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Westlake Legal Group > Corruption (Institutional)

Inside a Brazen Scheme to Woo China: Gifts, Golf and a $4,254 Wine

It was a brazen campaign to win business in China by charming and enriching the country’s political elite.

The bank gave a Chinese president a crystal tiger and a Bang & Olufsen sound system, together worth $18,000. A premier received a $15,000 crystal horse, his Chinese zodiac animal, and his son got $10,000 in golf outings and a trip to Las Vegas. A top state banking official, a son of one of China’s founding fathers, accepted a $4,254 bottle of French wine — Château Lafite Rothschild, vintage 1945, the year he was born.

Millions of dollars were paid out to Chinese consultants, including a business partner of the premier’s family and a firm that secured a meeting for the bank’s chief executive with the president. And more than 100 relatives of the Communist Party’s ruling elite were hired for jobs at the bank, even though it had deemed many unqualified.

This was all part of Deutsche Bank’s strategy to become a major player in China, beginning nearly two decades ago when it had virtually no presence there. And it worked. By 2011, the German company would be ranked by Bloomberg as the top bank for managing initial public offerings in China and elsewhere in Asia, outside Japan.

The bank’s rule-bending rise to the top was chronicled in confidential documents, prepared by the company and its outside lawyers, that were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. The previously undisclosed documents, shared with The New York Times, cover a 15-year period and include spreadsheets, emails, internal investigative reports and transcripts of interviews with senior executives.

The documents show that Deutsche Bank’s troubling behavior in China was far more extensive than the authorities in the United States have publicly alleged. And they show that the bank’s top leadership was warned about the activity but did not stop it.

Josef Ackermann, the bank’s chief executive until 2012, said in an interview with The Times and separately in answers to written questions that he was not familiar with many of the details contained in the documents. But he defended the bank’s broader practices.

“This was part of doing business in this country,” Mr. Ackermann said. “At the time, this was the way things were done.”

For years, Deutsche Bank has been a poster child for misconduct in the finance industry. Regulators and prosecutors around the world have imposed billions of dollars in penalties against the bank for its role in a wide range of scandals. Most recently, the bank has been under investigation for the facilitation of money laundering in Russia and elsewhere.

Deutsche Bank — which for two decades was the primary lender to President Trump — also has been under scrutiny by two congressional committees and by state prosecutors in New York who are investigating Mr. Trump’s finances.

In August, the bank agreed to pay $16 million in a settlement with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission related to allegations that it had used corrupt means to win business in both China and Russia, violating anti-bribery laws, though it did not admit wrongdoing.

That penalty, the documents show, amounted to a small fraction of the revenues gained in China from business stemming in part from the activities. The bank’s outside lawyers had warned executives in 2017 that they could face a penalty of more than $250 million from the S.E.C. related to China. There is no evidence that German regulators investigated the bank’s activities in China, though they were alerted to some of it, according to the documents.

[Here are six key takeaways from the investigation.]

Reasons for concern appear throughout the documents, which include internal investigations conducted by two law firms, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and Allen & Overy, at the time of the S.E.C.’s action.

Deutsche Bank, the documents show, dispensed hundreds of thousands of dollars to secure meetings for top executives with China’s leadership. An obscure company received $100,000 to arrange a 2002 meeting between Mr. Ackermann and Jiang Zemin, then the country’s president.

In all, the documents show, the bank paid seven consultants more than $14 million, including for help buying a stake in a Chinese bank and winning coveted assignments from state-owned companies. Some of the payments were flagged internally as problematic but allowed to go through.

On multiple occasions, according to the documents, Deutsche Bank tried to win business by collaborating with family members of Wen Jiabao, China’s premier from 2003 to 2013. The Wens’ enormous accumulation of wealth was the focus of a 2012 investigation by The Times that found family members had controlled assets worth at least $2.7 billion.

Winning Over the Wens

Among its many ties to China’s political elite, Deutsche Bank cultivated a deep relationship with the family of Wen Jiabao during his term as premier of China. Mr. Wen himself received gifts from the bank valued at more than $15,000. But it was a family affair, involving his son, daughter and their spouses, as well as a close business associate of the family.

Westlake Legal Group 1014-web-for-DEUTSCHE-CHINA-Artboard_2 Inside a Brazen Scheme to Woo China: Gifts, Golf and a $4,254 Wine Wen Jiabao Gifts to Public Officials Fines (Penalties) Ethics and Official Misconduct Deutsche Bank AG Corruption (Institutional) China Bribery and Kickbacks Banking and Financial Institutions Ackermann, Josef

Wen Jiabao

Zhang Beili

Premier

2003-13

Diamond expert

Wen family

SON-IN-LAW

DAUGHTER-IN-LAW

Liu

Chunhang

Wen

Ruchun

Yang

Xiaomeng

Winston

Wen

GOLF

PARTNER

Co-founder of the

New Horizon Capital

private equity firm

RECOMMENDED

ACQUAINTANCE

RECOMMENDED

Huang

Xuhuai

Josef Ackermann provided Mr. Wen with a crystal horse sculpture valued at more than $15,000.

Deutsche Bank hired several job candidates referred to them by members of the Wen family.

Deutsche Bank invested in Winston Wen’s private equity firm, as well as paying for golfing vacations for him.

Lee Zhang hired Mr. Huang as a consultant in 2005 and again in 2006, paying him more than $5 million.

Deutsche Bank

Josef Ackermann

Chief executive

2002-12

Head of corporate

finance in Asia

2004-10

Westlake Legal Group 1014-web-for-DEUTSCHE-CHINA-Artboard_3 Inside a Brazen Scheme to Woo China: Gifts, Golf and a $4,254 Wine Wen Jiabao Gifts to Public Officials Fines (Penalties) Ethics and Official Misconduct Deutsche Bank AG Corruption (Institutional) China Bribery and Kickbacks Banking and Financial Institutions Ackermann, Josef

Wen Jiabao

Zhang Beili

Premier

2003-13

Diamond expert

WEN FAMILY

SON-

IN-LAW

DAUGHTER-

IN-LAW

Liu

Chunhang

Wen

Ruchun

Yang

Xiaomeng

Winston

Wen

GOLF

PARTNER

ACQUAINTANCE

RECOMMENDED

RECOMMENDED

Huang

Xuhuai

DEUTSCHE BANK

Josef

Ackermann

Head of

corporate

finance in Asia

2004-10

Chief

executive

2002-12

Source: Documents compiled in internal Deutsche Bank investigation.

By Guilbert Gates

The bank, at least in part through its hiring of people with political connections, won hundreds of millions of dollars in Chinese deals. Such hires can be illegal if they are done in exchange for business. The bank’s outside lawyers calculated that just 19 of its so-called relationship hires helped bring in $189 million in revenue, including a plum assignment in 2006 managing a state bank’s market debut, then the biggest initial public offering in history.

Most of the Chinese government officials entangled in the bank’s activities have since retired, among them Mr. Jiang and Mr. Wen. But two parents of people the bank employed are now members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the country’s pinnacle of power. And the country’s vice president, Wang Qishan, accepted gifts from the bank when he held previous positions, such as mayor of Beijing.

Efforts by The Times and Süddeutsche Zeitung to reach Mr. Jiang, Mr. Wang and Mr. Wen — as well as other Chinese officials, executives and relatives mentioned in the documents — either were unsuccessful or received no response. Several current and former Deutsche Bank employees declined to comment.

Tim-Oliver Ambrosius, a spokesman for the bank, did not respond to specific questions about the documents. In a written statement, he said that the company had “thoroughly investigated and reported to authorities certain past conduct,” adding that the bank had “enhanced our policies and controls, and action has been taken where issues have been identified.”

“These events date back as far as 2002 and have been dealt with,” the statement said.

Mr. Ackermann said that he had cautioned the bank’s staff that “no business is worth risking the bank’s reputation.” Though he pushed employees to increase revenue and profits, he said, “feeling pressure cannot excuse violating compliance rules and regulations or the law of the land.”

When Mr. Ackermann was picked in 2000 as the next chief executive, his ambition was for Deutsche Bank to be universally recognized as a global leader. And he wanted it done fast.

China was critical. It was the most populous country in the world and on its way to becoming the second-largest economy. Yet Deutsche Bank was far behind its rivals there.

Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley had been at the forefront of helping China modernize its moribund financial system and network of state-owned businesses. In 1995, Morgan Stanley helped set up the country’s first investment bank, China International Capital Corporation. Goldman won the rights in 1997 to bring China Telecom, the country’s phone monopoly, to the international market through an initial public offering in Hong Kong.

Mr. Ackermann had to play catch-up.

A first step for the bank was poaching Lee Zhang, the head of Goldman Sachs’s Beijing office. Mr. Zhang was fluent in the ways of both China and Western business. Born and raised in China, he had studied in Canada and later moved to California, where he worked for Hewlett-Packard and studied business administration. He then went to Hong Kong, eventually landing at Goldman.

Mr. Zhang’s mandate was to transform Deutsche Bank into a player in China. That required winning over the Communist Party.

Mr. Zhang began hiring aggressively. Many of his recruits — dozens and dozens of them, according to spreadsheets compiled by the bank’s lawyers — were young, inexperienced and well connected. They came to know him as Uncle Zhang.

Ma Weiji, whose parents were senior executives at state-owned companies, interviewed for a job in 2007. It did not go well. A senior Deutsche Bank executive emailed Mr. Zhang that Mr. Ma “was probably one of the worst candidates.”

He got the job nevertheless. Soon, Mr. Ma was using his family connections to secure meetings for the bank with his parents’ companies, according to a memo by Allen & Overy.

Another job candidate was a son of Liu Yunshan, then China’s propaganda minister. He “cannot meet our standard,” a Deutsche Bank employee wrote in an email about the company’s equity capital markets group. He was offered a job anyway.

The younger daughter of Li Zhanshu — now a top member of the Politburo Standing Committee — was judged unqualified for the bank’s corporate communications team. She got an offer, too.

Even for qualified candidates, political connections were taken into account.

Wang Xisha, whose father was the top official in Guangdong Province when she applied in 2010, was a veteran of the rival bank UBS and had also interned at Goldman Sachs. During her recruitment process, one banker noted that she would “have access” to a state-owned automaker, according to Allen & Overy. Her father, Wang Yang, is now a member of the Politburo Standing Committee.

In 2006, Deutsche Bank began to engage in what it called referral hiring. The goal was to drum up business for the bank by doling out personal favors to current and prospective clients, the S.E.C. found. Premier Wen Jiabao’s son-in-law, who was a senior official at China’s banking regulator, referred one candidate. Mr. Wen’s daughter-in-law referred another. Both were hired.

A state railway executive in China referred the son of a judge on the Supreme People’s Court. The assistant president of the oil refiner Sinopec referred a candidate, too. So did the general manager of the state-owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

Mr. Zhang, reached by phone, declined to be interviewed for this article. He also did not respond to written questions sent through a business associate.

“It’s a relationship country,” Mr. Ackermann said in the interview. “Of course we cultivated these people.”

The roster was set. The first nine foursomes to tee off at Deutsche Bank’s Beijing golf invitational in October 2003 were a predictable mix of German and Chinese executives.

The 10th group was different. It included Winston Wen, son of the newly appointed premier, as well as Huang Xuhuai, a close business associate of the Wen family. They were joined by a top official from PetroChina, a state-owned oil company.

The fourth player was Mr. Zhang. The following month, he, Mr. Huang and Mr. Wen would be off to Thailand for more golf, and later to Germany, according to documents compiled for the bank’s internal investigation.

