Rick Perry's suggestion to Ukraine led to 2 of his political backers scoring a multimillion gas deal

Rick Perry's suggestion to Ukraine led to 2 of his political backers scoring a multimillion gas deal
President Donald J. Trump listens as Secretary of Energy Rick Perry addresses his remarks on America’s environmental leadership Monday, July 8, 2019, in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

When Energy Secretary Rick Perry visited Ukraine in May to attend the inauguration of Volodymyr Zelensky, he gave the new president a piece of paper with four names he recommended as potential energy advisers to the country. At the time, Zelensky's young administration was already grappling with the realization that the Trump administration wanted an investigation opened into Burisma, the gas company on whose board Hunter Biden sat.

About a month after Perry proposed the names, Ukraine awarded a potentially lucrative gas drilling contract to one of the men on the list, Michael Bleyzer, a longtime political benefactor of Perry, according to the Associated Press. Bleyzer and his business partner, Alex Cranberg, who lent Perry a corporate jet during his 2012 presidential bid, had reportedly bid "millions of dollars less" than their only rival to obtain the contract. But Ukraine gave them the 50-year contract because they demonstrated "greater technical expertise and stronger financial backing."

Perry was, of course, one of the self-appointed "three amigos" who was advancing Trump's agenda in Ukraine alongside special envoy Kurt Volker and Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland, both of whom have played critical roles in the impeachment hearings. Perry's spokesperson said the former Texas governor was simply promoting the American energy sector abroad. "What he did not do is advocate for the business interests of any one individual or company," said Energy Department press secretary Shaylyn Hynes.

Perry is due to leave his post on December 1 and he has refused to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry thus far. Nonetheless, Perry has emerged as a central player in testimony released to date, with Sondland naming him as the person who established a channel of communication between Ukraine officials and Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

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