I was skeptical at first for one reason: Schiff allegedly leaks like a colander. If he had a fake Ukrainian official on the line claiming kompromat of a nude POTUS, he probably would have patched the New York Times in on the call as it was happening, for cripes sake.
But no, this is apparently very real. The Atlantic reported on it a few weeks ago, in fact, before the Daily Mail got to it today. And there’s a good explanation for why Schiff didn’t leak at the time. Not only was the prank highly embarrassing but … the audio of the call between him and the pranksters was posted days later. It’s been available on YouTube for nearly 10 months. How is it we’re only hearing about it now? Or did you all already know this and I somehow missed it?
Here’s the Atlantic, describing a call Schiff received on April 10, 2017 from whom he thought was the speaker of Ukraine’s parliament:
“In November 2013, Mr. Trump visited Moscow, he visited competition Miss Universe, and there he met with Russian journalist and celebrity Ksenia Sobchak,” he said in his heavily accented, awkward English. He explained that in addition to having ties to Putin, Sobchak is “also known as a person who provides girls for escort for oligarchs. And she met with Trump and she brought him one Russian girl, celebrity Olga Buzova.” Schiff soberly asked for clarification, and Parubiy answered directly: Sobchak, he said, is a “special agent of Russian secret service.”
Buzova “got compromising materials on Trump after their short relations,” Parubiy said. “There were pictures of naked Trump.”
Schiff betrayed no emotion. “And so Putin was made aware of the availability of the compromising material?” he asked.
“Yes, of course,” Parubiy said. Putin wanted it communicated to Trump that “all those compromising materials will never be released if Trump will cancel all Russian sanctions.” The biggest bombshell: He had obtained a recording of Buzova and Sobchak talking about the kompromat while the two were visiting Ukraine. He told Schiff, “We are ready to provide [those materials] to FBI.”
“All righty. Good, this is very helpful. I appreciate it,” Schiff concluded. “We will try to work with the FBI to figure out, along with your staff, how we can obtain copies.” In reality it was Russian comics “Vovan” and “Lexus” who were on the call, successfully hoaxing yet another western celebrity and/or high-ranking political figure. I’d bet cash money that they’ve tried to get Trump on the line too. Matter of time, maybe?
The reason the Daily Mail’s circling back today to what’s technically old news is that Schiff’s office claimed at the time that they suspected a hoax all along and reported the call afterward to the FBI. According to the Mail, though, Schiff’s office actually followed up with the pranksters to try to obtain the material that they promised Schiff. And there are emails to prove it:
Lexus and Vovan provided emails to the DailyMail.com which appear to show Schiff’s staff discussing the documents after the call.
‘I understand Mr. Schiff had a productive call with Mr. Parubiy, and that Mr. Parubiy would like to make some material available to Mr. Schiff through your embassy,’ wrote Schiff aide Rheanne Wirkkala to the pranksters, according to the April 4, 2017 email.
‘Please let me know how best to arrange pick-up of those materials from your Embassy in Washington, D.C.,’ the email continued.
In another email on April 5, 2017, Schiff’s aide asked: ‘do you know when we might be able to meet your colleagues at the Ukrainian embassy here in Washington, DC to pick up materials?’
Someone has their dates wrong. The Atlantic claims that the call with Schiff happened on April 10 whereas the emails, assuming they’re authentic, refer to the call as having already happened as of April 4. If you google the name of the Schiff staffer on the emails you’ll find that someone of the same name does in fact work for the minority on the House Intelligence Committee. But that detail would be easy enough to find online and insert to make a bogus message seem more authentic, right?
On the other hand, why question the authenticity of the email when Schiff himself is on tape expressing interest in the kompromat?
Maybe it’s a coincidence that the Daily Mail is snickering at Schiff’s gullibility as we near the release of his counter-memo on FISA and the DOJ, or maybe it isn’t. The U.S. political editor for the Mail is David Martosko, a former editor of the Daily Caller who’s been considered in the past as a possible press secretary for the Trump White House. (He withdrew his name from consideration last summer, months after it was first floated.) If Trump or his allies were looking for a way to undercut Schiff’s credibility quickly and easily, rehashing the Vovan and Lexus prank with supporting evidence would be a clever way to do it. Martosko’s outfit would, presumably, be receptive. And the Daily Mail is a yuuuuuuge platform online, among the biggest in western media. There are few better outlets to take this handoff, if it’s a handoff.
Now, someone show this story to POTUS and let him know that if “Vladimir Putin” mysteriously dials in to his private cell-phone line wanting to discuss “the pee tape,” that’s an immediate hang-up. Immediate.