House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who has played a leading role in investigating the Trump-Ukraine scandal, is facing questions about his own connection to a Soviet-born businessman who has raised money for his campaign and whose company has received lucrative defense contracts from Ukraine's government.
That man is Igor Pasternak, the founder and CEO of Worldwide Aeros Corp., which makes blimps for military and commercial customers. His business has also been involved in weapons manufacturing, working with the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense to produce a modified version of the M4 and M16 rifles, according to reports.
In 2013, Pasternak hosted a fundraiser in Washington for Schiff, who later came to embrace a strong stance in support of the United States sending military aid to Ukraine during its conflict with Russia.
“Before this time, Schiff rarely, if ever, mentioned Ukraine,” Fox News’ Laura Ingraham said on her show Thursday night, after detailing Schiff’s connection to Pasternak. “But after the fundraiser, he used multiple television appearances to basically demand that we send money and arms to them.”
Neither Schiff nor Pasternak returned requests from Fox News for comment on Thursday.
But in a February 2015 appearance on CNN, Schiff was asked by anchor Wolf Blitzer, “You want the United States right now to not only provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine, but also start providing serious weapons, right?”
He replied: “I do. And I think it's overdue.”
In another appearance on CNN in February 2015, Schiff said, “I think that the United States should be very forward-leaning on Ukraine.”
According to his online biography, Pasternak was born in the former Soviet Union, started his first company in Ukraine, immigrated to the United States in 1993 and is now a U.S. citizen. Since that time, Pasternak’s company has been awarded Ukraine defense contracts.
An invitation for the July 18, 2013, fundraiser, posted online, invited guests to Pasternak’s home on Capitol Hill. “Please join Igor Pasternak for a taste of Ukraine Reception honoring Congressman Adam Schiff,” the invite said.
To attend the fundraisers, sponsors were encouraged to contribute $2,500, and guests were asked to pay $1,000. The invite said checks were payable to “Adam Schiff for Congress.”
An online search of donor records shows that Pasternak has donated money to politicians and organizations of both parties.
Pasternak’s airship company, Worldwide Aeros Corp., is based in Montebello, Calif. The company has won Pentagon contracts to develop airships for surveillance and cargo delivery -- including one contract reportedly worth $50 million.
In 2017, Pasternak was quoted in Newsweek talking about his company’s efforts to produce a variant of the M16 rifle in Ukraine. "The M16 project was conceived some time ago, as the Ukrainian armed forces, border guards and National Guard will with time switch to NATO standards," Pasternak said during a press conference in Kiev at the time.
The scrutiny comes as Democrats ramp up their impeachment inquiry into Trump. Democrats are moving ahead with those efforts after a whistleblower complained that the president, in a July phone call, pressed the president of Ukraine to investigate the business dealings of former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter, in that country.
Schiff has been singled by Republicans, including Trump himself, in recent days: Republicans have decried how Schiff, during a hearing last week, read a "parody" version of Trump’s phone call with Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelensky.
Republicans also slammed Schiff after the Intelligence Committee acknowledged this week that the whistleblower alleging misconduct had reached out to Schiff's panel before filing a complaint.