The relationships that Mr. Zhang built with the golfers were microcosms of how the bank made a name for itself in China beyond its strategic hiring. They were showered with gifts. They were enlisted to introduce Deutsche Bank executives to Chinese decision makers. And they were hired as consultants to help win the bank work.

Among dozens of gifts to political leaders and heads of state-run companies, the oil executive received golf clubs and a bag valued at more than $2,500.

Executives at China Life Insurance, which picked Deutsche Bank to help manage its I.P.O. in 2003, were treated to Louis Vuitton luggage, cashmere overcoats, golf clubs, even a sofa, totaling more than $22,000, according to a memo by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

The bank prohibited gifts to public officials unless the legal and compliance departments signed off, and Gibson Dunn found that Mr. Zhang, who generated many of the expenses, had violated that policy.

The law firm’s research showed that from 2002 to 2008, bank officials gave more than $200,000 in gifts to Chinese officials, their relatives and executives of state-owned companies. More than a fourth went to people on the Politburo or their relatives, including Mr. Jiang, the president; and Mr. Wen, the premier.

Some of the gifts, like the crystal tiger for Mr. Jiang, who was born in 1926, the year of the tiger, were “provided” by Mr. Ackermann, according to the internal investigation.

Mr. Ackermann said that while he didn’t recall personally giving the items, he was aware that the bank’s staff thought it a good idea. He has not been accused of wrongdoing in China.

“They said that’s what Goldman and JPMorgan are doing, so we should do it,” Mr. Ackermann said in the interview. “I don’t think Wen Jiabao would be somehow influenced by a gift of a few thousand.”

In 2016, JPMorgan was fined $264.4 million by the Justice Department for its Chinese hiring. Other banks were also known to engage in similar practices. The Swiss bank Credit Suisse paid $77 million last year in criminal penalties and other fines. Goldman Sachs has not been accused of wrongdoing in its China business.

The plan to increase Deutsche Bank’s clout in China also included buying a big stake in a midsize Beijing bank, Huaxia.

The acquisition plan, code-named Project Rooster, involved hiring Mr. Huang, one of Mr. Zhang’s golf partners. Mr. Huang had no experience in banking but had worked in a diamond company run by the wife of the premier, according to a background check that was done for the bank at the time. He was paid the equivalent of more than $2 million.

The bank’s compliance department didn’t stand in the way of the consulting role, but some senior executives were uneasy.

“Based on the information from the search firm, if this person is not known to the market and industry, why are we paying for the service and what are we paying for?” Polly Lee, the bank’s head of compliance in Hong Kong, wrote in an email to Till Staffeldt, a regional executive who was pushing for Mr. Huang’s hiring. “My concern is this individual is fronting for someone else.”

Mr. Staffeldt is now Deutsche Bank’s global chief operating officer for regulation, compliance and preventing financial crime.

Deutsche Bank’s bid for Huaxia was successful. In late 2005, the bank secured a 9.9 percent stake, which later increased to almost 20 percent. It was unclear what Mr. Huang did to help the deal go through, but Gibson Dunn later found that the circumstances around his hiring raised “red flags” that might have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, in part because of Mr. Huang’s ties to the family of the premier, Mr. Wen.

In 2006, Deutsche Bank again brought Mr. Huang on as a consultant. This time, his task was to “study in-depth the financial safety of China’s banking industry.” He received $3 million.

Inside the bank, concerns had been mounting about Mr. Zhang’s use of consultants to win business. Frank Nash, who ran the bank’s Asian corporate finance division until 2004, warned a top executive, Michael Cohrs, about the problematic use of politically connected consultants.

Mr. Cohrs shared those concerns with the bank’s lawyers, including Richard Walker, a general counsel. They concluded that Mr. Zhang was operating inside the law, three people familiar with those discussions told The Times.

Mr. Zhang kept going. In 2006 he turned to another consultant named Huang to help the bank secure a role in the I.P.O. of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. The stock offering was set to be the world’s largest ever. The banks handling the transaction reaped not only huge fees but also coveted bragging rights.

That man, Huang Xianghui, was lacking in banking experience, and a background check found that the Beijing company he claimed to work for did not appear to exist at the address on his business card. But what he did have, according to the bank’s documents, was a previous affiliation with PetroChina, the state oil company. Mr. Zhang hired him.

Mr. Huang’s original contract said he would receive $3 million for services that were “solely focused on the energy industry.” In a draft, someone crossed out “the energy industry” and wrote “ICBC,” a reference to the giant state-owned bank. Deutsche Bank went on to win a high-profile role in the I.P.O.

The success ingratiated Mr. Zhang with his superiors, especially Mr. Ackermann. Mr. Zhang would escort him to meetings with top Chinese leaders, including the president and premier, as well as to gatherings with cultural and academic experts, Mr. Ackermann said. While at Deutsche Bank, Mr. Zhang was appointed to a top government advisory body, signaling his insider status.

“He introduced me to all sorts of people,” Mr. Ackermann said in the interview. “He was always an honest person and had good ethical standards.”

But Mr. Cohrs, who was the head of investment banking, warned the company’s lawyers that he was “scared of how Lee Zhang was doing business and whether there was money being passed around in envelopes,” the documents show.

There was reason to be concerned.

In 2010, the head of I.C.B.C. approached Mr. Ackermann and said he wanted to hire Mr. Zhang, citing his excellent work at Deutsche Bank, according to Mr. Ackermann. He became senior executive vice president at the giant Chinese bank.

Two years later, Mr. Ackermann stepped down as chief executive. A top executive warned his successor, Anshu Jain, that the bank had grown overly reliant on winning business from state-owned companies, an area rife with corruption risks, according to a person with direct knowledge of the warning.

In 2013, when the United States began investigating JPMorgan’s hiring practices in China, Deutsche Bank initiated an internal review. It found a troubling pattern of politically connected hiring, and reported the findings to the S.E.C. and the Justice Department.

The S.E.C. subpoenaed the bank in April 2014. Months later, Deutsche Bank sued Mr. Zhang, accusing him of profiting from one of the consulting companies he had hired because it was owned by a relative. Mr. Zhang denied wrongdoing in the suit.

The Times and Süddeutsche Zeitung found two other consulting companies used by Deutsche Bank that appeared to be owned by Mr. Zhang’s wife.

Amazing Channel Holdings and Speedy Link Holdings, both registered in the British Virgin Islands, list Ji Zhengrong as the owner, according to documents found in the Panama Papers. Mr. Zhang’s wife has the same name, and her birth date, listed in Hong Kong court records, matches the birth date in the offshore company records.

Speedy Link was paid $3.65 million by Deutsche Bank to assist in its successful bid to help manage the I.P.O. of China Life Insurance Company in 2003, according to the bank’s documents. Amazing Channel Holdings was paid $100,000.

At the time, Deutsche Bank’s top lawyer was Mr. Walker, who had been warned of executives’ concerns about politically connected consultants in China.

Before joining Deutsche Bank, Mr. Walker had been the head of the S.E.C.’s enforcement division. Now, as the agency’s investigation unfolded, bank officials were feeling optimistic.

Lawyers for Deutsche Bank traveled to the S.E.C.’s office in Salt Lake City to give a presentation on the company’s internal investigation. They argued that its hiring of Chinese princelings was far less extensive and systematic than at other banks, according to a person briefed on the meeting.

The lawyers told Mr. Walker afterward that the S.E.C. seemed to share the bank’s perspective, the person said. The agency’s investigators had concluded that when the bank hired politically connected employees, they were generally well qualified — something the bank’s internal reviews had cast doubt on.

This August, the S.E.C. announced that it was closing its investigation and had settled with the bank without requiring an admission of wrongdoing. Asked about the previously undisclosed Deutsche Bank documents, Chandler Costello, an S.E.C. spokeswoman, said, “The S.E.C. does not comment on details of any investigation, but, as always, the S.E.C. is committed to pursuing violations of federal securities law, wherever or by whomever they may occur.”

Earlier this year, the bank disclosed that it remained under investigation by the Justice Department for its hiring practices and use of consultants in foreign countries.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

A Brazen Scheme, and a Minor Penalty, for Winning Business in China

It was a brazen campaign to win business in China by charming and enriching the country’s political elite.

The bank gave a Chinese president a crystal tiger and a Bang & Olufsen sound system, together worth $18,000. A premier received a $15,000 crystal horse, his Chinese zodiac animal, and his son got $10,000 in golf outings and a trip to Las Vegas. A top state banking official, a son of one of China’s founding fathers, accepted a $4,254 bottle of French wine — Château Lafite Rothschild, vintage 1945, the year he was born.

Millions of dollars were paid out to Chinese consultants, including a business partner of the premier’s family and a firm that secured a meeting for the bank’s chief executive with the president. And more than 100 relatives of the Communist Party’s ruling elite were hired for jobs at the bank, even though it had deemed many unqualified.

This was all part of Deutsche Bank’s strategy to become a major player in China, beginning nearly two decades ago when it had virtually no presence there. And it worked. By 2011, the German company would be ranked by Bloomberg as the top bank for managing initial public offerings in China and elsewhere in Asia, outside Japan.

The bank’s rule-bending rise to the top was chronicled in confidential documents, prepared by the company and its outside lawyers, that were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. The previously undisclosed documents, shared with The New York Times, cover a 15-year period and include spreadsheets, emails, internal investigative reports and transcripts of interviews with senior executives.

The documents show that Deutsche Bank’s troubling behavior in China was far more extensive than the authorities in the United States have publicly alleged. And they show that the bank’s top leadership was warned about the activity but did not stop it.

Josef Ackermann, the bank’s chief executive until 2012, said in an interview with The Times and separately in answers to written questions that he was not familiar with many of the details contained in the documents. But he defended the bank’s broader practices.

“This was part of doing business in this country,” Mr. Ackermann said. “At the time, this was the way things were done.”

For years, Deutsche Bank has been a poster child for misconduct in the finance industry. Regulators and prosecutors around the world have imposed billions of dollars in penalties against the bank for its role in a wide range of scandals. Most recently, the bank has been under investigation for the facilitation of money laundering in Russia and elsewhere.

Deutsche Bank — which for two decades was the primary lender to President Trump — also has been under scrutiny by two congressional committees and by state prosecutors in New York who are investigating Mr. Trump’s finances.

In August, the bank agreed to pay $16 million in a settlement with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission related to allegations that it had used corrupt means to win business in both China and Russia, violating anti-bribery laws, though it did not admit wrongdoing.

That penalty, the documents show, amounted to a small fraction of the revenues gained in China from business stemming in part from the activities. The bank’s outside lawyers had warned executives in 2017 that they could face a penalty of more than $250 million from the S.E.C. related to China. There is no evidence that German regulators investigated the bank’s activities in China, though they were alerted to some of it, according to the documents.

[Here are six key takeaways from the investigation.]

Reasons for concern appear throughout the documents, which include internal investigations conducted by two law firms, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and Allen & Overy, at the time of the S.E.C.’s action.

Deutsche Bank, the documents show, dispensed hundreds of thousands of dollars to secure meetings for top executives with China’s leadership. An obscure company received $100,000 to arrange a 2002 meeting between Mr. Ackermann and Jiang Zemin, then the country’s president.

In all, the documents show, the bank paid seven consultants more than $14 million, including for help buying a stake in a Chinese bank and winning coveted assignments from state-owned companies. Some of the payments were flagged internally as problematic but allowed to go through.

