How will Rudy Giuliani judge the story

Confidante before arrest: Trump attorney Giuliani also planned a trip to Vienna

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Vienna - The Austrian capital Vienna is increasingly moving into the center of a scandal that is developing in the USA as a side branch of the Ukraine affair. Two confidants of US President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, were arrested in the United States on Wednesday evening. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested while trying to board a plane bound for Frankfurt at Washington's Dulles Airport. However, US media unanimously report that their actual destination was Vienna. The two men had therefore booked a one-way ticket to Austria. As the US magazine "The Atlantic" now reports with reference to a conversation with Giuliani, Giuliani himself is said to have planned to fly to the Austrian capital on Thursday evening.

The reports do not reveal what reason Giuliani might have had for his trip. In a reaction to the arrests of his two confidants, Trump's lawyer had claimed that he would not have wanted to meet Parnas and Fruman again until they returned from Vienna - but it was not yet publicly known that he himself was planning to travel to Austria . If Giuliani's portrayal is correct, he would have traveled to Vienna around 24 hours after the two of them without wanting to meet them in Austria, only to meet them again after their return. He last met her shortly before her arrest for lunch at the Trump Hotel in Washington. When the "Atlantic" later asked what the purpose of his trip to Austria might have been, Giuliani only replied via SMS. He could "currently not comment on this question".

"On business" in Vienna

Parnas and Fruman are accused of violating US campaign funding laws. Specifically, the indictment states that they are suspected of having influenced US elections and election campaigns in the sense of "at least one Ukrainian politician". Accordingly, they would have passed on funds amounting to several hundred thousand US dollars through a company to political campaigns, the true origin of which was supposed to be concealed. The donations went to several Republicans. A particular beneficiary, however, was a so-called "Super PAC", a support committee called "America First Action". This advocates the re-election of Trump in 2020. Non-US citizens are not allowed to donate to political campaigns in the US. Moreover, they themselves are not allowed to accept anything "of value" from abroad. This includes not only monetary donations, but also other forms of help.

It is unclear why Parnas and Fruman wanted to go to Vienna. Giuliani is quoted in the "Wall Street Journal" as saying that the two had visited Austria's capital "three to six times" in the past two months. The reason was business.

Contacts in Ukraine

The two men also play a role in the Ukraine scandal over President Trump. They introduced Giuliani to two former Ukrainian attorneys general. These, Viktor Schokin and Yuri Lutsenko, are said to have exchanged views with the Trump attorney about investigations against the gas company Burisma. It was also about the son of the possible Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, Hunter Biden.

Donald Trump calls on Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden. He sat on the board of directors of Burisma while his father was still Vice President of the USA. Joe Biden allegedly participated in the dismissal of Schokin from his post as attorney general. Trump therefore accuses him of saving his son Hunter from investigations. In fact, in addition to the USA, Europe had also pushed for Schokin's dismissal because he had done too little to combat corruption.

In June 2019, Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj to resume the Biden investigation, which has since been suspended. Shortly before, he had suspended US $ 391 million in military aid to Ukraine. For this reason, among other things, he is accused of having used the powers of his office for personal gain. The US House of Representatives has therefore launched investigations that could result in the President's impeachment.

In a 14-hour press conference, Ukrainian President Zelenskyi said he was ready to open an investigation into any Ukrainian interference in the 2016 US election. But he denies that Trump tried to blackmail him.

Removal of the ambassador

There is another connection in this case to Parnas and Fruman. According to the indictment, the two are said to have donated funds to a US MP who was later involved in a campaign to remove the US ambassador to Kiev, Marie Yovanovitch.

He was not named, but the New York Times identified him in a report as Pete Sessions, who sat for the Republicans in the House of Representatives. This had actually requested the removal of Yovanovitch in 2018. The diplomat was actually dismissed - apparently at Donald Trump's instigation - in early May 2019. As the "Wall Street Journal" writes, Giuliani Trump is said to have said that Yovanovitch would not only undermine his authority abroad, but also block the investigation against Biden.

Binding summons

Even before their arrest, Parnas and Fruman had been on the list of witnesses of those committees of the House of Representatives investigating a possible impeachment of Trump in the Ukraine cause. Parnas should have testified on Thursday, Fruman on Friday. For the coming week, the committees have now issued a subpoena to both men, i.e. a legally binding invitation to appear.

Trump himself claimed in an initial reaction to the arrests that he did not know "the two gentlemen". However, there are photos of both gentlemen that show them together with the presidents. "It may be that there are photos because there are photos of me with everyone," said Trump. Another picture shows Parnas and Fruman at a table with Trump's son Don, Jr. They were represented in court on Thursday by John Dowd, a former Trump attorney.

Trump's abuse

Gordon Sondland, US ambassador to the European Union, will also testify to the committee next week. It is believed he could help Trump's cause. He had replied to a text message from the senior diplomat and former US ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor. Taylor had written to him, "I think it's crazy to withhold military aid to get help for a political campaign." Sondland's response: "Bill, I think you are wrong about the president's intention. He has made it clear that there is no 'quid pro quo'." Sondland's answer came after talking to Trump, according to the New York Times.

On Thursday evening, the US President berated the Democrats for the possible impeachment proceedings: "We are dealing with some really sick and disturbed people," said Trump on Thursday evening in Minnesota. "The Democrats are on a crusade to destroy our democracy," he said in his first campaign appearance since the Ukraine affair. Of the Democratic front woman, House Chairwoman Nancy Pelosi, Trump said she was either "really stupid", "not quite right" or dishonest. (mesc, red, October 11, 2019)