U.S. Ambassador Was Warned by Ukrainian Official that Parnas, Fruman Wanted to Oust Her

Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Former Ambassador to the Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified that President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, in cooperation with two Florida businessmen with Ukrainian connections, went behind Yovanovitch’s back to attempt to replace her with someone more favorably inclined towards their “business dealings in Ukraine,” according to a transcript released Monday by the House Intelligence Committee.

“Well I mean he basically said, and went into some detail, that there were two individuals from Florida, Mr. Parnas and Mr Fruman, who were working with Mayor Giuliani, and that they had set up the meetings for Mr. Giuliani with Mr. Lutsenko,” Yovanovitch said during her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on October 11. “And that they were interested in having a different ambassador at post, I guess for — because they wanted to have business dealings in Ukraine, or additional business dealings.”

“I didn’t understand that because nobody at the embassy had ever met those two individuals,” she continued. “And, you know, one of the biggest jobs of an American ambassador of the U.S. Embassy is to promote U.S. business. So, of course, if legitimate business comes to us, you know, that’s what we do, we promote U.S. business.”

Later in her testimony, Yovanovitch identified the Ukrainian official who warned her as interior minister Arsen Avakov, who told her that Giuliani had sought a meeting with him but he refused out of discomfort with Giuliani’s activities.

Yovanovitch stated that Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were arrested in October for campaign-finance violations and subsequently subpoenaed by the House, were interested in exporting liquid natural gas to Ukraine, a move the embassy normally supports.

The two Florida businessmen, who were both born in the Soviet Union, have pictures with the Trumps and were allegedly working with Giuliani to connect with Ukrainian officials over exposing corruption. Parnas and Fruman were indicted after giving illegal contributions through a LLC “for the purpose of gaining influence with politicians so as to advance their own personal financial interests and the political interests of Ukrainian government officials.”

But a Ukrainian official told Yovanovitch in February 2018 that Giuliani and his associates were also attempting a “very dangerous” move by looking into the extent of Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 election.

Giuliani and his associates were specifically investigating the existence of a so-called “black ledger,” which allegedly detailed millions of dollars in secretive payments from ousted pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, and whether it was used to convince U.S. authorities to reopen a case against Manafort.

“[Giuliani was] looking into that and how did all of that come about; the issue of whether, you know, it was Russia collusion or whether it was really Ukraine collusion, and, you know, looking forward to the 2020 election campaign, and whether this would somehow hurt former Vice President Biden. I think he felt that that was just very dangerous terrain for another country to be in,” Yovanovitch stated

The former Ukrainian ambassador also stated that, in the midst of negative public press, including a tweet from Donald Trump Jr. retweeting an article pointing to Yovanovitch’s ouster, she went to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to seek a reaffirming public statement of support. The State Department told her that there was “caution about any kind of statement, because it could be undermined” by a tweet from Trump.

Former senior adviser to Pompeo Michael McKinley, whose testimony to the House was also released on Monday, testified that he resigned in part due to the State Department’s lack of support for Yovanovitch.

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