TIME

The third amigo

RICK PERRY CAME TO WASHINGTON LOOKING FOR A DEAL, AND less than two months into his tenure as Energy Secretary, he found a hot prospect. It was April 19, 2017, and Perry, the former Texas governor, failed presidential candidate and contestant on Dancing With the Stars, was sitting in his office on Independence Avenue with two influential Ukrainians. “He said, ‘Look, I’m a new guy, I’m a dealmaker, I’m a Texan,’” recalls one of them, Yuriy Vitrenko, then Ukraine’s chief energy negotiator. “We’re ready to do deals,” he remembers Perry saying.

The deals they discussed that day became central to Ukraine’s complex relationship with the Trump Administration, a relationship that culminated in December with the House vote to impeach President Donald Trump. Perry was a leading figure in the impeachment inquiry last fall. He was among the officials, known as the “three amigos,” who ran a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine on Trump’s behalf. Their aim, according to the findings of the impeachment inquiry in the House, was to embarrass Trump’s main political rival, Joe Biden.

Alongside this political mission, Perry and his staff at the Energy Department worked to advance energy deals that were potentially worth billions of dollars to Perry’s friends and political donors, a six-month investigation by reporters from TIME, WNYC and ProPublica shows. Two of these deals seemed set to benefit Energy Transfer, the Texas company on whose board Perry served immediately before and after his stint in Washington. The biggest was worth an estimated $20 billion, according to U.S. and Ukrainian energy executives involved in negotiating them. If this long discussed deal succeeds, Perry himself could stand to benefit: in March, three months after leaving government, he owned Energy Transfer shares currently worth around $800,000, according to his most recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Perry appears to have stayed on the right side of the law in pursuing the Ukraine ventures. Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) questioned at least four people about the deals over the past year, according to five people who are familiar with the conversations and discussed them with our reporting team on condition of anonymity. “As far back as last year, they were already interested in events that had taken place in Ukraine around Rick Perry,” including allegations that Perry “was trying to get deals for his buddies,” says one of the people who spoke to the Manhattan prosecutors. Perry is not a target of their investigation, according to two sources familiar with the probes.

But two ethics experts say Perry’s efforts were violations of federal regulations. Administration officials are not allowed to participate in matters directly relating to companies on whose board they have recently served. Other experts say Perry and his aides may have broken a federal rule that prohibits officials from advocating for companies that have not

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