Legats. That’s FBI shorthand for its agents who serve as legal attachés in U.S. embassies abroad.
The first time I ever heard that term, I was an Organized Crime Strike Force lawyer in the middle of prosecuting a vicious Mafia soldier on multiple counts of loan sharking. When the trial took an unexpected turn, it suddenly became necessary to locate and produce a victim/witness who had fled the United States and gone into hiding somewhere in rural Italy. This had to be done in a matter of days before I rested the prosecution case.
There was no time for the usual legal claptrap involved in certifying, serving, and enforcing legal process in a foreign country. So I came up with a Plan B that more closely approximated a quasi-legal abduction — albeit for a good cause. I tasked a local police detective who was fluent in Italian to fly to Italy, hunt down the fearful witness, and somehow bundle him onto a return flight to America.
To put it mildly, this crazy scheme was a long shot. It was the prosecutorial equivalent of “Hold my beer and watch this.” That’s why I didn’t seek official Justice Department approval, which I knew would never be forthcoming. Instead, I used several of my government travel request forms to purchase wildly expensive trans-Atlantic airfares for the detective and the witness. This unauthorized expenditure was probably a crime, but I was young, dumb, and gung-ho.
In the middle of planning the operation, my FBI case agent offered to have the bureau’s legat at the U.S. embassy in Italy enlist the aid of the Italian police in locating the witness. That was when I learned that the FBI had legats all over the world who worked in close cooperation with foreign law enforcement agencies.
When the detective stepped off the plane in Rome, he was met by agents of the Italian Carabinieri, who advised that they had located the fugitive witness and had notified the local police where he was hiding to assist in bringing him in for questioning. With that, they put the detective on a train bound for the remote mountain village where the witness was under surveillance by the local cops.
Upon his arrival in the village, the detective met with the local police, who hinted that they were prepared to club the witness over the head and deliver him more or less in one piece to the nearest American consulate. But despite their kind offer of help, they never got the chance. Apparently spooked by the surveillance, the witness had disappeared, never to be seen again.
(Fortunately for me, since the Mafia loan shark was nevertheless convicted, my unauthorized use of the government travel requests was written off by my DOJ superiors as boyish hijinks.)
So, what’s the point of this story? It’s but one small example of the thousands of ways that law enforcement agencies around the world provide international cooperation on a daily basis to assist one other. Acting through legats, Interpol, foreign emissaries, and law enforcement agents and prosecutors with personal or informal relationships with their foreign counterparts, such international cooperation is ongoing, widespread, routine, and altogether legal and proper.
And it is against the background of this well-established and entirely proper international cooperation by law enforcement agencies that President Trump’s telephone conversation with Ukraine’s President Zelensky must be evaluated.
In that conversation, the parties said, among other things, the following:
President Trump: “I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike … I guess you have one of your wealthy people … The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you’re surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.”
President Zelensky: “Yes it is. very important for me and everything that you just mentioned earlier. For me as a president, it is very important and we are open for any future cooperation. We are ready to open a new page on cooperation in relations between the United States and Ukraine. For that purpose, I just recalled our ambassador from United States and he will be replaced by a very competent and very experienced ambassador who will work hard on making sure that our two nations are getting closer. I would also like and hope to see him having your trust and your confidence and have personal relations with you so we can cooperate even more so. I will personally tell you that one of my assistants spoke with Mr. Giuliani just recently and we are hoping very much that Mr. Giuliani will be able to travel to Ukraine and we will meet once he comes to Ukraine. I just wanted to assure you once again that you have nobody but friends around us. I will make sure that I surround myself with the best and most experienced people. I also wanted to tell you that we are friends. We are great friends and you Mr. President have friends in our country so we can continue our strategic partnership. I also plan to surround myself with great people and in addition to that investigation, I guarantee as the president of Ukraine that all the investigations will be done openly and candidly. That I can assure you.”
President Trump: “Good because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the attorney general. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that. The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.”
President Zelensky: “I wanted to tell you about the prosecutor. First of all I understand and I’m knowledgeable about the situation. Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament, the next prosecutor general will be 100 percent my person, my candidate, who will be approved by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September. He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue. The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case. On top of that, I would kindly ask you if you have any additional information that you can provide to us, it would be very helpful for the investigation to make sure that we administer justice in our country with regard to the ambassador to the United States from Ukraine as far as I recall her name was Ivanovich. It was great that you were the first one who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100 percent. Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous president and she was on his side. She would not accept me as a new president well enough.”
