On September 20, two of Rudy Giuliani’s associates were about to leave the U.S. with one-way tickets when they were arrested outside of the Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia on charges of campaign-finance violations. These charges accused them of funneling foreign money into U.S. elections. The timing is significant as it is known that the Soviet-born men, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, were linked to efforts to dig up dirt on Joe Biden and his son in Ukraine.
In total, four men were indicted, and the indictment includes two counts of conspiracy, one count of false statements to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), and one count of falsification of records. It is alleged that the four men’s scheme to avoid campaign finance laws began in March 2018.
Last Thursday, October 10, the two men appeared in federal court in Virginia where the judge set their bail at $1 million each, after prosecutors argued the men were a flight risk.
The men are said to be connected to the ongoing impeachment inquiry and have even been photographed with the president, his son, and Mike Pence. When asked about the men, Trump told reporters, “I don’t know those gentlemen…I don’t know what they do. Maybe you will have to ask Rudy.”
Significance of Indictment
The indictment is momentous because the charges suggest Giuliani’s push on Ukraine had ties to an illegal effort to influence the U.S. political system with foreign monies. In fact, Fruman and Parnas are known to be central to the current impeachment inquiry that is taking place in the House of Representatives.
While there have been quite a bit of speculation from various news outlets, CNN reported that Parnas has operated as Giuliani’s fixer in Ukraine since 2018, claiming that Giuliani, himself, told the organization that Parnas introduced him to current and former officials in the country. Democrats in the House have subpoenaed documents from the former mayor in order to understand more details of the interactions. Guiliani also confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that the two men were clients in May, and both men had dinner with President Trump and met Donald Trump Jr. a year prior.
However, this is the second subpoena relating Giuliani to Parnas, the first being part of a lawsuit filed in Florida seeking Parnas’ financial records and a record for any work he did on Giuliani’s behalf. It is alleged that he collected and distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to a Trump-allied super PAC.
Furthermore, Fruman and Parnas allegedly asked a U.S. congressman, widely believed to be former Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, to help get the ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Louise Yovanovitch, fired. According to the indictment, this request coincidentally came at the same time that they promised to raise $20,000 for that congressman’s reelection. Fruman allegedly made the donation in Parnas’ name, going beyond the limit on individual donations and violating campaign finance law. Sessions has yet to comment on the matter and has not been charged of any wrongdoing.
After facing criticism from the Trump administration for being ‘biased against the president,’ Yovanovitch was eventually fired in May. On October 10, Yovanovitch gave a powerful deposition to the House Intelligence Committee, testifying that she was ousted due to her anti-corruption work.
Amidst all of this, the indictment also explains how the two men donated more than $300,000 to America First Action, a pro-Trump super PAC, through a limited-liability company whose purpose was to mask the true source of their donations. America First Action spent more than $3 million to reelect Sessions, although he ended up losing his seat. A spokeswoman for the super PAC released a statement last week claiming they, “placed that contribution in a segregated bank account, it has not been used it for any purpose and the funds will remain in this segregated account until these matters are resolved.”
Additional Motivations for Fruman and Parnas’ Scheme
Interestingly, a portion of the scheme involving Fruman and Parnas revolved around an effort to win over politicians who could help them receive licenses for a retail marijuana business they wanted to open. The business’ venture and lobbying costs were allegedly funded by a Russian national, who has only been identified as a ‘businessman,’ which would further violate campaign finance law as the law prohibits foreign political donations. The men are said to have created an outline of a ‘multi-state license strategy’ that planned how to divide the $1-2 million dollars the Russian businessman donated to federal and state committees. In fact, when the businessman made a $1 million wire transfer in 2018 to Fruman, the men supposedly used these funds to donate to multiple political candidates in Nevada that could have helped further their marijuana business plan.