As the old saying goes, “and the plot thickens.” The Wall Street Journal has reported that two associates of Rudy Giuliani connected to his efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine on Joe Biden have been arrested and indicted on criminal charges for allegedly funneling foreign money into US elections.
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are accused of using a limited liability company to make political contributions related to American elections, in violation of FEC prohibitions against contributions from foreign nationals. Both men have been linked to Giuliani’s efforts to conduct investigations in Ukraine.
Do these charges against the men suggest Giuliani’s push on Ukraine and President Donald Trump’s receptiveness to it could have ties to an illegal effort to influence US politics and policy using foreign funds? Of course, the Democrats hope so – but not so fast!
Giuliani told Fox News that he represents Parnas and Fruman on a separate matter and called their arrest and indictment “timing suspect.” He stated that he “will reveal relevant facts very very shortly.”
Giuliani, one of President Trump’s personal attorneys, said he finds it “extremely suspicious” that the arrest was made in connection with an FEC matter that has yet to be resolved, and which Giuliani said is a civil matter. Giuliani acknowledged that both men “logistically helped” in his collection of evidence against Hunter Biden, and that they helped connect him with former Ukrainian top prosecutors Viktor Shokin and Yuriy Lutsenko.
Parnas and Fruman created Global Energy Producers (GEP), and allegedly funneled money through the company. This included contributions of $325,000 and $15,000 to committees in May 2018, “to obtain access to exclusive political events and gain influence with politicians,” the indictment says. They allegedly incorporated GEP around the time the contributions were made.
According to FEC records, GEP contributed $325,000 in May 2018 to pro-Trump super PAC America First Action. In a statement, a spokesperson for America First Action noted that a complaint was filed with the FEC in July 2018 over this contribution, as well as separate litigation in Florida. The statement said that the money was placed “in a segregated bank account,” was not used, and “will remain in this segregated account until these matters are resolved.”
Both men are accused of making false statements in response to the FEC complaint, related to the nature of GEP and the contribution.
The indictment also claims that Parnas and Fruman “committed to raise $20,000 or more for a then-sitting U.S. Congressman” whom they had met at a political event. At approximately the same time that they made that commitment, Parnas and the Congressman discussed the Congressman’s assistance in securing the removal of the then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, and this was done “at least in part, at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials,” the indictment alleges.
The indictment also lays out allegations of a separate “foreign national donor scheme” involving the two men and two other defendants, American David Correia, and Ukrainian national Andrey Kukushkin, where they allegedly engaged in a conspiracy to make political contributions funded by an unnamed Russian national to obtain influence with political candidates regarding policies to benefit a recreational marijuana business venture, and to help obtain retail marijuana licenses.
President Trump has not yet commented on the arrests.