Now, listening to the faux outraged baying of the House Democrats and their mainstream media public relations department, you might think that the assistance requested by the president was somehow unprecedented or unusual. As I have been at pains to demonstrate, it is not, and save for the fact that the conversation took place between two presidents and implicated possible corruption by a former American vice president and Ukrainian officials, it is not materially different from the type of international investigative assistance requested and rendered every day.
Nevertheless, the Democrats and their media steno pool claim that Trump conditioned military aid to Ukraine on that country investigating former former Vice President Biden’s threat to withhold $1 billion of foreign aid if the prosecutor referenced in the Trump–Zelensky conversation wasn’t fired. That prosecutor was investigating Burisma Holdings, a natural gas company that reportedly was paying Biden’s son $50,000 per month to serve on its board.
So it is that the House Democrats have convened a secret impeachment inquiry from which they can selectively leak tidbits of purported evidence of an allegedly improper quid pro quo whereby Trump allegedly used the threat of withholding military aid to induce the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden, the current front-runner in the race for the Democrat presidential nomination.
The Republicans have countered by arguing that, at the time Trump and Zelensky spoke, Ukraine was not aware that the aid had been temporarily held up and that, shortly after the conversation, the aid was released. They cite also President Zelensky’s statement that he was under no pressure to grant President Trump’s request. In short, the Republicans contend that there was no quid pro quo.
While this may be true, it is nevertheless problematic that Ukraine is dependent on U.S. aid such that President Zelensky would be hard-pressed to refuse President Trump’s request that Ukraine help investigate the Russia collusion hoax as well as the odiferous Biden-Burisma deal. Put another way, while the Republicans’ argument that there was no quid pro quo may be factually correct, it does not address the larger, more important issue of whether or not President Trump’s request for Ukrainian help was in any way, shape, or form improper or illegal.
Clearly and unequivocally under the circumstances, both the Russia collusion hoax and the question of whether or not Burisma Holdings purchased Joe Biden’s protection from prosecution are worthy subjects of vital national interest, warranting full and thorough investigation. And, if getting to the bottom of these issues requires help from the Ukrainians, so be it. President Trump’s request was absolutely legal and proper. That should be the defense to any impeachment prosecution.
In short, the White House and the Republicans need to stop dancing through the raindrops of whether there was a quid pro quo or not and go on offense. The president did nothing wrong and has a legal obligation to root out the corruption underlying the Russia collusion hoax that almost illegally disenfranchised the 63 million voters who cast their ballots for Trump. With the upcoming release of the Justice Department’s inspector general’s report and the expected results of the now criminal investigation underway by Attorney General William Barr and Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham, the first prong of the Trump impeachment defense will be forcefully hammered home.
As for the Biden corruption angle, the mainstream media have resolutely dismissed it as unsubstantiated despite the recorded facts of Hunter Biden’s being paid by Burisma Holdings and Joe Biden bragging on television about using our tax dollars to get the Ukranian prosecutor investigating that company fired. There is plenty there to investigate, and, once again, President Trump’s request for help was entirely proper and correct. After all, is Biden to be immune from investigation or prosecution because he is a candidate for the Democrat presidential nomination? If so, then members of the mob and gang bangers everywhere may want to declare their candidacies for office.
Moreover, as bad as the Biden-Burisma deal smells, it now appears that it is but the tip of the Ukrainian iceberg.
On Sunday, ZeroHedge published “The Plundering of Ukraine By Corrupt American Democrats.” This explosive article is based on an interview of Oleg Tsarev, a four-term member of Ukraine’s Parliament and presidential candidate. If true, the basis for President Trump’s request for Ukrainian assistance becomes overwhelmingly compelling and helps to explain why the House Democrats have launched their impeachment inquiry. So here’s ZeroHedge‘s alarming article in his entirety. Read it and judge for yourself whether or not Trump properly requested Ukraine’s help.
The Plundering Of Ukraine By Corrupt American Democrats
Top Dems are involved in the plundering of the Ukraine: new names, mind-boggling accounts. The mysterious ‘whistleblower’ whose report had unleashed the impeachment is named in the exclusive interview given to the Unz Review by a prominent Ukrainian politician, an ex-Member of Parliament of four terms, a candidate for Ukraine’s presidency, Oleg Tsarev.
Mr Tsarev, a tall, agile and graceful man, a good speaker and a prolific writer, had been a leading and popular Ukrainian politician before the 2014 putsch; he stayed in the Ukraine after President Yanukovych’s flight; ran for the Presidency against Mr Poroshenko, and eventually had to go to exile due to multiple threats to his life. During the failed attempt to secede, he was elected the speaker of the Parliament of Novorossia (South-Eastern Ukraine). I spoke to him in Crimea, where he lives in the pleasant seaside town of Yalta. Tsarev still has many supporters in the Ukraine, and is a leader of the opposition to the Kiev regime.