On multiple occasions, according to the documents, Deutsche Bank tried to win business by collaborating with family members of Wen Jiabao, China’s premier from 2003 to 2013. The Wens’ enormous accumulation of wealth was the focus of a 2012 investigation by The Times that found family members had controlled assets worth at least $2.7 billion.

Winning Over the Wens

Among its many ties to China’s political elite, Deutsche Bank cultivated a deep relationship with the family of Wen Jiabao during his term as premier of China. Mr. Wen himself received gifts from the bank valued at more than $15,000. But it was a family affair, involving his son, daughter and their spouses, as well as a close business associate of the family.

Westlake Legal Group 1014-web-for-DEUTSCHE-CHINA-Artboard_2 A Brazen Scheme, and a Minor Penalty, for Winning Business in China Wen Jiabao Gifts to Public Officials Fines (Penalties) Ethics and Official Misconduct Deutsche Bank AG Corruption (Institutional) China Bribery and Kickbacks Banking and Financial Institutions Ackermann, Josef

Wen Jiabao

Zhang Beili

Premier

2003-13

Diamond expert

Wen family

SON-IN-LAW

DAUGHTER-IN-LAW

Liu

Chunhang

Wen

Ruchun

Yang

Xiaomeng

Winston

Wen

GOLF

PARTNER

Co-founder of the

New Horizon Capital

private equity firm

RECOMMENDED

ACQUAINTANCE

RECOMMENDED

Huang

Xuhuai

Josef Ackermann provided Mr. Wen with a crystal horse sculpture valued at more than $15,000.

Deutsche Bank hired several job candidates referred to them by members of the Wen family.

Deutsche Bank invested in Winston Wen’s private equity firm, as well as paying for golfing vacations for him.

Lee Zhang hired Mr. Huang as a consultant in 2005 and again in 2006, paying him more than $5 million.

Deutsche Bank

Josef Ackermann

Chief executive

2002-12

Head of corporate

finance in Asia

2004-10

Westlake Legal Group 1014-web-for-DEUTSCHE-CHINA-Artboard_3 A Brazen Scheme, and a Minor Penalty, for Winning Business in China Wen Jiabao Gifts to Public Officials Fines (Penalties) Ethics and Official Misconduct Deutsche Bank AG Corruption (Institutional) China Bribery and Kickbacks Banking and Financial Institutions Ackermann, Josef

Wen Jiabao

Zhang Beili

Premier

2003-13

Diamond expert

WEN FAMILY

SON-

IN-LAW

DAUGHTER-

IN-LAW

Liu

Chunhang

Wen

Ruchun

Yang

Xiaomeng

Winston

Wen

GOLF

PARTNER

ACQUAINTANCE

RECOMMENDED

RECOMMENDED

Huang

Xuhuai

DEUTSCHE BANK

Josef

Ackermann

Head of

corporate

finance in Asia

2004-10

Chief

executive

2002-12

Source: Documents compiled in internal Deutsche Bank investigation.

By Guilbert Gates

The bank, at least in part through its hiring of people with political connections, won hundreds of millions of dollars in Chinese deals. Such hires can be illegal if they are done in exchange for business. The bank’s outside lawyers calculated that just 19 of its so-called relationship hires helped bring in $189 million in revenue, including a plum assignment in 2006 managing a state bank’s market debut, then the biggest initial public offering in history.

Most of the Chinese government officials entangled in the bank’s activities have since retired, among them Mr. Jiang and Mr. Wen. But two parents of people the bank employed are now members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the country’s pinnacle of power. And the country’s vice president, Wang Qishan, accepted gifts from the bank when he held previous positions, such as mayor of Beijing.

Efforts by The Times and Süddeutsche Zeitung to reach Mr. Jiang, Mr. Wang and Mr. Wen — as well as other Chinese officials, executives and relatives mentioned in the documents — either were unsuccessful or received no response. Several current and former Deutsche Bank employees declined to comment.

Tim-Oliver Ambrosius, a spokesman for the bank, did not respond to specific questions about the documents. In a written statement, he said that the company had “thoroughly investigated and reported to authorities certain past conduct,” adding that the bank had “enhanced our policies and controls, and action has been taken where issues have been identified.”

“These events date back as far as 2002 and have been dealt with,” the statement said.

Mr. Ackermann said that he had cautioned the bank’s staff that “no business is worth risking the bank’s reputation.” Though he pushed employees to increase revenue and profits, he said, “feeling pressure cannot excuse violating compliance rules and regulations or the law of the land.”

When Mr. Ackermann was picked in 2000 as the next chief executive, his ambition was for Deutsche Bank to be universally recognized as a global leader. And he wanted it done fast.

China was critical. It was the most populous country in the world and on its way to becoming the second-largest economy. Yet Deutsche Bank was far behind its rivals there.

Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley had been at the forefront of helping China modernize its moribund financial system and network of state-owned businesses. In 1995, Morgan Stanley helped set up the country’s first investment bank, China International Capital Corporation. Goldman won the rights in 1997 to bring China Telecom, the country’s phone monopoly, to the international market through an initial public offering in Hong Kong.

Mr. Ackermann had to play catch-up.

A first step for the bank was poaching Lee Zhang, the head of Goldman Sachs’s Beijing office. Mr. Zhang was fluent in the ways of both China and Western business. Born and raised in China, he had studied in Canada and later moved to California, where he worked for Hewlett-Packard and studied business administration. He then went to Hong Kong, eventually landing at Goldman.

Mr. Zhang’s mandate was to transform Deutsche Bank into a player in China. That required winning over the Communist Party.

Mr. Zhang began hiring aggressively. Many of his recruits — dozens and dozens of them, according to spreadsheets compiled by the bank’s lawyers — were young, inexperienced and well connected. They came to know him as Uncle Zhang.

Ma Weiji, whose parents were senior executives at state-owned companies, interviewed for a job in 2007. It did not go well. A senior Deutsche Bank executive emailed Mr. Zhang that Mr. Ma “was probably one of the worst candidates.”

He got the job nevertheless. Soon, Mr. Ma was using his family connections to secure meetings for the bank with his parents’ companies, according to a memo by Allen & Overy.

Another job candidate was a son of Liu Yunshan, then China’s propaganda minister. He “cannot meet our standard,” a Deutsche Bank employee wrote in an email about the company’s equity capital markets group. He was offered a job anyway.

The younger daughter of Li Zhanshu — now a top member of the Politburo Standing Committee — was judged unqualified for the bank’s corporate communications team. She got an offer, too.

Even for qualified candidates, political connections were taken into account.

Wang Xisha, whose father was the top official in Guangdong Province when she applied in 2010, was a veteran of the rival bank UBS and had also interned at Goldman Sachs. During her recruitment process, one banker noted that she would “have access” to a state-owned automaker, according to Allen & Overy. Her father, Wang Yang, is now a member of the Politburo Standing Committee.

In 2006, Deutsche Bank began to engage in what it called referral hiring. The goal was to drum up business for the bank by doling out personal favors to current and prospective clients, the S.E.C. found. Premier Wen Jiabao’s son-in-law, who was a senior official at China’s banking regulator, referred one candidate. Mr. Wen’s daughter-in-law referred another. Both were hired.

A state railway executive in China referred the son of a judge on the Supreme People’s Court. The assistant president of the oil refiner Sinopec referred a candidate, too. So did the general manager of the state-owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

Mr. Zhang, reached by phone, declined to be interviewed for this article. He also did not respond to written questions sent through a business associate.

“It’s a relationship country,” Mr. Ackermann said in the interview. “Of course we cultivated these people.”

The roster was set. The first nine foursomes to tee off at Deutsche Bank’s Beijing golf invitational in October 2003 were a predictable mix of German and Chinese executives.

The 10th group was different. It included Winston Wen, son of the newly appointed premier, as well Huang Xuhuai, a close business associate of the Wen family. They were joined by a top official from PetroChina, a state-owned oil company.

The fourth player was Mr. Zhang. The following month, he, Mr. Huang and Mr. Wen would be off to Thailand for more golf, and later to Germany, according to documents compiled for the bank’s internal investigation.

The relationships that Mr. Zhang built with the golfers were microcosms of how the bank made a name for itself in China beyond its strategic hiring. They were showered with gifts. They were enlisted to introduce Deutsche Bank executives to Chinese decision makers. And they were hired as consultants to help win the bank work.

Among dozens of gifts to political leaders and heads of state-run companies, the oil executive received golf clubs and a bag valued at more than $2,500.

Executives at China Life Insurance, which picked Deutsche Bank to help manage its I.P.O. in 2003, were treated to Louis Vuitton luggage, cashmere overcoats, golf clubs, even a sofa, totaling more than $22,000, according to a memo by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

The bank prohibited gifts to public officials unless the legal and compliance departments signed off, and Gibson Dunn found that Mr. Zhang, who generated many of the expenses, had violated that policy.

The law firm’s research showed that from 2002 to 2008, bank officials gave more than $200,000 in gifts to Chinese officials, their relatives and executives of state-owned companies. More than a fourth went to people on the Politburo or their relatives, including Mr. Jiang, the president; and Mr. Wen, the premier.

Some of the gifts, like the crystal tiger for Mr. Jiang, who was born in 1926, the year of the tiger, were “provided” by Mr. Ackermann, according to the internal investigation.

Mr. Ackermann said that while he didn’t recall personally giving the items, he was aware that the bank’s staff thought it a good idea. He has not been accused of wrongdoing in China.

“They said that’s what Goldman and JPMorgan are doing, so we should do it,” Mr. Ackermann said in the interview. “I don’t think Wen Jiabao would be somehow influenced by a gift of a few thousand.”

In 2016, JPMorgan was fined $264.4 million by the Justice Department for its Chinese hiring. Other banks were also known to engage in similar practices. The Swiss bank Credit Suisse paid $77 million last year in criminal penalties and other fines. Goldman Sachs has not been accused of wrongdoing in its China business.

The plan to increase Deutsche Bank’s clout in China also included buying a big stake in a midsize Beijing bank, Huaxia.

The acquisition plan, code-named Project Rooster, involved hiring Mr. Huang, one of Mr. Zhang’s golf partners. Mr. Huang had no experience in banking but had worked in a diamond company run by the wife of the premier, according to a background check that was done for the bank at the time. He was paid the equivalent of more than $2 million.

The bank’s compliance department didn’t stand in the way of the consulting role, but some senior executives were uneasy.

“Based on the information from the search firm, if this person is not known to the market and industry, why are we paying for the service and what are we paying for?” Polly Lee, the bank’s head of compliance in Hong Kong, wrote in an email to Till Staffeldt, a regional executive who was pushing for Mr. Huang’s hiring. “My concern is this individual is fronting for someone else.”

Mr. Staffeldt is now Deutsche Bank’s global chief operating officer for regulation, compliance and preventing financial crime.

Deutsche Bank’s bid for Huaxia was successful. In late 2005, the bank secured a 9.9 percent stake, which later increased to almost 20 percent. It was unclear what Mr. Huang did to help the deal go through, but Gibson Dunn later found that the circumstances around his hiring raised “red flags” that might have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, in part because of Mr. Huang’s ties to the family of the premier, Mr. Wen.

In 2006, Deutsche Bank again brought Mr. Huang on as a consultant. This time, his task was to “study in-depth the financial safety of China’s banking industry.” He received $3 million.

Inside the bank, concerns had been mounting about Mr. Zhang’s use of consultants to win business. Frank Nash, who ran the bank’s Asian corporate finance division until 2004, warned a top executive, Michael Cohrs, about the problematic use of politically connected consultants.

