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Two of US Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s political supporters won ‘potentially lucrative’ Ukraine energy deal: report

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The Associated Press reports that the oil and gas exploration contract was awarded after Perry recommended one of his backers as an energy adviser to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

After U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry proposed political backer Michael Bleyzer as an adviser to Ukraine’s president, the Houston man and a former University of Texas System regent “secured a potentially lucrative” energy deal from the Ukrainian government, the Associated Press reported Monday.

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Perry, the former Texas governor, attended Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s inauguration this year and gave him a list of people who could serve as energy advisers, which included Bleyzer, according to the AP. More than a month later, Ukraine awarded an oil and gas exploration contract to Bleyzer and his partner Alex Cranberg, the news agency reported. Perry appointed Cranberg to the UT Board of Regents shortly after the man registered to vote in Texas following a move from Colorado. Cranberg served from 2011 to 2017 and was a controversial figure on the system’s governing board.

Democrats on three U.S. House committees last month subpoenaed documents from Perry as part of their impeachment inquiry into allegations that President Donald Trump asked Zelensky to investigate Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son.

An Energy Department official said Perry did not plan to comply with the subpoena, The Washington Post reported. Perry last month also told Trump he will resign from his cabinet position by the end of this year.

Belyzer told the AP that the deal with the Ukrainian government was competitive and transparent. He denied that Perry helped his firm secure the contract.

Alex Cranberg at a University of Texas System Board of Regents meeting in 2011.

“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,” Bleyzer said in a statement to the AP.

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An Energy Department spokeswoman told the news agency that Perry has lobbied for American industry across the globe, but did not “advocate for the business interests of any one individual or company.”

An attorney for Aspect Holdings, Cranberg’s company, told the AP that American officials supported “a fair, competitive process.”

“Aspect neither sought, nor to our knowledge received, special intervention on its behalf,” Aspect lawyer Amy Flakne told the news agency.

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The AP report comes days after another former Perry appointee to the UT Board of Regents admitted to coordinating illegal campaign contributions in 2017. James Dannenbaum, a prolific Republican donor who served on the UT governing body beginning in 2007, resigned from his engineering company last week after he was charged with recruiting employees to donate to congressional candidates then reimbursing them with corporate funds. Such “conduit” donations are a felony.

BY BRANDON FORMBY

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Disclosure: The University of Texas System has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

 


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Former senator reveals to Maddow how one brave Democrat can reveal key document in impeachment trial

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Near the end of Wednesday's impeachment trial, Chief Justice John Roberts announced that an agreement had been made to allow senators to read supplemental testimony from Vice President Mike Pence aide Jennifer Williams.

The document will remain classified, despite claims that there is no classified material in the document, only evidence that is damning to the president.

"In terms of this document potentially being improperly classified, which is something that has been raised in writing by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and raised on the floor of the Senate tonight by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)," MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow noted. "Obviously, it was the vice president's office that said it was classified, they are getting publicly criticized for that. If it has been improperly classified and it should be something that the public can see, who adjudicates that?"

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Florida Republican Matt Gaetz admits Trump’s legal defense was ‘like an 8th grade book report’ — only worse

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Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) admitted that President Donald Trump's team of lawyers weren't quite the legal eagles that he thinks they might be, said Politico reporter Andrew Desiderio.

Questioned about his take on the way the case is unfolding in the Senate, Gaetz said that the House presented it like it was going to be on "cable news." For many that may be an insult, but it appears to Gaetz that was a compliment.

Desiderio said that Gaetz then lamented that the White House presented their case more like “an 8th-grade book report.”

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Conservative says Republicans won’t want to stop confirming right-wing judges just to hear witnesses in impeachment

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Conservative CNN commentator Scott Jennings was asked about Sen. John Kennedy's (R-LA) comments that most senators were hearing the facts of the trial for the first time Wednesday night.

“I’ve learned a lot. Everybody has. Senators didn’t know the case,” Kennedy admitted. “They really didn’t.”

He claimed that nine out of ten senators learned something new and the tenth is lying.

Jennings dismissed the information, saying that whatever happens in the trial, senators won't want to "shut down the Senate" just to hear witnesses. He claimed that President Donald Trump's legal team would make that argument to the senators.

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