Oleg, you followed Biden story from its very inception. Biden is not the only Dem politician involved in the Ukrainian corruption schemes, is he?
Indeed, John Kerry, the Secretary of State in Obama’s administration, was his partner-in-crime. But Joe Biden was number one. During the Obama presidency, Biden was the US proconsul for Ukraine, and he was involved in many corruption schemes. He authorised transfer of three billion dollars of the US taxpayers’ money to the post-coup government of the Ukraine; the money was stolen, and Biden took a big share of the spoils.
It is a story of ripping the US taxpayer and the Ukrainian customer off for the benefit of a few corruptioners, American and Ukrainian. And it is a story of Kiev regime and its dependence on the US and IMF. The Ukraine has a few midsize deposits of natural gas, sufficient for domestic household consumption. The cost of its production was quite low; and the Ukrainians got used to pay pennies for their gas. Actually, it was so cheap to produce that the Ukraine could provide all its households with free gas for heating and cooking, just like Libya did. Despite low consumer price, the gas companies (like Burisma) had very high profits and very little expenditure.
After the 2014 coup, IMF demanded to raise the price of gas for the domestic consumer to European levels, and the new president Petro Poroshenko obliged them. The prices went sky-high. The Ukrainians were forced to pay many times more for their cooking and heating; and huge profits went to coffers of the gas companies. Instead of raising taxes or lowering prices, President Poroshenko demanded the gas companies to pay him or subsidise his projects. He said that he arranged the price hike; it means he should be considered a partner.
Burisma Gas company had to pay extortion money to the president Poroshenko. Eventually its founder and owner Mr Nicolai Zlochevsky decided to invite some important Westerners into the company’s board of directors hoping it would moderate Poroshenko’s appetites. He had brought in Biden’s son Hunter, John Kerry, Polish ex-President Kwasniewski; but it didn’t help him.
Poroshenko became furious that the fattened calf may escape him, and asked the Attorney General Shokin to investigate Burisma trusting some irregularities would emerge. AG Shokin immediately discovered that Burisma had paid these ‘stars’ between 50 and 150 thousand dollar per month each just for being on the list of directors. This is illegal by the Ukrainian tax code; it can’t be recognised as legitimate expenditure.
At that time Biden the father entered the fray. He called Poroshenko and gave him six hours to close the case against his son. Otherwise, one billion dollars of the US taxpayers’ funds won’t pass to the Ukrainian corruptioners. Zlochevsky, the Burisma owner, paid Biden well for this conversation: he received between three and ten million dollars, according to different sources.
AG Shokin said he can’t close the case within six hours; Poroshenko sacked him and installed Mr Lutsenko in his stead. Lutsenko was willing to dismiss the case of Burisma, but he also could not do it in a day, or even in a week. Biden, as we know, could not keep his trap shut: by talking about the pressure he put on Poroshenko, he incriminated himself. Meanwhile Mr Shokin gave evidence that Biden put pressure on Poroshenko to fire him, and now it was confirmed. The evidence was given to the US lawyers in connection with another case, Firtash case.
What is Firtash Case?
The Democrats wanted to get another Ukrainian oligarch, Mr Firtash, to the US and make him to confess that he illegally supported Trump’s campaign for the sake of Russia. Firtash had been arrested in Vienna, Austria; there he fought extradition to the US. His lawyers claimed it is purely political case, and they used Mr Shokin’s deposition to substantiate their claim. For this reason, the evidence supplied by Shokin is not easily reversible, even if Shokin were willing, and he is not. He also stated under oath that the Democrats pressurised him to help and extradite Firtash to the US, though he had no standing in this purely American issue. It seems that Mrs Clinton believes that Firtash’s funds helped Trump to win elections, an extremely unlikely thing [says Mr Tsarev].
Talking about Burisma and Biden; what is this billion dollars of aid that Biden could give or withhold?
It is USAID money, the main channel of the US aid for “support of democracy”. First billion dollars of USAID came to the Ukraine in 2014. This was authorised by Joe Biden, while for Ukraine, the papers were signed by Mr Turchinov, the “acting President”. The Ukrainian constitution does not know of such a position, and Turchinov, “the acting President” had no right to sign neither a legal nor financial document. Thus, all the documents that were signed by him, in fact, had no legal force. However, Biden countersigned the papers signed by Turchynov and allocated money for Ukraine. And the money was stolen – by the Democrats and their Ukrainian counterparts.