Mr. Cohrs shared those concerns with the bank’s lawyers, including Richard Walker, a general counsel. They concluded that Mr. Zhang was operating inside the law, three people familiar with those discussions told The Times.

Mr. Zhang kept going. In 2006 he turned to another consultant named Huang to help the bank secure a role in the I.P.O. of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. The stock offering was set to be the world’s largest ever. The banks handling the transaction reaped not only huge fees but also coveted bragging rights.

That man, Huang Xianghui, was lacking in banking experience, and a background check found that the Beijing company he claimed to work for did not appear to exist at the address on his business card. But what he did have, according to the bank’s documents, was a previous affiliation with PetroChina, the state oil company. Mr. Zhang hired him.

Mr. Huang’s original contract said he would receive $3 million for services that were “solely focused on the energy industry.” In a draft, someone crossed out “the energy industry” and wrote “ICBC,” a reference to the giant state-owned bank. Deutsche Bank went on to win a high-profile role in the I.P.O.

The success ingratiated Mr. Zhang with his superiors, especially Mr. Ackermann. Mr. Zhang would escort him to meetings with top Chinese leaders, including the president and premier, as well as to gatherings with cultural and academic experts, Mr. Ackermann said. While at Deutsche Bank, Mr. Zhang was appointed to a top government advisory body, signaling his insider status.

“He introduced me to all sorts of people,” Mr. Ackermann said in the interview. “He was always an honest person and had good ethical standards.”

But Mr. Cohrs, who was the head of investment banking, warned the company’s lawyers that he was “scared of how Lee Zhang was doing business and whether there was money being passed around in envelopes,” the documents show.

There was reason to be concerned.

In 2010, the head of I.C.B.C. approached Mr. Ackermann and said he wanted to hire Mr. Zhang, citing his excellent work at Deutsche Bank, according to Mr. Ackermann. He became senior executive vice president at the giant Chinese bank.

Two years later, Mr. Ackermann stepped down as chief executive. A top executive warned his successor, Anshu Jain, that the bank had grown overly reliant on winning business from state-owned companies, an area rife with corruption risks, according to a person with direct knowledge of the warning.

In 2013, when the United States began investigating JPMorgan’s hiring practices in China, Deutsche Bank initiated an internal review. It found a troubling pattern of politically connected hiring, and reported the findings to the S.E.C. and the Justice Department.

The S.E.C. subpoenaed the bank in April 2014. Months later, Deutsche Bank sued Mr. Zhang, accusing him of profiting from one of the consulting companies he had hired because it was owned by a relative. Mr. Zhang denied wrongdoing in the suit.

The Times and Süddeutsche Zeitung found two other consulting companies used by Deutsche Bank that appeared to be owned by Mr. Zhang’s wife.

Amazing Channel Holdings and Speedy Link Holdings, both registered in the British Virgin Islands, list Ji Zhengrong as the owner, according to documents found in the Panama Papers. Mr. Zhang’s wife has the same name, and her birth date, listed in Hong Kong court records, matches the birth date in the offshore company records.

Speedy Link was paid $3.65 million by Deutsche Bank to assist in its successful bid to help manage the I.P.O. of China Life Insurance Company in 2003, according to the bank’s documents. Amazing Channel Holdings was paid $100,000.

At the time, Deutsche Bank’s top lawyer was Mr. Walker, who had been warned of executives’ concerns about politically connected consultants in China.

Before joining Deutsche Bank, Mr. Walker had been the head of the S.E.C.’s enforcement division. Now, as the agency’s investigation unfolded, bank officials were feeling optimistic.

Lawyers for Deutsche Bank traveled to the S.E.C.’s office in Salt Lake City to give a presentation on the company’s internal investigation. They argued that its hiring of Chinese princelings was far less extensive and systematic than at other banks, according to a person briefed on the meeting.

The lawyers told Mr. Walker afterward that the S.E.C. seemed to share the bank’s perspective, the person said. The agency’s investigators had concluded that when the bank hired politically connected employees, they were generally well qualified — something the bank’s internal reviews had cast doubt on.

This August, the S.E.C. announced that it was closing its investigation and had settled with the bank without requiring an admission of wrongdoing. Asked about the previously undisclosed Deutsche Bank documents, Chandler Costello, an S.E.C. spokeswoman, said, “The S.E.C. does not comment on details of any investigation, but, as always, the S.E.C. is committed to pursuing violations of federal securities law, wherever or by whomever they may occur.”

Earlier this year, the bank disclosed that it remained under investigation by the Justice Department for its hiring practices and use of consultants in foreign countries.

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Rick Perry’s Focus on Gas Company Entangles Him in Ukraine Case

Westlake Legal Group 07dc-ukraine1-facebookJumbo Rick Perry’s Focus on Gas Company Entangles Him in Ukraine Case Zelensky, Volodymyr United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Presidential Election of 2020 Perry, Rick natural gas Naftogaz of Ukraine Giuliani, Rudolph W Corruption (Institutional) Biden, Joseph R Jr

WASHINGTON — When Energy Secretary Rick Perry led an American delegation to the inauguration of Ukraine’s new president in May, he took the opportunity to suggest the names of Americans the new Ukrainian government might want to advise and oversee the country’s state-owned gas company.

Mr. Perry’s focus during the trip on Ukraine’s energy industry was in keeping with a push he had begun months earlier under the previous Ukrainian president, and it was consistent with United States policy of promoting anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine and greater energy independence from Russia.

But his actions during the trip have entangled him in a controversy about a pressure campaign waged by President Trump and his allies directed at the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump. That effort sought to pressure Mr. Zelensky’s government to investigate Mr. Trump’s rivals, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination to challenge Mr. Trump.

Mr. Perry’s trip raised questions about whether he was seeking to provide certain Americans help in gaining a foothold in the Ukrainian energy business at a time when the new Ukrainian government was looking to the United States for signals of support in its simmering conflict with Russia.

Mr. Trump seemed to suggest last week that he made a July 25 phone call to Mr. Zelensky, during which he repeatedly urged his Ukrainian counterpart to pursue investigations that could politically benefit him, at the urging of Mr. Perry. Mr. Trump told congressional Republicans last week that Mr. Perry wanted him to discuss the liquefied natural gas supply with Mr. Zelensky, Axios reported.

That topic did not specifically come up in the call between the two leaders, according to the reconstructed transcript released by the White House. Text messages released last week by House investigators showed that other officials were suggesting that the president speak with Mr. Zelensky to nail down an agreement for Ukraine to move ahead with the investigations being sought by Mr. Trump.

At a news conference on Monday in Vilnius, Lithuania, where he was meeting with Ukrainian and Polish energy officials, Mr. Perry said he asked Mr. Trump “multiple times” to hold a phone call with Mr. Zelensky.

Mr. Perry’s role in the diplomacy between the countries highlights the degree to which Mr. Trump entrusted his Ukraine policy to an ad hoc coalition of loyalists inside and outside the government, especially after the recall of the ambassador to Ukraine amid questions among Mr. Trump’s supporters about her loyalty to the president. It also reveals the extent to which Ukrainian politics and national security revolve around energy supplies.

Mr. Perry’s efforts, while broadly consistent with American national security and energy objectives, intersected with those of the figures involved in the pressure campaign. Two American diplomats who attended Mr. Zelensky’s inauguration with Mr. Perry — Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt D. Volker, then the State Department’s special envoy to Ukraine — pushed Mr. Zelensky to publicly commit to the investigations and were involved in setting up the call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky.

They appeared to work on the effort with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer and a leading force in the campaign to pressure the Ukrainian government to pursue the investigations. Two associates of Mr. Giuliani also sought changes to the leadership of the Ukrainian state-owned gas company, Naftogaz. Those changes would have required approval from a supervisory board Mr. Perry sought to shape.

One of Mr. Giuliani’s associates, Lev Parnas, pitched a liquefied natural gas deal to the chief executive of Naftogaz in early spring, as The New York Times reported last month.

The deal was rejected by the Naftogaz executive.

But Mr. Parnas and a partner who was also involved in Mr. Giuliani’s political efforts in Ukraine, Igor Fruman, also sought to install a presumptive ally as Naftogaz’s chief executive. They told a gas executive named Andrey Favorov that they could use their American political connections to help him become chief executive of Naftogaz, suggesting that, if appointed, he might steer the company to buy liquefied natural gas from them, according to Dale Perry, the managing partner of a company that competes with one run by Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman.

Mr. Favorov, who is a lower-ranking executive at Naftogaz, rejected the proposal, which was first reported by The Associated Press.

Dale Perry, who is not related to the energy secretary, said he found it “very troubling and disturbing” that Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman boasted that they had worked with Mr. Giuliani to force the recall this spring of the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch.

But people in Ukraine and the United States who are familiar with the conversations said the Ukrainian government had requested recommendations from Mr. Perry for Americans who could advise Naftogaz and the government on governance reforms and liquefied natural gas transportation.

Mr. Perry recommended four Americans as possible advisers on energy issues, according to the Americans and Ukrainians who are familiar with the conversations. Names floated included Carlos Pascual, a former American ambassador to Ukraine, and Daniel Yergin, an author and energy expert who has worked with Mr. Pascual at an energy advisory firm.

Mr. Perry, a former governor of Texas, specifically recommended two Texas-based investors who work in Ukraine, Michael Bleyzer and Robert Bensh, for a supervisory board of Naftogaz, according to the Americans and Ukrainians familiar with the conversations.

Mr. Bleyzer, a Republican donor, has proposed gas deals with Naftogaz, according to people familiar with his efforts.

Shaylyn Hynes, a spokeswoman for the Energy Department, said in a statement on Monday night that Mr. Perry “has consistently called for the modernization and reform of Kiev’s business and energy sector in an effort to create an environment that will incentivize Western companies to do business in Ukraine.” As part of that effort, and at the request of Mr. Zelensky’s administration, Ms. Hynes said Mr. Perry “recommended the names of some widely respected individuals in the American energy sector, including government experts” at the Energy Department. But, she said Mr. Perry “did not recommend these individuals be placed on any board.”

Nonetheless, the circulation of the names of Mr. Bleyzer and Mr. Bensh as possible Naftogaz appointments led to speculation that Naftogaz was considering removing from the supervisory board a former Obama administration official named Amos J. Hochstein. Mr. Hochstein had worked with Mr. Biden on his Ukraine efforts as vice president.

That imbued the discussion about the board appointments with political overtones at a time when Democrats were beginning to build an impeachment case around the actions of Mr. Trump and his team to press Ukraine to investigate Mr. Biden and his son, who had served on the board of a private Ukrainian gas company.

Adding to the complexity of the situation: When Mr. Zelensky dispatched one of his top aides to Washington in July to meet with members of Congress and the Trump administration, and to try to connect with Mr. Giuliani, some of the meetings on Capitol Hill were arranged by a Naftogaz lobbyist, and attended by a Naftogaz official.

Naftogaz, until just a few years ago a money-losing monopoly stained by corruption, has been substantially overhauled in recent years to survive without Russian gas and to compete in the European Union market.

To comply with European Union regulations and be able to sell Ukrainian gas to the bloc’s energy-hungry countries, the company has been weaning itself off subsidies and spinning off its gas-transmission operations into a new entity with a guaranteed income of at least $2 billion a year.

Naftogaz officials said that this company, which will come into existence in January, and Naftogaz’s operations storing gas underground could attract American investments, and that they were at the heart of what the United States administration was interested in.

