John Bolton’s most accurate threat assessment when he was President Trump’s national security adviser may have been his description of former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani as a “hand grenade who is going to blow everybody up.”
A former colleague of Bolton’s in the White House, Fiona Hill, reportedly shared Bolton’s description of Giuliani on Monday at a private hearing held by three House committees conducting President Trump’s impeachment inquiry. According to a source interviewed by the Associated Press, Hill told the committees that Bolton was so disturbed by what Giuliani was doing in Ukraine, he described Giuliani in the same sort of language that had been applied often to himself.
As they say, it takes one to know one.
Giuliani’s ministrations may have led Trump to take the step that could end his presidency: asking new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to influence a U.S. election by investigating one of Trump’s leading political rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden. Concern about the call led a whistleblower in the intelligence community to file a complaint, which reached Congress after the obligatory bit of defiance by the Trump administration. The complaint, in turn, triggered the impeachment inquiry that is slowly gaining public support.
A hand grenade, indeed.
Investigators are focusing on the extent to which Giuliani and Trump’s political appointees pressured Ukrainian leaders to take actions that would solely serve Trump’s political interests. Bolton’s concern, according to Hill, stemmed from Giuliani’s back-channel efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine about former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter. Giuliani had been trying with varying degrees of success to meet with current and former government officials in Ukraine, hoping to advance a conspiracy theory that Joe Biden had forced out a top Ukrainian prosecutor to stop an investigation into Ukrainian energy company Burisma, where Hunter Biden was a board member.
There are multiple problems with that theory, the biggest being that Joe Biden was one of multiple Western leaders who pushed for the prosecutor’s ouster because he wasn’t doing enough to combat corruption — including the allegations swirling around Burisma.
Regardless, Giuliani’s own doings in Ukraine are now under the microscope. Not only are they being examined by House committees, but they’ve also caught the attention of federal prosecutors in Manhattan, the Wall Street Journal reported late Monday.
Giuliani had been involved in Ukrainian politics and government contracts for about a decade, advising candidates and selling the services of his company, Giuliani Security & Safety. The company’s website notes at least one customer in Ukraine: the city of Kharkiv, which hired Giuliani’s firm to assess its approach to public safety and recommend improvements.
That work is what federal prosecutors are examining, the Journal reports, along with Giuliani’s finances and meetings related to Ukraine. Oh and yes, they’re also looking into any involvement he may have had in an alleged campaign finance violation by two Florida businessmen he has previously identified as clients, Ukrainian-born Lev Parnas and Belarus emigre Igor Fruman. Parnas and Fruman were indicted last week on federal charges of funneling foreign donations into campaigns in the U.S., including Trump’s.
Parnas told the New Yorker that Giuliani had helped him and Fruman set up meetings with Ukrainian government officials, where they not only sought information about the Bidens, but also sought to cut deals for their own energy company. In turn, the two men connected Giuliani with Ukrainian prosecutors. This mixture of agendas is the very sort of thing that Giuliani is accusing the Bidens of doing.
There’s no clear money trail from Ukraine through Parnas and Fruman to Giuliani, but there is at least one financial connection between Giuliani and Parnas. Reuters reported Monday that Giuliani collected a half-million dollars from a Parnas business, the unfortunately named Fraud Guarantee, for providing advice on technologies and regulatory issues. The Boca Raton, Florida-based Fraud Guarantee’s website describes the company as a consultancy for investors that “help reduce the risk of fraud as well as mitigate the damage caused by fraudulent acts.”
Jon Healey is the deputy editorial page editor for the Los Angeles Times.