Even by the rapidly spinning revolving-door standards of the Trump administration, last week’s story from Time, ProPublica, and WNYC about former Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s push to get a blockbuster energy deal for his associates is a big one.
Perry’s membership as one of the so-called “three amigos” running President Donald Trump’s shadow Ukraine policy had always elicited more questions than answers. Last fall, as the House was in the midst of its impeachment investigation, Axios had reported that Perry had been the one to urge Trump to make his July 25 call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — the now famous conversation in which Trump asked his counterpart to “do us a favor” by announcing an investigation into Joe Biden.
But as Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his partners were pushing for such an investigation of the president’s perceived political rivals, Perry’s efforts were apparently also connected to Ukraine’s energy prospects. In May 2019, Perry led the delegation to Kyiv for Zelensky’s inauguration, where he handed Zelensky a list of names of “people he trusts” as potential energy advisers. On that list was Michael Bleyzer, a Ukrainian-born investor based in Perry’s home state of Texas who was also on that trip. Bleyzer has donated to multiple Republican election campaigns as well as Perry’s gubernatorial inauguration fund, and he appears multiple times in Energy Department emails as well as Perry’s official calendars, which American Oversight obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
Those emails, also cited by Simon Shuster and Ilya Marritz in their report, mention meetings between Bleyzer and top Energy Department officials in the summer of 2017, three months after Ukrainian negotiators had approached Perry about finding a U.S. partner to buy a large stake in Ukraine’s gas pipeline network. On July 21, 2017, Perry’s chief of staff, Brian McCormack, introduced himself to Bleyzer over email, requesting a meeting for the next week.
The same set of documents include May 2019 emails between Bleyzer and Samuel Buchan, an Energy Department adviser who worked in international affairs in Perry’s office. The messages were exchanged just before the delegation to Zelensky’s inauguration, with Bleyzer mentioning that he was “working with our team on the ground” to arrange meetings in Kyiv.
According to Shuster and Marritz, Bleyzer also has had contacts at Energy Transfer, a Texas company. Just before joining the Trump administration, Perry had served on the board of Energy Transfer; he joined the board again after resigning and in March owned shares in the company currently worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is that company that is at the center of a potential $20 billion deal to ship U.S. natural gas to Ukraine that Shuster and Marritz say Perry worked to advance while in office.
Read Shuster and Marritz’s in-depth look at Perry’s efforts here, and learn more about our ongoing investigations into Perry’s tenure in office as well as the Trump administration’s contacts with Ukraine.
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