Naftogaz officials said the American interest was sufficient that Mr. Sondland held further discussions about the planned spinoff of the transmission operations in Brussels.

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Meet the Ukrainian Ex-Prosecutor Behind the Impeachment Furor

Westlake Legal Group xxukraine1-facebookJumbo Meet the Ukrainian Ex-Prosecutor Behind the Impeachment Furor Yovanovitch, Marie L United States International Relations Ukraine Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Lutsenko, Yuri V Giuliani, Rudolph W Corruption (Institutional) Burisma Holdings Ltd Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter

KIEV, Ukraine — As soon as he got the invitation from Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, it was abundantly clear to him what Mr. Trump’s allies were after.

“I understood very well what would interest them,” Yuriy Lutsenko, Ukraine’s recently fired prosecutor general, said in an extensive interview in London. “I have 23 years in politics. I knew.”

“I’m a political animal,” he added.

When Mr. Lutsenko sat down with Mr. Giuliani in New York in January, he recalled, his expectations were confirmed: The president’s lawyer wanted him to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter.

It was the start of what both sides hoped would be a mutually beneficial relationship — but one that is now central to the impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump and his allies have been fixated on Ukraine since the 2016 American election, convinced that the country holds the key to unlock what they view as a conspiracy to undermine Mr. Trump. Mr. Giuliani in particular has viewed Ukraine as a potentially rich source of information beneficial to Mr. Trump and harmful to his opponents, including Mr. Biden.

But a detailed look at Mr. Lutsenko’s record shows how Mr. Trump and his allies embraced and relied on a Ukrainian prosecutor with no formal legal training and a long history of wielding the law as a weapon in his personal political battles, disregarding the concerns of senior diplomats who said he wasn’t credible.

Mr. Trump praised him in a phone call with Ukraine’s president. Mr. Giuliani aggressively promoted the news that Mr. Lutsenko’s office had revived an investigation into the owner of a Ukrainian energy company that had hired Mr. Biden’s son. And in an interview with Fox News in April, Mr. Trump described Mr. Lutsenko’s claims as “big” and “incredible,” worthy of attention from the American attorney general.

Mr. Trump’s allies even seemed to favor Mr. Lutsenko over the American ambassador in Ukraine, who was recalled as the president’s supporters stepped up pressure on the country to investigate the Bidens. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Mr. Biden or his son in Ukraine.

In the impeachment debate, Ukraine has often seemed an innocent bystander, a poor and deeply troubled country on Europe’s eastern fringe sideswiped by the raucous political battles of the world’s most powerful nation.

But the scandal now roiling Washington underscores how Ukraine’s own domestic struggles, feuds and dysfunctions have shaped the controversy — and shows how the pursuit of political advantage by actors in each country fed the other in ways that neither side foresaw.

Mr. Lutsenko’s path to Mr. Giuliani began in this political morass, with a meeting so combative that it helped ignite the scandal in the first place.

Shortly after taking up her post in 2016, the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, went to meet the new prosecutor general, Mr. Lutsenko, in his office — and complained that his deputies were stained by corruption, according to two Ukrainian officials familiar with the encounter.

The ambassador then pressed Mr. Lutsenko further, the officials said, asking him to stop investigating anti-corruption activists who were supported by the American Embassy and had criticized his work.

Mr. Lutsenko said he snapped at Ms. Yovanovitch that “no one is going to dictate to me” who should be investigated, prompting the ambassador to storm out of the meeting.

“This moment was, how shall we say, not very positive,” recalled Larisa Sagan, Mr. Lutsenko’s assistant at the time. “There were always difficult relations with the U.S. ambassador.”

In the months to come — as the ambassador stepped up her criticism of Ukraine’s faltering efforts to root out corruption — Mr. Lutsenko’s personal animus toward Ms. Yovanovitch grew. He concluded, he and his former colleagues say, that he needed to go around her and find a direct path to a more receptive audience: Mr. Trump’s inner circle.

When Mr. Giuliani learned that Mr. Lutsenko and other disgruntled Ukrainian officials were trying to reach out to the Americans, he welcomed the opportunity.

“Yeah, I probably called, I’m sure I called — Lutsenko didn’t have my number,” Mr. Giuliani said in an interview.

According to notes of their January meetings given to members of Congress last week, Mr. Lutsenko told Mr. Giuliani about what he called payments to Hunter Biden, who sat on the board of the Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.

The two also discussed the theory that Paul Manafort — Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager, who had been convicted in the United States of fraud for his work as a consultant in Ukraine — had been set up by supporters of Hillary Clinton. Ukrainian officials deny such claims, and no evidence supports this idea.

Mr. Lutsenko said he met Mr. Giuliani to seek help recovering billions of dollars he said were stolen from Ukraine under a previous government, a matter unrelated to the American election.

But veterans of Ukraine’s cutthroat politics say Mr. Lutsenko’s outreach to Mr. Trump’s inner circle was a clear attempt to win favor with a powerful ally at a time his own political future looked uncertain.

“Lutsenko was trying to save his political skin by pretending to be Trumpist at the end of his career,” said David Sakvarelidze, a former deputy prosecutor general.

Instead of finding salvation, Mr. Lutsenko was fired in late August by Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Mr. Lutsenko left Ukraine for Britain last Sunday, saying he wanted to improve his English. On Tuesday, Ukrainian authorities announced that they had opened a criminal case against him over accusations that he had abused his power in dealings with politicians and others involved in illegal gambling.

Mr. Lutsenko dismissed the latest case as “a big fantasy.” But to many in Ukraine, it is a fitting coda to the career of an ambitious politician turned prosecutor who used his position to wage political battles.

Even his initial appointment caused controversy: He became prosecutor general in 2016 only after Ukraine’s president at the time, Petro O. Poroshenko, got Parliament to remove a requirement that the prosecutor be educated in the law.

A survivor in Ukraine’s often treacherous politics, Mr. Lutsenko had spent time in jail as a political prisoner, won a seat in Ukraine’s Parliament and served as interior minister, holding senior positions under three presidents.

He also showed himself an adept operator in the United States.

After his meetings with Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Lutsenko provided grist for a series of articles in The Hill, a Washington news portal. His remarks were pitch-perfect in their appeal to Mr. Trump and his supporters.

Mr. Trump tweeted the headline of one of the articles: “As Russia Collusion Fades, Ukrainian Plot to Help Clinton Emerges.”

In another article, Mr. Lutsenko aired his feud with Ms. Yovanovitch, the American ambassador, asserting that she had given him a list of untouchables not to prosecute. The claim set off a storm of accusations that the ambassador belonged to a cabal working to hurt Mr. Trump and protect the Bidens.

The State Department dismissed Mr. Lutsenko’s claim as “an outright fabrication,” and he later acknowledged that the “don’t prosecute list” never existed. In the interview, he blamed the misstep on a bad translation and insisted that Ms. Yovanovitch had, in fact, pressed him not to prosecute anticorruption activists.

But the damage was done. Already under fire from some Republicans, who said she had disparaged Mr. Trump in private meetings, Ms. Yovanovitch was ordered in May to leave her post in Kiev and return to Washington.

When Mr. Lutsenko’s name appeared in a whistle-blower complaint released last week — which accused Mr. Trump of soliciting foreign interference in the 2020 election — the former prosecutor dismissed the account as “filled with multiple lies.”

But in private messages to a Ukrainian anti-corruption campaigner, Mr. Lutsenko gloated about one important part of the complaint: his role in ending Ms. Yovanovitch’s career in Kiev.

In the exchange — with Daria Kaleniuk, the head of Ukraine’s Anticorruption Action Center — Mr. Lutsenko used mafia slang to rejoice at how the American ambassador’s removal had undercut activists campaigning against corruption in Ukraine. Mr. Lutsenko told Ms. Kaleniuk that he had “eliminated your roof.”

“Roof,” a term derived from Russian mafia slang, is used throughout the former Soviet Union to designate a protector or guardian. The “roof” in this instance, Ms. Kaleniuk said, was Ambassador Yovanovitch.

“Lutsenko hated Yovanovitch,” Ms. Kaleniuk said.

To Western diplomats who have followed Ukraine’s turbulent history since it broke free from the Soviet Union in 1991, Mr. Lutsenko was a familiar figure: a seemingly reform-minded politician who, once given power, deeply disappointed his former admirers by displaying many of the ills he had previously denounced.

He had helped organize the street protests that toppled Ukraine’s deeply corrupt, pro-Russian president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, in 2014, meeting with journalists to explain his vision of a Western-oriented country ruled by laws instead of political diktats.

Soon after his appointment as prosecutor general in 2016, however, he began feuding with other law enforcement agencies, notably the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, a body set up in 2014 with strong support from the Obama administration.

The anti-corruption bureau investigated previously untouchable tycoons and politicians, including several of Mr. Lutsenko’s subordinates. These actions — and the praise they received from Ms. Yovanovitch — infuriated Mr. Lutsenko, reinforcing his animosity toward the ambassador and his determination to put the rival agency in its place.

In one particularly high-profile clash, Mr. Lutsenko torpedoed a secret 2017 investigation by the anti-corruption bureau, which had been looking into a passport-for-sale racket run by immigration officials. Mr. Lutsenko posted pictures of undercover agents on the internet, and the case collapsed.

“For this alone he should go to jail,” said Anatoly S. Hrytsenko, a former Ukrainian minister of defense.

Even before he found an ally in Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Lutsenko, his relations with American diplomats in Kiev in tatters, had sought to curry favor directly with the Trump administration.

The effort started in earnest in early 2018, when he tried to shelve criminal cases in Ukraine against Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager, Mr. Manafort, who had made millions of dollars in Kiev as a consultant.

His decision to freeze the Manafort cases came as the Trump administration was completing plans to sell Ukraine a type of sophisticated anti-tank missile called the Javelin. The maneuver hinted at a dynamic now pivotal to the impeachment inquiry — whether the Trump administration, or the president himself, traded security aid for political favors.

Later in 2018, an official in Mr. Lutsenko’s office, Kostiantyn Kulyk — one of the deputies Ms. Yovanovitch had asked Mr. Lutsenko to dismiss at their first meeting — came up with another idea, according to a senior Ukrainian law enforcement official.

Mr. Kulyk had compiled a seven-page dossier on Hunter Biden — a potential way of reaching officials in Washington who had been blocked by Mr. Lutsenko’s testy relations with the American Embassy in Kiev, the official said.

In March, Mr. Kulyk moved to restart the criminal case against the owner of the gas company that had recruited Hunter Biden to sit on its board. But Mr. Kulyk was under a cloud himself: The anti-corruption bureau had investigated him on suspicion of illicit enrichment. Mr. Kulyk did not respond to requests for an interview.

Mr. Lutsenko was confronting a problem of his own. His political patron, President Poroshenko, got trounced in a presidential election in April.

The defeat meant Mr. Lutsenko risked losing his job. While largely discredited in Ukraine as a political operative who had put much of his energy into personal fights, like the one with Ms. Yovanovitch, Mr. Lutsenko still had one significant base of support: Mr. Giuliani and the American president himself.

When Mr. Trump spoke by phone on July 25 with Ukraine’s new president, Mr. Trump complained about the expected departure of Ukraine’s prosecutor, an apparent reference to Mr. Lutsenko.

“I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair,” Mr. Trump told Ukraine’s new president, Mr. Zelensky. “A lot of people are talking about that.”