Two years ago, (that is already under President Trump) the United States began to investigate the allocation of 3 billion dollars; it was allocated in 2014, in 2015, in 2016; one billion dollars per year. The investigation showed that the documents were falsified, the money was transferred to Ukraine, and stolen. The investigators tracked each payment, discovered where the money went, where it was spent and how it was stolen.
As a result, in October 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice opened a criminal case for “Abuse of power and embezzlement of American taxpayers’ money”. Among the accused there are two consecutive Finance Ministers of the Ukraine, Mrs Natalie Ann Jaresko who served 2014-2016 and Mr Alexander Daniluk who served 2016-2018, and three US banks. The investigation caused the USAID to cease issuing grants since August 2019. As Trump said, now the US does not give away money and does not impose democracy.
The money was allocated with the flagrant violation of American law. There was no risk assessment, no audit reports. Normally the USAID, when allocating cash, always prepares a substantial package of documents. But the billions were given to Ukraine completely without documents. The criminal case on the embezzlement of USAID funds had been signed personally by the US Attorney General, so these issues are very much alive.
Sam Kislin was involved in this investigation. He is a good friend and associate of Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer and an ex-mayor of New York. Kislin is well known in Kiev, and I have many friends who are Sam’s friends [said Tsarev]. I learned of his progress, because some of my friends were detained in the United States, or interrogated in Ukraine. They briefed me about this. It appears that Burisma is just the tip of the scandal, the tip of the iceberg. If Trump will carry on, and use what was already initiated and investigated, the whole headquarters of the Democratic party will come down. They will not be able to hold elections. I have no right to name names, but believe me, leading functionaries of the Democratic party are involved.
Poroshenko was aware of that; he gave orders to declare Sam Kislin persona non grata. Once the old man (he is over 80) flew into Kiev airport and he was not allowed to come in; he spent the night in detention and was flown back to the US next day. Poroshenko had been totally allied with Clinton camp.
And President Zelensky? Is he free from Clintonite Democrats’ influence?
If he were, there would not be the scandal of Trump phone call. How the Democrats learned of this call and its alleged content? The official version says there was a CIA man, a whistle-blower, who reported to the Democrats. What the version does not clarify, where this whistle-blower was located during the call. I tell you, he was located in Kiev, and he was present at the conversation, at the Ukrainian President Zelensky’s side. This man was (perhaps) a CIA asset, but he also was a close associate of George Soros, and a Ukrainian high-ranking official.
His name is Mr Alexander Daniluk.
He is also the man the investigation of Sam Kislin and of the DoJ had led to, the Finance Minister of Ukraine at the time, the man who was responsible for the embezzlement of three billion US taxpayer’s best dollars. The DoJ issued an order for his arrest. Naturally he is devoted to Biden personally, and to the Dems in general. I would not trust his version of the phone call at all.
Daniluk was supposed to accompany President Zelensky on his visit to Washington; but he was informed that there is an order for his arrest. He remained in Kiev. And soon afterwards, the hell of the alleged leaked phone call broke out. Zelensky administration investigated and concluded that the leak was done by Mr Alexander Daniluk, who is known for his close relations with George Soros and with Mr Biden. Alexander Daniluk had been fired. (However, he did not admit his guilt and said the leak was done by his sworn enemy, the head of president’s administration office, Mr Andrey Bogdan, who allegedly framed Daniluk.)
This is not the only case of US-connected corruption in Ukraine. There is Amos J. Hochstein, a protege of former VP Joe Biden, who has served in the Barack Obama administration as the Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources. He still hangs on the Ukraine. Together with an American citizen Andrew Favorov, the Deputy Director of Naftogas he organised very expensive “reverse gas import” into Ukraine. In this scheme, the Russian gas is bought by Europeans and afterwards sold to Ukraine with a wonderful margin. In reality, gas comes from Russia directly, but payments go via Hochstein. It is much more costly than to buy directly from Russia; Ukrainian people pay, while the margin is collected by Hochstein and Favorov. Now they plan to import liquefied gas from the United States, at even higher price. Again, the price will be paid by the Ukrainians, while profits will go to Hochstein and Favorov.
In all these scams, there are people of Clinton and spooks who are fully integrated in the Democratic Party. A former head of CIA, Robert James Woolsey, now sits on the Board of Directors of Velta, producing Ukrainian titanium. Woolsey is a neocon, a member of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), pro-Israel think-tank, and a man who relentlessly pushed for Iraq war. A typical Democrat spook, now he gets profits from Ukrainian ore deposits.
