The Associated Press reported Sunday that a group of President Trump’s associates reportedly pressed Ukraine to install new management at the top of the country’s massive state gas company last spring in order to benefit some of their allies.
The Trump associates consisting of GOP donors and businessmen touted connections to Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani while trying to steer lucrative contracts to companies controlled by Trump allies, according to two people with knowledge of their plans.
Meanwhile, Giuliani and Trump were trying to get Ukraine leaders to say the Bidens were the corrupt ones.
The plan “hit a snag” after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko lost his reelection in 2019 to Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who ran on a campaign of ridding the country of its corruption problems. Zelenskiy’s conversation with Trump about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter is now at the center of the House impeachment inquiry launched last month.
According to the AP, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry took up efforts to install a new management team at the helm of the gas company after Zelensky’s win.
“It’s unclear if Perry’s attempts to replace board members at [Ukrainian gas company] 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,” said the AP. “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.”
“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,” said the AP.
The AP noted that they interviewed four people with direct knowledge of Trump’s attempts to influence Naftogaz, and Rick Perry played “a key role in the effort.”
“The Trump and Giuliani allies driving the attempt to change the senior management at Naftogaz, however, appear to have had inside knowledge of the U.S. government’s plans in Ukraine,” said the AP. “For example, they told people that Trump would replace the U.S. ambassador there months before she was actually recalled to Washington, according to three of the individuals interviewed by the AP. One of the individuals said he was so concerned by the whole affair that he reported it to a U.S. Embassy official in Ukraine months ago.”