Mr. Lutsenko lost his job anyway, leaving his post a month later.

Mr. Lutsenko “was a very big disappointment,” said Ms. Kaleniuk, the anti-corruption activist. “He decided he couldn’t change the system, or didn’t want to change it.”

His feud with the American ambassador and his outreach to the Trump administration, she added, were all part of a bigger problem — the mixing of politics and justice — that has afflicted Ukraine for years.

In a sign of how perilous this mix can be, even Mr. Giuliani is now shunning the former prosecutor, denouncing him as “corrupted.”

In the interview in London, Mr. Lutsenko said that he told Mr. Giuliani from the start that there was no basis for a case against Mr. Biden or his son.

“Sometimes the mayor is very wise, but sometimes he gets carried away,” he said of Mr. Giuliani.

Asked about this on Friday, Mr. Giuliani had a simple retort: “Liar.”

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Ukraine to Review Criminal Case on Owner of Firm Linked to Biden’s Son

Westlake Legal Group 04ukraine-sub-facebookJumbo-v2 Ukraine to Review Criminal Case on Owner of Firm Linked to Biden’s Son Zelensky, Volodymyr United States International Relations Ukraine Trump, Donald J Corruption (Institutional) Burisma Holdings Ltd Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s top prosecutor said on Friday that he would review several important cases previously handled by his predecessors, including a criminal case involving the owner of a natural gas company that employed a son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The development came amid an impeachment inquiry against President Trump connected to a request he made to the Ukrainian president asking him to investigate Mr. Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate, and his son’s work in Ukraine.

The timing raised questions about whether Ukraine was, in effect, bowing to public and private pressure from the president of the United States, on which it has depended on for millions of dollars in aid.

The prosecutor general, Ruslan Ryaboshapka, who took office in August, said he intended to review 15 cases in all, including high-profile investigations of wealthy Ukrainians, among them the owner of the natural gas company Burisma Holdings, where Mr. Biden’s son Hunter served on the board until earlier this year.

The prosecutor did not say how long his audit would last. In initiating the audit, Mr. Ryaboshapka said at a news conference in Kiev, “The key words were not Biden and not Burisma.”

“The key was those proceedings which were closed or investigated by the previous leadership,” he said, but allowed, “In this large number of cases, there may be ones with these two words.”

Ukrainian officials have for months been threading a needle in discussing the case related to the older Mr. Biden, a leading contender in next year’s presidential election. They have tried to signal to Mr. Trump and his allies that the issues will be investigated, even as they tried to telegraph to Democrats that they were not bending to Mr. Trump’s pressure.

But Mr. Trump’s repeated public requests that the Ukrainian government investigate a case touching on a likely opponent in next year’s election — what he described in a phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine in July as a “favor” — is central to the formal House committee impeachment inquiry called by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The inquiry is examining whether Mr. Trump betrayed his oath of office and the nation’s security by seeking to enlist the aid of a foreign power to tarnish a political rival. Mr. Trump has vigorously denied doing anything wrong, calling his phone call with Mr. Zelensky “perfect.”

Allies of Mr. Trump said that a reconstructed transcript of the call showed no quid pro quo, making the impeachment inquiry baseless. But Democrats said that Mr. Trump’s request for a favor, and the fact that he had already withheld millions in aid from Ukraine before the call, raised serious questions that must be examined.

On the call, Mr. Zelensky suggested that he would assist with an investigation of Burisma, according to White House notes of the call. The Ukrainian president said that a new prosecutor general would soon be appointed who would be “100 percent my person” and would “look into the situation.”

The Ukrainian president said his country was also almost ready to purchase anti-tank missiles, made by Raytheon, to be used to better repel armored assaults by Russian-supported fighters. Mr. Trump responded, “I’d like you to do us a favor, though.”

Mr. Ryaboshapka, who once worked for the clean-government group Transparency International, will steer the Ukrainian prosecutor office’s handling of the issues raised by Mr. Trump in the phone call with the Ukrainian president.

At the news briefing, Mr. Ryaboshapka said he had not received any phone calls about the cases or come under undue pressure on other matters. “No foreign or domestic politicians, officials or people who are not officials called me and tried to influence my decisions on specific criminal proceedings,” he said.

Mr. Ryaboshapka added: “The prosecution service is beyond politics. We are conducting an audit of all cases, including those which were investigated by the previous leadership of the prosecutor’s office.”

If laws were violated, he added, “we will react accordingly.” Asked whether he had any evidence of wrongdoing by Hunter Biden, he told reporters, “I have no such information.”

No evidence of wrongdoing by Mr. Biden or his son has emerged, and the elder Mr. Biden has denied the accusations. But Mr. Trump has doubled down, urging China to investigate the Bidens and charging that the country lavished $1.5 billion on Hunter Biden in order to influence his father and win favorable trade deals with the United States.

Mr. Ryaboshapka’s comments on Friday were the first indication of how Ukrainian criminal justice officials were handling one of the two investigations that Mr. Trump raised in the call.

On Thursday, the State Department gave initial approval to the $39.2 million sale of 150 Javelin missiles and related equipment to Ukraine. The sale of the javelins to Ukraine must still go through Congress. Ukraine has been fighting Russia for five years in eastern Ukraine since Moscow’s seizure of Crimea.

Mr. Ryaboshapka’s announcement that the case was now bogged down in an internal audit of unclear duration in the prosecutor general’s office muddies any clear signal to either side in the American political debate.

Mr. Zelensky has faced criticism at home for telling the American president that the nakedly political criminal investigations would be looked into, perpetuating the country’s long post-Soviet struggle with politicized prosecutions.

Over the summer, a top aide to Mr. Zelensky said that in meetings and phone calls with Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, he had refrained from any specific commitment to investigating the cases. Once Ukraine’s new president appointed a new prosecutor, he said, the investigations would be taken up on their merits.

The mismatch between the private assurance that Ukraine would help Mr. Trump and his allies find dirt on a leading challenger in the United States election and the far more carefully worded public statements continued on Friday.

The previous prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, met several times with Mr. Giuliani to discuss pursuing an investigation in Ukraine into the natural gas company where Hunter Biden served on the board.

Mr. Lutsenko also said Ukrainian supporters of Hillary Clinton had helped set up the chairman of Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign, Paul Manafort, a claim that has not been substantiated.

In an interview with a conservative American political commentator published in The Hill in April, Mr. Lutsenko said one of his prosecutors was pursuing an investigation into the gas company that had paid Hunter Biden for sitting on the board.

In March, Mr. Lutsenko’s subordinate in the prosecutor’s office, Kostiantyn H. Kulyk, identified the owner of Burisma as a suspect in a criminal proceeding.

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Ukraine to Review Criminal Case of Firm Linked to Biden’s Son

Westlake Legal Group 04ukraine-sub-facebookJumbo Ukraine to Review Criminal Case of Firm Linked to Biden’s Son Zelensky, Volodymyr United States International Relations Ukraine Trump, Donald J Corruption (Institutional) Burisma Holdings Ltd Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s top prosecutor said on Friday that he would review several important cases previously handled by his predecessors, including a criminal case involving a natural gas company that employed a son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The development came amid an impeachment inquiry against President Trump connected to a request he made to the Ukrainian president asking him to investigate Mr. Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate, and his son’s work in Ukraine.

It raises questions of whether Ukraine was, in effect, bowing to public and private pressure from the president of the United States, on which it has depended on for millions of dollars in aid.

The prosecutor general, Ruslan Ryaboshapka, said he intended to review 15 cases in all, and mentioned several high-profile investigations of wealthy Ukrainians, including the owner of the natural gas company, Burisma Holdings, where Mr. Biden’s son Hunter served on the board until earlier this year.

He denied being pressured over the Bidens or the Burisma case.

Mr. Ryaboshapka told journalists at a briefing in Kiev on Friday: “The prosecution service is beyond politics. We are conducting an audit of all cases, including those which were investigated by the previous leadership of the prosecutor’s office.”

If laws were violated, he added, “we will react accordingly.”

Mr. Trump’s repeated public requests that the Ukrainian government investigate a case touching on a likely opponent in next year’s election — what he described in a phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine in July as a “favor” — is central to the formal House committee impeachment inquiry called by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The inquiry is examining whether Mr. Trump betrayed his oath of office and the nation’s security by seeking to enlist the aid of a foreign power to tarnish a political rival. Mr. Trump has vigorously denied doing anything wrong, calling his phone call with Mr. Zelensky “perfect.”

No evidence of wrongdoing by Mr. Biden or his son has emerged, and the elder Mr. Biden has denied the accusations. But Mr. Trump has doubled down, urging China to investigate the Bidens and charging that the country lavished $1.5 billion on Hunter Biden in order to influence his father and win favorable trade deals with the United States.

Mr. Ryaboshapka’s comments on Friday were the first indication of how Ukrainian criminal justice officials were handling one of the two investigations that Mr. Trump raised in the call.

On the call, Mr. Zelensky of Ukraine suggested that he would assist with an investigation of the firm, according to White House reconstructed notes of the phone call. The Ukrainian president said that a new prosecutor general would soon be appointed who would be “100 percent my person” and would “look into the situation.”

Mr. Ryaboshapka did not say how long his audit of those cases would last. His review is needed before a decision on any further action could be taken.

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Echoes of Benghazi Criticism and Anger Confront Pompeo in Ukraine Inquiry

WASHINGTON — As a member of Congress, Mike Pompeo drove the Republican inquiry into the killing of a United States ambassador in Benghazi, Libya, and made clear there was no place for politics in American diplomacy. Nor, he said, would he tolerate “dithering” by an Obama administration State Department that he called “deeply obstructive of getting the American people the facts that they needed.”

Now, as secretary of state, Mr. Pompeo is facing a political crisis that directly challenges his leadership of the department he once excoriated. He is accused by House Democrats of blocking their impeachment inquiry by resisting the release of information to Congress that may shed light on the Trump administration’s shadow foreign policy with Ukraine.

And career diplomats, some of whom blame the Trump administration for dismembering the Foreign Service and undercutting American diplomacy, are expected to be among the first witnesses telling their stories to Congress during its inquiry.

“In many ways this seems to be a situation where he’s reaping what he sowed,” said Derek Chollet, the executive vice president of the German Marshall Fund, who served in both the State and Defense Departments under President Barack Obama.

During the Benghazi hearings in 2016, Mr. Pompeo bombarded Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with questions about whether the State Department had failed to put adequate security on the ground, leading to the death of an American ambassador. Now Mr. Pompeo is being asked whether his State Department was part of an effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The details are different, but lawmakers in both cases accused the State Department of obstruction and not supporting its diplomats.

With the tables turned, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is expected on Thursday to query Kurt D. Volker, a longtime diplomat, former ambassador to NATO and, until last week, the Trump administration’s special envoy for Ukraine.

Mr. Volker is the man who put Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, in touch with the new government in Kiev, though he appeared to have deep reservations about how Ukraine policy was veering off course. His testimony is expected to be followed over the coming days by that of Marie L. Yovanovitch, who was recalled early as the American ambassador to Ukraine and dismissed by Mr. Trump as “bad news,” someone he promised would “go through some things.”

Both will be asked whether they had evidence that Mr. Trump or his representatives were dangling American support — and suspending congressionally approved military assistance — to get political dirt from the Ukrainian government to undercut the presidential campaign of Mr. Biden.