One of the best Ukrainian corruption stories is connected with Audrius Butkevicius, the former Minister of Defence (1996 to 2000) and a Member of the Seimas (Parliament) of post-Soviet Lithuania. Mr AB is supposedly working for MI6, and now is a member of the notorious Institute for Statecraft, a UK deep state propaganda outfit involved in disinformation operations, subversion of the democratic process and promoting Russophobia and the idea of a new cold war. In 1991 he commanded snipers that shoot Lithuanian protesters. The kills were ascribed to the Soviet armed forces, and the last Soviet President Mr Gorbachev ordered speedy withdrawal of his troops from Lithuania. Mr AB became the Minister of Defence of his independent nation. In 1997 the Honourable Minister of Defence “had requested 300,000 USD from a senior executive of a troubled oil company for his assistance in obtaining the discontinuance of criminal proceedings concerning the company’s vast debts”, in the language of the court judgement. He was arrested on receipt of the bribe, had been sentenced to five years of jail, but a man with such qualifications was not left to rot in a prison.
In 2005 he commanded the snipers who killed protesters in Kyrgyzstan, in Georgia he repeated the feat in 2003 during the Rose Revolution. In 2014 he did it again in Kiev, where his snipers killed around a hundred men, protesters and police. He was brought to Kiev by Mr Turchinov, who called himself the “acting President” and who countersigned Joe Biden’s billion dollars’ grant.
In October 2018 the name of Mr AB came up again. Military warehouses of Chernigov had caught fire; allegedly thousands of shells stored for fighting the separatists had been destroyed by fire. And it was not the first fire of this kind: the previous one, equally huge, torched Ukrainian army warehouses in Vinnitsa in 2017. Altogether, there were 12 huge army arsenal fires for the last few years. Just for 2018, the damage was over $2 billion.
When Chief Military Prosecutor of Ukraine Anatoly Matios investigated the fires, he discovered that 80% of weapons and shells in the warehouses were missing. They weren’t destroyed by fire, they weren’t there in the first place. Instead of being used to kill the Russian-speaking Ukrainians of Donetsk, the hardware had been shipped from the port of Nikolaev to Syria, to the Islamic rebels and to ISIS. And the man who organised this enormous operation was our Mr AB, the old fighter for democracy on behalf of MI6, acting in cahoots with the Minister of Defence Poltorak and Mr Turchinov, the friend of Mr Biden. (They say Mr Matios was given $10 million for his silence).
The loss was of Ukrainian people, and of US taxpayers, while the beneficiaries were the Deep State, which is probably just another name for the deadly mix of spooks, media and politicians.
ZeroHedge‘s account only raises the prospect of even further justification for Trump’s actions. If in fact the Justice Department is investigating this level of corruption, then the White House and the Republicans need to come out swinging and make clear to the voting public and the House Democrats that the Russia collusion hoax, the smelly Hunter Biden deal, and the equally alarming matters spelled out in the ZeroHedge article will be the foundation of the president’s defense at any Senate impeachment trial. Whether or not the allegations of the ZeroHedge article may ultimately hold up under scrutiny is not the point. The issue is whether or not the president is justified in investigating these breathtaking charges, the Russia collusion hoax, and the Biden-Burisma deal and in asking for Ukraine’s help in doing so. From that standpoint, how could the president fail to vigorously investigate all these matters without abrogating his constitutional duty to see that our laws are faithfully executed?
Since the Democrats are determined to vote for impeachment regardless of the facts, then President Trump and his supporters need to take the offensive and ram any ill-conceived impeachment charge down their throats. They can do so by making clear that at any impeachment trial before the Senate, the goal will not be limited to the exoneration of the president but will also be calculated to destroy the Democrat party in the court of public opinion by spelling out in excruciating detail how Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, with the connivance of the Obama administration, CIA, FBI, and DOJ, used the Russia collusion hoax to bring about an illicit and illegal counterintelligence investigation of Trump’s presidential campaign and attempted to undo the outcome of the 2016 election all while sanctioning rampant illegality by the Biden family, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, and similarly situated Democrats. Put another way, the president’s defense team should prepare to put his accusers on trial and make the scuppers of the ship of state run red with a tidal wave of Democrat political blood.
After all, in any trial, the best defense is a good offense — especially one that makes the other side beg for mercy.
George Parry is a former federal and state prosecutor. He is a regular contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer and blogs at knowledgeisgood.net. He may be reached by email at email@example.com.