Two big political supporters of U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry secured a lucrative oil and gas exploration deal from the Ukrainian government soon after Perry proposed one of the men as an adviser to the country’s new president.
Perry’s effort to influence Ukraine’s energy policy came earlier this year, as President Zelenskiy’s new government was seeking military aid from the U.S. to defend against Russian aggression and allies of Trump were ramping up efforts to get the Ukrainians to investigate his Democratic rival Joe Biden.
The contract to Perry’s supporters was awarded a month after the Perry attended Zelenskiy’s May inauguration where he handed the new president a list of “recommended” energy advisers. One of the four names was his longtime political backer Michael Bleyzer.
Under the contract, the winning bidder is awarded exclusive rights to extract petroleum for up to 50 years. The company and the government split the profits after costs are recovered.
According to AP,
A week later, Bleyzer and his partner Alex Cranberg submitted a bid to drill for oil and gas at a sprawling government-controlled site called Varvynska. They offered millions of dollars less to the Ukrainian government than their only competitor for the drilling rights, according to internal Ukrainian government documents obtained by The Associated Press. But their newly created joint venture, Ukrainian Energy, was awarded the 50-year contract because a government-appointed commission determined they had greater technical expertise and stronger financial backing, the documents show.
Perry likely had outsized influence in Ukraine. Testimony in the impeachment inquiry into Trump shows the energy secretary was one of three key U.S. officials who were negotiating a meeting between Trump and the Ukrainian leader.
White House and State Department officials have testified that the president would only meet with Zelenskiy if he committed to launching an investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter. In the impeachment inquiry against Trump, the officials have also said that U.S. military aid to Ukraine was being withheld until Zelenskiy publicly announced such an investigation.
Looks a lot like the Trump administration’s political maneuvering in Ukraine was entwined with the big business of the energy trade.
But Bleyzer told the AP that Perry didn’t help his firm get the gas deal,
“I believe that Secretary Perry’s conversations with Ukrainian government officials, if they in fact took place, did not play any role in Ukrainian Energy winning its bid…
this will hopefully serve as an example of how the Ukrainian energy market can be opened for new investments.”
But, surprise again! Bleyzer ALSO has ties to Rudy Giuliani. In 2008, Bleyzer’s company hired Giuliani’s former Houston-based law firm, Bracewell & Giuliani, to help it acquire and consolidate cable holdings in 16 Ukrainian cities. Bleyzer donated $2,300 to Giuliani’s presidential campaign that same year.
Perry’s work in Ukraine places him at the center of the House impeachment inquiry.
For a more detailed account, Chris Hayes broke it down last night.