Throughout his campaign and presidency, Donald Trump used the crisis in Venezuela for his own political ambitions fairly regularly — but the way his team is now using it to try to reverse an election is the most ironic development yet.
“You couldn’t possibly believe that the company owning this election machinery was an ally of Hugo Chavez, is an ally of Nicolas Maduro, and an ally of George Soros. What do we have to do to get you to the truth?” pondered Giuliani during yet another infamous press conference last week.
As an unidentified brown liquid dropped down his face, Giuliani added that votes in Michigan were “being counted in Germany, by a Venezuelan company. Owned by people who are allies of Maduro, and Chavez.”
Fellow lawyer Sidney Powell — who was announced as a member of the Trump team last week, then abandoned — doubled down, claiming to have evidence that “this came from Venezuela, from Nicolas Maduro, from Hugo Chavez, from Cuba, and from China which has significant interests in Venezuela.”
Powell added even more unlikely details to her story during a Newsmax interview, where she claimed Chavez got the voter technology from the CIA and bribed Georgia’s Republican governor Brian Kemp. This accusation apparently was too wild even for the Trump team, who tried pretending Powell was never a part of the presidential official legal team after the train-wreck interview.
Never mind that Chavez and subsequently Maduro have spent their time in power denouncing alleged CIA plots to overthrow them. No, according to Trump’s legal team, chavistas were working with one of their sworn enemies this whole time, all to defeat Trump.
The idea that Chavez, from the grave, somehow stole an election from Trump when Trump has been saying for years that only he can overthrow the Venezuelan regime is quite something in itself.
But it’s even more ironic when we look at the facts, because it is Giuliani who has had a long-running, cozy relationship with the authoritarian system that has created the worst refugee crisis the region has seen in recent history.
In fact, the disgraced former NYC mayor was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobby for Chavez in 2007 when the strongman was still alive.
As was widely reported at the time, Giuliani’s law firm, Bracewell and Giuliani, was hired by the Hugo Chavez government to lobby on behalf of Citgo Petroleum Corp., the US subsidiary of Venezuela’s oil company PDVSA (Petroleos de Venezuela) — and Chavez’s biggest cash cow.
And Giuliani’s work with the regime didn’t stop there. In recent years, he has been a go-to lawyer for corrupt Venezuelans linked to chavismo and looking to escape international money-laundering charges or sanctions.
Giuliani has been helping those who defrauded Venezuela out — all while being the lawyer of the US president who has presented himself as “tough” on chavismo and Castro-communism.
He represented Alejandro Betancourt López in a Justice Department investigation into alleged money laundering in Florida. Betancourt Lopez is know as one of Venezuela’s “boli-burgueses,” those who became part of the country’s new bourgeoisie thanks to the “socialist” Bolivarian revolution.
Betancourt López was an uncharged co-conspirator in a case accusing several Venezuelan businesses, including Betancourt’s cousin, of stealing as much as $1.2 billion from PDVSA and laundering the funds through Florida real estate, as reported by the Washington Post.
He is well-known among Venezuelans as one of the biggest beneficieries of chavista corruption. His company, Derwick Associates, is alleged to have paid bribes to the regime to get contracts to build power plants. Of course, the nation’s electrical system is completely run-down today, and most Venezuelans live with interrupted service or none at all.
Giuliani argued, on Betancourt’s behalf, that the tycoon shouldn’t face criminal charges for laundering money in Florida.
And before doing so, Giuliani already had a relationship with Betancourt, having stayed at his estate in Madrid as Giuliani worked to get dirt on Ukrainian-linked corruption and Joe Biden, per Trump’s request.
Interestingly enough, Giuliani was even wearing chavista ally Betancourt’s Spain-based brand of eyeglasses, Hawkers, as he went on about a chavista conspiracy to rig the US election against Trump last week.
Things get even more odd: According to the AP’s Joshua Goodman, a former bodyguard of Hugo Chavez would be the witness in his case against Smartmatic.
In the lawsuit Giuliani presented in Georgia, an affidavit testifying against Smartmatic appears to be from Captain Leamsy Salazar. Salazar is an ex-Marine who worked security for Chavez and fled to the US after his death in, accusing the regime’s number two — Diosdado Cabello — of drug-trafficking as he did so.
In the affidavit, the witness claims to have been present when votes were rigged using Smartmatic machines during the Venezuelan presidential election of 2013. But claims of vote-rigging during these elections have been debunked by witnesses and experts. In fact, there is no proof of chavista vote-rigging in Venezuela until 2017, when Smartmatic itself rang the alarm that Maduro’s regime did manipulate about one million votes for the national constituency assembly elections.
Additionally, unlike Trump’s team has been claiming, Smartmatic does not own or even have any connection with Dominion Voting Systems, the more widely used system in US elections.
As Trump’s presidency crumbles in an embarrassing array of conspiracy theories and sketchy characters, he and Giuliani make a mockery of Venezuelan tragedy in the process. Unfortunately, many will now associate that tragedy with Trump’s grotesque attempt to stay in power no matter the cost, much like the chavistas he claims to so strongly oppose.