Mr. Pompeo has often said that the Trump administration has not been tested by a true foreign crisis and that sooner or later one was coming. Now he is caught in the middle of a domestic one. He will be pressed to explain what he knew — after acknowledging that he listened in on a July 25 phone call between Mr. Trump and the newly elected president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky — and how he reacted when he heard his boss seek political help.

“I was on the phone call,” he said Wednesday, but ignored a question about what he thought about Mr. Trump’s requests.

That admission was a marked change. In interviews in recent weeks, Mr. Pompeo repeatedly evaded questions about the content of the call between the two presidents, and never volunteered that he had listened in.

In an interview on Sept. 22, days before the White House released a transcript of the call, Mr. Pompeo suggested that he was unaware of the details, telling Martha Raddatz of ABC that he had not seen the whistle-blower report and then describing American policy toward Ukraine in traditional terms, without reference to the favors Mr. Trump sought.

The Benghazi hearings that first brought national attention to Mr. Pompeo, then a conservative congressman from Kansas, investigated systematic security failings after four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, were killed in an attack on a diplomatic outpost and a nearby C.I.A. annex in 2012. The two-year congressional inquiry — one of the most bitterly partisan in history — concluded that the State Department and the C.I.A. did not appreciate the high security risk in Benghazi, but found no evidence that Mrs. Clinton was directly to blame.

Like the Benghazi hearings, the impeachment proceedings, opened last week by House Democrats, are as immersed in diplomacy as they are in political intrigue. In recent days Mr. Pompeo’s role in the Ukraine chain of events has become increasingly clearer — and ever closer to the center of the controversy.

His presence on the call with Mr. Zelensky was unusual, though not improper: Past secretaries of state have occasionally joined such calls, and often sit in on face-to-face meetings between presidents and foreign leaders.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_161590845_fa66cdda-1b6b-4577-9f99-d7f77bca7455-articleLarge Echoes of Benghazi Criticism and Anger Confront Pompeo in Ukraine Inquiry Zelensky, Volodymyr Yovanovitch, Marie L Volker, Kurt D United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Pompeo, Mike impeachment House of Representatives Giuliani, Rudolph W Ethics and Official Misconduct Democratic Party Corruption (Institutional) Benghazi Attack (2012) Benghazi (Libya)

Kurt D. Volker, who resigned last week as the Trump administration’s special envoy for Ukraine, is expected to testify before a House panel on Thursday.CreditInna Sokolovskaya/EPA, via Shutterstock

But the questions are swirling about what role Mr. Pompeo may have played, if any, in Mr. Giuliani’s outreach campaign to top Ukrainian government officials. The effort bypassed career State Department diplomats, and Mr. Pompeo is nothing if not territorial — meaning he most likely would have objected to such dealings unless he was under instructions to allow them to proceed.

Then there is the question of the recall of Ms. Yovanovitch back to Washington after she was accused of being a disloyal envoy and was disparaged by the president’s son Donald Trump Jr.

The Foreign Affairs Committee is interested, and American diplomats, who declined to be named, say that Foreign Service officers have been in contact with the committee’s staff. A three-time ambassador, Ms. Yovanovitch has inspired considerable loyalty among her colleagues, many of whom seem ready to stand up in her defense.

Mr. Pompeo accused the House Democrats this week of directly contacting State Department officials and said they had been urged not to report the outreach.

That led to a sharp retort from three committee chairmen — Eliot L. Engel of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Adam B. Schiff of the Intelligence Committee and Elijah E. Cummings of the Oversight and Reform Committee — reminding Mr. Pompeo that it is a crime to obstruct a congressional inquiry “by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication.”

For his part, Mr. Pompeo has cast the State Department’s actions as above reproach.

“To the best of my knowledge, so from what I’ve seen so far, each of the actions that were undertaken by State Department officials was entirely appropriate,” Mr. Pompeo said on Sept. 26 in New York.

On Wednesday, he said American policy toward Ukraine would remain focused on pushing back against Russia, strengthening ties between Washington and Kiev, and rooting out corruption in Ukraine.

“It’s what the State Department officials that I’ve had the privilege to lead have been engaged in,” Mr. Pompeo said on Wednesday while on a diplomatic visit to Rome, “and it’s what we will continue to do, even while all this noise is going on.”

Officials close to Mr. Pompeo have described him as angry over Mr. Giuliani’s pressure campaign for the Ukrainian government to open an investigation into whether Mr. Biden, as vice president, had forced out a top prosecutor in order to shut down an inquiry that might have implicated his son Hunter Biden.

But caught between his loyalty to the president and his instinct to defend the State Department, Mr. Pompeo has never discussed the issue directly.

Mr. Pompeo’s supporters also say he recalled Ms. Yovanovitch out of concern for her safety as anger mounted against her in Kiev, where she had also criticized government corruption under the former Ukrainian president, Petro O. Poroshenko.

In neither case, however, did Mr. Pompeo speak out publicly to defend his diplomat or protect the State Department’s well-established turf in foreign affairs.

Not until Tuesday, in the middle of a visit to the Italian president’s official residence, did Mr. Pompeo come out swinging. But his broadside was aimed at the House Democrats who have demanded sworn testimony from Ms. Yovanovitch, Mr. Volker and three other State Department staff members.

Those depositions, initially scheduled to take place less than a week after they were compelled, amounted to “an attempt to intimidate, bully and treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State,” Mr. Pompeo wrote in a letter to Mr. Engel, Democrat of New York.

The Democrats now see Mr. Pompeo as another potential witness in the investigation and said that any attempts to block testimony or State Department documents “may infer that he is trying to cover up illicit activity and misconduct.”

“This would be a blatant cover-up and a clear abuse of power,” they said.

It was the latest move in an inquiry that promises to be part investigation, part political theater — just like the Benghazi hearings.

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Ukraine? Impeachment? Trump Can Survive It All, Foreign Analysts Say

BRUSSELS — This summer, just after he visited the White House for the second time, President Andrzej Duda of Poland held forth about how much he admired President Trump’s transactional style.

“I must tell you that in this respect I find it very easy and good to cooperate with President Donald Trump,” Mr. Duda said in an interview in Warsaw. “Because he’s very down to earth, very concrete. He tells me what he wants, he asks me what he can get from us.”

Given that well-established style of wheeling and dealing, the revelations about Mr. Trump’s phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine — in which Mr. Trump asked the Ukrainian leader for a ‘‘favor,’’ to dig up dirt on a political opponent — have reinforced impressions of the American president.

Regardless of impeachment, for now, at least, many analysts and media commentators abroad say they assume that Mr. Trump will remain president. But some wondered if this was perhaps ‘‘the deal too many,’’ as the headline on the cover of the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel read, showing Mr. Trump on the phone.

“Presidents always ask for things, but what’s different is the nature of the ask here,” said Simon Jackman, head of the United States Studies Center at the University of Sydney, Australia, the latest country Mr. Trump has appeared to pressure for renewed investigations of his political foes.

“It’s not about contributing with defense for an operation we might be doing together, or for a trade matter,’’ he added. ‘‘This is: ‘What were the circumstances under which Australia felt compelled to pass on this intelligence about election interference that helped me become president?’ We’re in a whole new category.”

Still, in Australia, there was little surprise. The same sentiment prevailed in much of Europe, along with a gloomy sense of inevitability among critics that nothing much seemed to damage Mr. Trump.

Many expected him to survive until the end of his term and very possibly be strengthened for re-election by the impeachment ordeal, which could let him trumpet his victory over the “Washington elite.”

“We all know that impeachment is a political affair, not a legal one,” said Jan Techau, an analyst with the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. “If it keeps the pressure on Trump, whose reactions already show the strain, it could cost him votes. But if it falls like a soufflé it can embolden him, as the golden one who can’t be touched.”

In Germany, which Mr. Trump loves to criticize, Mr. Techau said, “there’s lots of hope impeachment will succeed, but no confidence that the Democrats can run this thing efficiently.’’

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_161418501_56d3b92d-4006-4fad-b401-861c419b8626-articleLarge Ukraine? Impeachment? Trump Can Survive It All, Foreign Analysts Say United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Russia Rottgen, Norbert Poland Merkel, Angela impeachment Germany Foreign Aid Europe Duda, Andrzej (1972- ) Crimea (Ukraine) Corruption (Institutional) Berlin (Germany) Australia

Russia sees a victory in the tensions displayed between the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and Mr. Trump.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

‘‘Germans are puzzled that there is no natural leader of the opposition,’’ he added, ‘‘and it feels like Trump so dominates the stage there’s no room for anyone else.”

French reaction has been muted. Impeachment has not been on the front pages, with the media consumed with the death of former President Jacques Chirac. The center-left Le Monde editorialized a bit wearily that impeachment was forced on the Democrats, but probably without result.

“Confronted with this norm-breaking president, the Democrats were obligated to set a limit beyond which they considered that the counter-powers, the famous ‘checks and balances’ of the American system, could no longer function: in their eyes, this limit had been reached,” the paper said.

But François Heisbourg, a French analyst, noted that the notion of impeachment was itself somewhat unknown abroad.

“Nobody outside the U.S. understands impeachment,” he said. “Many would be chuffed if it works but everyone assumes it will strengthen Trump and not weaken him, which of course may be wrong.”

More important, Mr. Heisbourg said, was the impact on Ukraine and Mr. Zelensky’s standing with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and French President Emmanuel Macron, both of whom he criticized even more harshly than Mr. Trump did on their telephone call, even though the Europeans provide more economic aid to Ukraine than does Washington.

The partial phone transcript hurts Mr. Trump’s relationship with other leaders, who can no longer trust the privacy of their conversations, but “it has made Zelensky look incredibly naïve and even stupid, which he is not,” Mr. Heisbourg said.

“Zelensky didn’t just let Trump diss Merkel and Macron but does it himself,’’ Mr. Heisbourg said. ‘‘And when people say they won’t hold it against him, they’re wrong. Macron and Merkel won’t appreciate it, and in one fell swoop, Zelensky has lost a lot of good will.”

Mr. Techau agreed. “This is damaging for Ukraine, because it reinforces the image of this country as a hopeless case, where all these external powers mingle and trample and nothing comes out well,” he said. “It damages the feeling of solidarity with Ukraine, already lagging.”

Russia cited a victory not only in the tensions displayed between Mr. Zelensky and President Trump, but also between Mr. Zelensky and Ukraine’s main European supporters, especially in Germany and France, whom he needlessly insulted in the phone call.

In Moscow, where power in office is routinely traded for political favors and personal profit, there was glee.

President Andrzej Duda of Poland, in an interview this summer after he visited the White House, said he admired Mr. Trump’s transactional style.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

The Russians, who annexed Crimea and are deeply engaged in the fight for Ukraine’s east, like to argue that the West is just as cynical as they are, and often cite Mr. Trump as evidence.

And Russia has seized on the scandal to promote its longstanding theme that Ukraine and Mr. Zelensky are vassals of the United States.

On Sunday, Dmitri К. Kiselyov, the anchor of the Kremlin’s flagship propaganda news show, “Vesti Nedeli” or “News of the Week,” described Mr. Zelensky’s visit to the United States as a “catastrophe.” He said that Mr. Zelensky was “literally sucked into the funnel of intra-American fights between Trump and his enemies.”

“As a result, Zelensky now has no chance of building good relations neither with Trump nor with Biden,” said Mr. Kiselyov. “For Biden, Zelensky will forever remain the man who steadfastly promised Trump to relaunch the anti-corruption case against his son.”

