Rudy Giuliani took $500,000 from Parnas company Fraud Guarantee for technical expertise — in fraud
Last week, two of Rudy Giuliani’s clients were arrested as they were trying to flee the country and indicted on charges of funneling foreign money into the coffers of Republican campaigns—including the campaign of Donald Trump. Those charges also made it clear that the purpose of the money wasn’t just to help boost those candidates, but also to buy “potential influence.” In other words, good old-fashioned bribery. But those clients who were buying influence for an as yet unnamed Russian source weren’t just lavishing money on Republicans running for office. They were also putting it where their influence could have direct, immediate results—by paying Giuliani at least $500,000 to carry their message right into the White House.
Reuters is reporting that just one of those now-indicted clients, Lev Parnas, shelled out half a million for Giuliani’s services. But not for his legal services. Instead, Giuliani was supposedly paid for his “expertise” in helping Parnas’ ironically named Fraud Guarantee company vet its scam-thwarting “technologies.”
But of course, Giuliani got more than just money to bring the second-hand influence of a Russian oligarch to the Oval Office. Parnas and the also indicted Igor Fruman were a key part of the whole Ukraine scandal, helping to introduce Giuliani to former Ukrainian officials who would potentially support a scheme to manufacture dirt about Joe Biden and feed into a conspiracy theory meant to absolve Russia of and indict Hillary Clinton for tampering with the 2016 presidential election.
As multiple sources are reporting, former national security adviser John Bolton described Giuliani as a “hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.” But if Giuliani was a bomb running on fuel provided by a Russian oligarch and illegal foreign campaign funds, that wouldn’t have been a problem, except for one thing: Donald Trump welcomed Giuliani, his conspiracy theories, and his invitation to involve another foreign government in the 2020 campaign. Giuliani wasn’t just a grenade; he was the blasting cap that set off a giant explosion. Thanks to Trump.
Giuliani has said that the cool half million he pocketed from Parnas is free from foreign taint. “I know beyond any doubt the source of the money is not any questionable source,” said Giuliani. “The money did not come from foreigners. I can rule that out 100%.” Where did the money actually come from, and how can Giuliani make a 100% guarantee that it wasn’t just more foreign funds funneled through yet another front company? He refused to say.
Everything that’s been learned since the initial whistleblower complaint drew fresh attention to Giuliani’s already very public actions in Eastern Europe points to the fact that this is a far bigger scandal than it seemed, bigger even than Trump extorting a U.S. ally by withholding military aid as it faced an ongoing invasion by Russia. This was a still broader conspiracy to make foreign influence an integral part of the 2020 election, not just for the White House, but in races across the country. This is corruption at every level, by every measure, in ways that are not difficult to understand. Giuliani comes off looking not so much like a hand grenade as just a scumbag.
But Giuliani’s scheme would not have been effective if there hadn’t been another willing conspirator in the form of Trump. Trump’s readiness to buy what Giuliani was selling didn’t happen because “America’s mayor” is an ace salesman of crazy. It existed because Trump is a ready customer for every conspiracy theory, no matter how extreme. Not only has he frequently retweeted claims from the fringe of the right-wing fringe, but he’s also created his own conspiracy theories, often woven from nothing more than his inability to admit any mistake.
Giuliani may have been the spark, but Trump was the real explosive. Both of them were willing to be lit by any oligarch who was willing to provide something they thought they could use … and, of course, money.