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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Trump's tales of Ukraine keep failing to erase his famous Russia scandal

Rick Gates, a former campaign official for President

Rick Gates, a former campaign official for President DonaldTrump, leaves Federal District Court in Washington DC Tuesday after his sentencing.  Photo by ERIK S LESSER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock.

This is the season of rival story lines.

Unfortunately for the spirit of bipartisanship, the separate Democratic and Republican narratives about Eastern Europe intrigue show a wide evidence gap.

The "Republicans-dallied-with-Russia" scenario seems to be winning against the "Ukranians-colluded-with-Democrats" chimera. 

On Monday, President Donald Trump's convicted ex-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn suffered a rebuke when U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan shot down his theory that the "deep-state" had framed him in the case, meant to distance himself from a plea agreement he made two years ago.

Flynn lied to FBI agents investigating the 2016 Trump campaign's Russia contacts.

On Tuesday, Trump's former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates was sentenced to 45 days in jail plus fines and probation, after facing a sentence that could have imprisoned him for more than five years. Prosecutors said he provided key information to former special counsel Robert Mueller's office.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Gates's information, "warranted, even demanded, further investigation from the standpoint of national security, the integrity of our elections and enforcing criminal laws."

In other words, his flipping paid off in useful evidence.

Meanwhile the GOP president is trying to erase or at least eclipse his enduring Russia stigma by lodging his own slapdash Ukraine allegations.

Under Trump's aegis, lawyer Rudy Giuliani has courted or lined up a couple of ex-prosecutors, a billionaire Eastern European gas broker charged with bribery in Chicago and two immigrant financiers from Florida now under indictment.

The ex-mayor has yet to show proof of corruption or disloyalty by those he focuses on denigrating — former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovich and former Vice President Joe Biden.

But while his inquiries overseas have amounted so far to a political show, Giuliani keeps talking to news media about them.

This week he made a characteristically stunning public admission followed by a weird self-contradiction.

First Giuliani told The New Yorker he helped push out Yovanovich even though he isn't a government official. "I believed that I needed Yovanovitch out of the way,” he told the magazine. “She was going to make the investigations difficult for everybody.”

On Fox News, he said something slightly different. “I didn’t need her out of the way," he said. "I forced her out because she’s corrupt.” 

"She should have been fired, if the State Department weren’t part of the deep state.”

Last year, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a loyal Trump ally, told Congress he did not believe there were “deep state” forces at work at the State Department.

Also, Giuliani may have to play some defense against officials in Trump's Justice Department.

On Tuesday, a prosecutor from the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan revealed that a family bank account of Giuliani's indicted business associate Lev Parnas received $1 million from Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash.

Firtash has lived in Vienna, Austria for some time, where he's fighting extradition to the United States on bribery and racketeering charges. Firtash has said he met in June with Parnas and his co-defendant Igor Fruman.

This was done at Giuliani's direction, Parnas' lawyer has said. The two reportedly talked about helping Firtash with his criminal case, along with the search for supposedly incriminating information on Democrat Biden. 

Firtash then hired two Trump-connected lawyers, Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing, who have worked with Giuliani on his political skulduggery.

In 2017, the Justice Department described Firtash as among “the upper echelon associates” of Russian organized crime, which he denied. His lawyers have made controversial allegations against Mueller and Biden.

All this raises questions. Trump doesn't pay Giuliani, and the Biden dirt-dig might be subsidized in part by a foreign defendant? Does that mean Trump's negative campaign research is funded from overseas?

So far, in trying to raise a corruption stink about Biden, Trump and his crew have created a stench about themselves.


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