Mr. Kiselyov noted that Mr. Zelensky offended Ms. Merkel, too. “As a result, Germany’s Spiegel already writes about insults against Merkel and only ‘pieces of relations’ with Ukraine. So now Trump, Biden and Merkel have all been removed from the list of Zelensky’s friends. How could he do it so quickly? An outstanding result!”

Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the German Parliament, was disgusted. The phone transcript “bitterly documents how Trump, behind the scenes, exploits his power over a state president who is dependent on American support and works for his private interests, his election campaign, and against Germany and Europe,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

In Poland, despite its president’s praise of Mr. Trump, not everyone is a fan of his deal-making style.

“In my opinion the government is silent on the issue because the kind of transactional offer he offered to Ukraine is quite similar to the way he treats Polish politicians,” said Ryszard Schnepf, a former Polish ambassador to Washington.

While he might not ask for dirt on political opponents, Mr. Schnepf said, Mr. Trump’s approach to foreign policy was “compromising, unbalanced and one sided.”

In the Arab world, reports of Mr. Trump’s efforts to extract favors from foreign leaders have generally been met with shrugs, not least because many people in the region are used to their leaders behaving in similar ways.

Leaders of the Arab world’s nondemocratic governments commonly use their offices for personal gain, and in the monarchies, there is often no clear distinction between public and private money.

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Biden’s Work in Ukraine: What We Know and Don’t Know

WASHINGTON — President Trump is trying to deflect attention from a firestorm of controversy around revelations that he pressed Ukraine’s leader to investigate a domestic political rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Mr. Trump is doing so by saying the real issue is possible corrupt activity involving Ukraine by Mr. Biden, one of the leading Democratic challengers in the 2020 presidential race, and Mr. Biden’s son.

Here is what we know and do not know about the involvement of the former vice president and his son, Hunter Biden, in Ukraine.

The issue here is whether Mr. Biden used his position as vice president to help a Ukrainian energy company that was paying Hunter Biden by pushing for the ouster of a Ukrainian prosecutor. The prosecutor’s office had oversight of investigations into the oligarch who owned the company.

As The New York Times reported this spring, no evidence has surfaced that the former vice president intentionally tried to help his son by pressing for the prosecutor’s dismissal.

In fact, some of the vice president’s former associates said he never did anything to deter other efforts to go after the oligarch, Mykola Zlochevsky. Those efforts included a push by Obama administration officials for the United States to support criminal investigations by Ukrainian and British authorities, and possibly for the United States to start its own investigation, into the energy company, Burisma Holdings, and its owner, Mr. Zlochevsky, for possible money laundering and abuse of office.

The president has often been vague about the specifics of his allegations, but one detail that he and his allies have repeatedly cited is the former vice president’s threatening to withhold $1 billion in United States loan guarantees if Ukraine’s leaders did not dismiss the prosecutor. Mr. Trump’s campaign on Saturday publicized footage of Mr. Biden recounting the threat.

“I said: ‘We’re leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor’s not fired, you’re not getting the money,’” Mr. Biden recounted at a 2018 event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations. “Well, son of a bitch, he got fired,” Mr. Biden continued, in footage that was not included in the Trump campaign video.

The prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, was soon voted out by the Ukrainian Parliament.

His dismissal had been sought not just by Mr. Biden, but also by others in the Obama administration, as well other Western governments and international lenders. Mr. Shokin had been repeatedly accused of turning a blind eye to corruption in his office and among the Ukrainian political elite, and criticized for failing to bring corruption cases.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 22dc-bidenexplainer2-articleLarge Biden’s Work in Ukraine: What We Know and Don’t Know Zlochevsky, Mykola United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Shokin, Viktor Presidential Election of 2020 Lutsenko, Yuri V Giuliani, Rudolph W Corruption (Institutional) Burisma Holdings Ltd Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. standing with his son Hunter on Capitol Hill in 2009.CreditCharles Dharapak/Associated Press

Hunter Biden has not been accused of legal wrongdoing related to his work for Burisma, which paid him as much as $50,000 per month in some months for his service on the board of the directors. He said in a statement this year that he never discussed Burisma with his father.

But he has been criticized by government watchdog groups in the United States and Ukraine for what they characterize as the perception of a conflict of interest, and trading on his family name by allowing it to be used to burnish the reputations of Burisma and Mr. Zlochevsky.

Starting in 2012, Mr. Zlochevsky has faced a long series of accusations of money laundering and tax evasion, as well as overseeing the awarding of lucrative gas licenses to his companies while he was the head of the Ukrainian Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources under the Russia-aligned government of the former president Viktor F. Yanukovych.

When Hunter Biden joined the board of Burisma, he had no experience in Ukraine. He has a professional history including a number of roles that intersected with his father’s political career. When his father represented Delaware in the Senate, Hunter Biden worked with a credit card issuer in the state. He also worked at the Commerce Department under President Bill Clinton and as a lobbyist on behalf of various universities, associations and companies.

Mr. Zlochevsky’s allies were relieved by the dismissal of Mr. Shokin, the prosecutor whose ouster Mr. Biden had sought, according to people familiar with the situation.

Mr. Shokin was not aggressively pursuing investigations into Mr. Zlochevsky or Burisma. But the oligarch’s allies say Mr. Shokin was using the threat of prosecution to try to solicit bribes from Mr. Zlochevsky and his team, and that left the oligarch’s team leery of dealing with the prosecutor.

Mr. Shokin was replaced by a prosecutor named Yuriy Lutsenko, whom former Vice President Biden later called “someone who was solid at the time.” Mr. Zlochevsky’s representatives were pleased by the choice, concluding they could work with Mr. Lutsenko to resolve the oligarch’s legal issues, according to the people familiar with the situation.

While Mr. Lutsenko initially took a hard line against Burisma, within 10 months after he took office, Burisma announced that Mr. Lutsenko and the courts had “fully closed” all “legal proceedings and pending criminal allegations” against Mr. Zlochevsky and his companies.

The oligarch, who had fled the country amid investigations by previous prosecutors, was removed by a Ukrainian court from “the wanted list,” and returned to the country.

This year, though, Mr. Lutsenko’s office moved to restart scrutiny of Mr. Zlochevsky.

The Times reported that Mr. Lutsenko had been communicating with Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has become a leading voice in accusing the Bidens of corruption. And allies of Mr. Biden and Mr. Zlochevsky accuse both Mr. Lutsenko and Mr. Giuliani of injecting politics into the equation.

Ukraine’s new government replaced Mr. Lutsenko last month.

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Trump, Biden and Ukraine: Sorting Out the Accusations

WASHINGTON — President Trump is trying to deflect attention from a firestorm of controversy around revelations that he pressed Ukraine’s leader to investigate a domestic political rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Mr. Trump is doing so by saying the real issue is possible corrupt activity involving Ukraine by Mr. Biden, one of the leading Democratic challengers in the 2020 presidential race, and Mr. Biden’s son.

Here is what we know and do not know about the involvement of the former vice president and his son, Hunter Biden, in Ukraine.

The issue here is whether Mr. Biden used his position as vice president to help a Ukrainian energy company that was paying Hunter Biden by pushing for the ouster of a Ukrainian prosecutor. The prosecutor’s office had oversight of investigations into the oligarch who owned the company.

As The New York Times reported this spring, no evidence has surfaced that the former vice president intentionally tried to help his son by pressing for the prosecutor’s dismissal.

In fact, some of the vice president’s former associates said he never did anything to deter other efforts to go after the oligarch, Mykola Zlochevsky. Those efforts included a push by Obama administration officials for the United States to support criminal investigations by Ukrainian and British authorities, and possibly for the United States to start its own investigation, into the energy company, Burisma Holdings, and its owner, Mr. Zlochevsky, for possible money laundering and abuse of office.

The president has often been vague about the specifics of his allegations, but one detail that he and his allies have repeatedly cited is the former vice president’s threatening to withhold $1 billion in United States loan guarantees if Ukraine’s leaders did not dismiss the prosecutor. Mr. Trump’s campaign on Saturday publicized footage of Mr. Biden recounting the threat.

“I said: ‘We’re leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor’s not fired, you’re not getting the money,’” Mr. Biden recounted at a 2018 event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations. “Well, son of a bitch, he got fired,” Mr. Biden continued, in footage that was not included in the Trump campaign video.

The prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, was soon voted out by the Ukrainian Parliament.

His dismissal had been sought not just by Mr. Biden, but also by others in the Obama administration, as well other Western governments and international lenders. Mr. Shokin had been repeatedly accused of turning a blind eye to corruption in his office and among the Ukrainian political elite, and criticized for failing to bring corruption cases.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 22dc-bidenexplainer2-articleLarge Trump, Biden and Ukraine: Sorting Out the Accusations Zlochevsky, Mykola United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Shokin, Viktor Presidential Election of 2020 Lutsenko, Yuri V Giuliani, Rudolph W Corruption (Institutional) Burisma Holdings Ltd Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. standing with his son Hunter on Capitol Hill in 2009.CreditCharles Dharapak/Associated Press

Hunter Biden has not been accused of legal wrongdoing related to his work for Burisma, which paid him as much as $50,000 per month in some months for his service on the board of the directors. He said in a statement this year that he never discussed Burisma with his father.

But he has been criticized by government watchdog groups in the United States and Ukraine for what they characterize as the perception of a conflict of interest, and trading on his family name by allowing it to be used to burnish the reputations of Burisma and Mr. Zlochevsky.

Starting in 2012, Mr. Zlochevsky has faced a long series of accusations of money laundering and tax evasion, as well as overseeing the awarding of lucrative gas licenses to his companies while he was the head of the Ukrainian Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources under the Russia-aligned government of the former president Viktor F. Yanukovych.

When Hunter Biden joined the board of Burisma, he had no experience in Ukraine. He has a professional history including a number of roles that intersected with his father’s political career. When his father represented Delaware in the Senate, Hunter Biden worked with a credit card issuer in the state. He also worked at the Commerce Department under President Bill Clinton and as a lobbyist on behalf of various universities, associations and companies.

Mr. Zlochevsky’s allies were relieved by the dismissal of Mr. Shokin, the prosecutor whose ouster Mr. Biden had sought, according to people familiar with the situation.

Mr. Shokin was not aggressively pursuing investigations into Mr. Zlochevsky or Burisma. But the oligarch’s allies say Mr. Shokin was using the threat of prosecution to try to solicit bribes from Mr. Zlochevsky and his team, and that left the oligarch’s team leery of dealing with the prosecutor.

Mr. Shokin was replaced by a prosecutor named Yuriy Lutsenko, whom former Vice President Biden later called “someone who was solid at the time.” Mr. Zlochevsky’s representatives were pleased by the choice, concluding they could work with Mr. Lutsenko to resolve the oligarch’s legal issues, according to the people familiar with the situation.

While Mr. Lutsenko initially took a hard line against Burisma, within 10 months after he took office, Burisma announced that Mr. Lutsenko and the courts had “fully closed” all “legal proceedings and pending criminal allegations” against Mr. Zlochevsky and his companies.

The oligarch, who had fled the country amid investigations by previous prosecutors, was removed by a Ukrainian court from “the wanted list,” and returned to the country.

This year, though, Mr. Lutsenko’s office moved to restart scrutiny of Mr. Zlochevsky.

The Times reported that Mr. Lutsenko had been communicating with Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has become a leading voice in accusing the Bidens of corruption. And allies of Mr. Biden and Mr. Zlochevsky accuse both Mr. Lutsenko and Mr. Giuliani of injecting politics into the equation.

Ukraine’s new government replaced Mr. Lutsenko last month.

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