Donald Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s bizarre media tour defending President Trump’s efforts to pressure the president of Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden has focused on a seemingly unrelated target: billionaire Democratic financier and Republican bogeyman George Soros.
In several rambling cable news appearances, Giuliani has claimed that Soros—who conservative conspiracy theorists have long blamed for everything from the Barack Obama presidency to actor Jussie Smollett’s faking of a hate crime—is somehow involved in a wide-ranging, anti-Trump scheme in Ukraine. Like many Soros-related claims, this one is, well, flimsy. Indeed, Guiliani’s argument appears to rest almost entirely on innuendos, a single op-ed in The Hill, and his vague claims about unnamed “people” in Ukraine.
Giuliani’s allegations center on a “Soros NGO” that manufactured evidence against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and a former FBI agent who Giuliani claims is on Soros’s payroll.
“George Soros has a not-for-profit called AntAC,” Giuliani said in a CNN appearance last Thursday. “AntAC is the one that developed all of the dirty information that ended up being a false document that was created in order to incriminate Manafort.”
In a Monday appearance on Fox Business, Giuliani claimed that “Soros’s NGO was involved in this whole thing.” On Tuesday, he told Fox News host Laura Ingraham that Biden was somehow involved in an effort to save a Soros-run organization in Ukraine from prosecution.
“That organization was run by George Soros, who then hired the crooked FBI agent, who is now working for George Soros,” Giuliani said.
Soros, who is one of the Democratic Party’s largest givers, has long been targeted by right-wing activists, who often paint him as a global, political puppetmaster—a charge that critics contend reeks of anti-Semitism. Few figures, indeed, are more often portrayed as a boogeyman by Republican politicians.
Guliani’s vague, nefarious accusations about Soros, have been echoed by Trump allies and the Trump campaign as well. In fact, the line has become so central to the messaging war against the Bidens that Giuliani often offers it up without being prompted.
“Oh, and Soros—Soros!—is very important here,” Giuliani said in a Monday interview, one of several with The Daily Beast in the last few days in which he discussed the progressive donor. “Don’t forget that.”
Considering the gravity with which Giuliani discusses Soros, one would think that there is ample evidence that something untoward has taken place. And yet, the allegations rest largely on a March 2019 op-ed in The Hill written by opinion writer John Solomon, who became a star on the right for his willingness to push attacks on Special Counsel Robert Mueller. In his March story, Solomon declared that the U.S. embassy in Ukraine “pressed Ukraine to drop [a] probe of George Soros group during 2016 election.”
The op-ed centers on Anticorruption Action Centre (AntAC), a Ukrainian anti-corruption group that has received funding from Soros’s Open Society Foundation. Contrary to Giuliani’s description of it as “Soros-run,” though, AntAC has also received funding from the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and the European Union. Soros doesn’t control AntAC’s activities. It is instead operated by Ukrainian activists.
In 2016, AntAC was under investigation by Ukrainian prosecutors for the alleged misuse of $4.4 million in aid, in what appears to have been a politically motivated pursuit from the investigators meant to punish the good-governance group. Even U.S. State Department sources in Solomon’s own op-ed said the prosecution was believed to be just “retribution” for AntAC’s anti-corruption work. In a letter sent to Ukrainian prosecutors, a State Department official in Ukraine said the United States had “no concerns” about the money.
"We have accounted for every single foreign assistance dollar provided within the framework of this project,” the State official continued.
Nevertheless, Giuliani has accused the group, without any evidence, of falsifying the “Black Ledger” that listed millions in undisclosed payments to Manafort and setting the stage for his prosecution. But that document has never been disproven, as a story from The Intercept investigating Giuliani’s claims found, and AntAC wasn’t involved in its creation.
The unfounded implication in both Giuliani’s interviews and Solomon’s opinion story is that the Obama administration’s diplomats were either running interference for AntAC in exchange for an effort to take down Manafort, or were somehow just working generally on Soros’ behalf.
In a response published in The Hill and on its own website, AntAC co-founder Daria Kaleniuk pointed out a number of inconsistencies and omissions in Solomon’s op-ed, alleging that he had confused key dates supposedly at the center of the opinion piece. Kaleniuk also claimed that Solomon’s supposed key source, a former prosecutor, was using The Hill to retaliate against her group for its anti-corruption efforts.
In an email to The Daily Beast, Kaleniuk described Giuliani’s claims about her group as “bizarre allegations.” Soros spokesman Michael Vachon also denied Giuliani’s claims.
“Short answer is no, Soros was not somehow involved in cooking up charges against Trump in Ukraine,” Vachon wrote in an email.
Giuliani also alleges in his cable news appearances that Soros has offered a large payout to a former FBI agent who was involved in the Manafort investigation, supposedly via AntAC.
“The FBI agent is now working for George Soros, making hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Giuliani said in his Tuesday appearance on Fox News.
That appears to be a reference to former FBI supervisor Karen Greenaway, who was part of the FBI’s International Corruption Unit and the Manafort investigation. Greenaway has appeared at some anti-corruption events with AntAC staff. And her appearance is used in Solomon’s article to suggest some nefarious connection between the group, Greenaway, and Soros.
Greenaway retired from the FBI in February, and agreed to later join AntAC’s board alongside prominent figures like “End of History” political scientist Francis Fukuyama and the former head of the EU’s anti-fraud office.
That appears to be where Giuliani is getting the idea that Greenaway is making “hundreds of thousands” of dollars from Soros, since the board is mentioned in Solomon’s op-ed. But membership of the AntAC board is, alas, an unpaid position.
Asked for proof of his claim that Greenaway is receiving large amounts of money from Soros, either through AntAC or another group, Giuliani referred only to vague sources in Ukraine.
“That is what I was told by several people in Ukraine,” Giuliani told The Daily Beast, adding later, “If it gets investigated we will find out.”
Giuliani declined to offer any more evidence of his claims against Greenaway, and accused The Daily Beast of trying to impede his “investigation” into Biden.
“It seems to me your intent here is not to cover the inherent apparent corruption in the way this was done but to find any contradictions or create them,” Giuliani wrote in a text message.
Greenaway couldn’t be reached for comment.