Trump Allies Pressed Ukraine to Install New Management in State Gas Company for Financial Gain: Report

A group of businessmen and GOP donors with ties to President Donald Trump and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani attempted to persuade Ukrainian officials to install new management at the top of the country's state gas company, the Associated Press reported on Sunday.

While Rudy Giuliani was urging Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden last spring allegedly for political purposes, the Trump allies were reportedly attempting to change senior management at the former Soviet republic's state gas company, Naftogaz, for financial gain while touting their relationship the president and his attorney. Two unidentified sources with knowledge of the group's plans told the news publication that they also sought to secure contracts for companies linked to Trump allies.

However, their efforts to install a more favorable management team were thwarted after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko lost to former comedian Volodymyr Zelensky in the country's 2019 presidential election.

After Zelensky's win, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry began his own efforts to install a new management team at the helm of Naftogaz, AP reported. Although Perry and the Trump-Giuliani allies pushed for the same result, it is unclear whether their efforts were coordinated and there have been no allegations of criminal wrongdoing attached to these efforts.

It is also unclear whether Trump or Giuliani played any role in helping these allies. However, the AP reported that the allies appeared to have inside knowledge of actions taken by the Trump administration, including knowing the president would recall the U.S. ambassador in advance.

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Three unnamed sources familiar with the Trump-Giuliani allies' plan told the AP that three individuals were involved in the Naftogaz effort: Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two Soviet-born Florida real estate businessmen and Harry Sargeant III, an oil mogul from Boca Raton, Florida.

Parnas and Fruman have both had meetings with Trump, at the White House and Mar-a-Largo after having given hundreds of thousands in political donations to the Republican Party. Sargeant, his wife and companies tied to their family have donated at least one million to GOP campaigns in the past two decades.

A controversial July phone call between Trump and Zelensky is at the center of an impeachment inquiry into the president, launched by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi late last month. It was highlighted to the American public by a whistleblower, who filed a formal complaint alleging that the president had asked his foreign counterpart to probe his domestic political rival during the call. A summary transcript of the call, released by the White House, proves that Trump did ask Ukraine for help in probing Biden's family.

Although they don't deny the incident, Trump and Giuliani have repeatedly asserted that they have not committed any wrongdoing and that the request was valid. Trump told a group of GOP members on Friday that Perry had sparked the call with Zelensky, according to Axios. "The only reason I made the call was because Rick asked me to. Something about an LNG [liquified natural gas] plant," Trump reportedly said during a conference call.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Energy Department said Perry's Naftogaz efforts were above board and done to reform Ukraine's energy sector to ensure friendlier business dealings with Western countries.

Trump Giuliani
File photo: Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani stands with president-elect Donald Trump before their meeting at Trump International Golf Club, November 20, 2016 in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. Drew Angerer/Getty
Trump Allies Pressed Ukraine to Install New Management in State Gas Company for Financial Gain: Report | Politics
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