky’s inauguration, Perry was apparently more clear, the AP reported. “There, Perry made clear that the Trump administration wanted to see the entire Naftogaz supervisory board replaced, according to a person who attended both meetings. Perry again referenced the list of advisers that he had given Zelenskiy, and it was widely interpreted that he wanted Michael Bleyzer, a Ukrainian-American businessman from Texas, to join the newly formed board, the person said. Also on the list was Robert Bensh, another Texan who frequently works in Ukraine, the Energy Department confirmed.”
U.S. Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes denied Perry’s involvement in pushing for the interests of a particular American or American business. “What he did not do is advocate for the business interests of any one individual or company. That is fiction being pushed by those who are disingenuously seeking to advance a nefarious narrative that does not exist,” Hynes told the AP.
The Associated Press report has a lot of information about this impeachment-adjacent story and you can read it in full here.