Pair tied to Gi­u­liani, Ukraine probe ar­rested

Feds say Gi­u­liani as­so­ciates il­le­gally do­nated to Trump-al­lied PAC, other GOP en­ti­ties

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael Biesecker, Michael Bal­samo, Des­mond But­ler and Eric Tucker

The two Florida busi­ness­men and as­so­ciates of Rudy Gi­u­liani are ac­cused of il­le­gally do­nat­ing to a PAC sup­port­ing Pres­i­dent Trump.

WASH­ING­TON — Two Florida busi­ness­men tied to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s lawyer and the Ukraine im­peach­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion were charged Thurs­day with fed­eral cam­paign fi­nance vi­o­la­tions.

The charges re­late to a $325,000 do­na­tion to a group sup­port­ing Trump’s re­elec­tion.

Igor Fru­man and Lev Parnas, as­so­ciates of Rudy Gi­u­liani, were ar­rested Wed­nes­day try­ing to board an in­ter­na­tional flight with one-way tick­ets at Dulles In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Vir­ginia, ac­cord­ing to Ge­of­frey Ber­man, the U.S. at­tor­ney in Man­hat­tan. No desti­na­tion was dis­closed.

Fru­man and Parnas were ar­rested on a four-count in­dict­ment that in­cludes charges of con­spir­acy, mak­ing false state­ments to the Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion and fal­si­fi­ca­tion of records. The pair had key roles in Gi­u­liani’s ef­forts to launch a Ukrainian cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion against Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial con­tender Joe Bi­den and his son Hunter.

The in­dict­ments mark the first crim­i­nal charges re­lated to the Ukraine con­tro­versy. While they do not sug­gest wrong­do­ing by Trump, they raise ad­di­tional ques­tions about how those close to Trump and Gi­u­liani sought to use their in­flu­ence.

Trump has dis­missed the im­peach­ment in­quiry as base­less and po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated. Trump said he didn’t know Fru­man or Parnas and hadn’t spo­ken with Gi­u­liani about them.

“We have noth­ing to do with it,” Trump said.

Gi­u­liani said he didn’t rep­re­sent the men in cam­paign fi­nance mat­ters.

Records show that Fru­man and Parnas used wire trans­fers from a corporate en­tity to make the $325,000 do­na­tion to the Amer­ica First Ac­tion com­mit­tee in May 2018. But wire trans­fer records that be­came pub­lic through a law­suit show that the corporate en­tity re­ported as mak­ing the trans­ac­tion was not the source of the money.

The do­na­tion to the Trump-al­lied PAC was part of a flurry of po­lit­i­cal spend­ing tied to Fru­man and Parnas, with at least $478,000 in do­na­tions flow­ing to GOP cam­paigns and PACs in lit­tle more than two months.

The money en­abled the rel­a­tively un­known en­trepreneur­s to gain ac­cess to the high­est lev­els of the Repub­li­can Party, in­clud­ing meet­ings with Trump at the White House and Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

Prose­cu­tors also al­lege that Parnas urged a con­gress­man to seek the ouster of the U.S. am­bas­sador to Ukraine, at the be­hest of Ukrainian gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials. That hap­pened about the same time that Fru­man and Parnas com­mit­ted to rais­ing over $20,000 for the politi­cian.

The con­gress­man wasn’t iden­ti­fied in court pa­pers, but the do­na­tions match cam­paign fi­nance re­ports for for­mer Rep. Pete Ses­sions, a Texas Repub­li­can who lost his re­elec­tion bid in Novem­ber.

Fru­man and Parnas ap­peared in court Thurs­day and were or­dered to re­main jailed as a bail pack­age was worked out. They are due in court next week in New York.

Kevin Down­ing, the lawyer who rep­re­sented for­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man Paul Manafort on charges that he hid mil­lions of dol­lars earned in Ukraine ad­vis­ing politi­cians, was rep­re­sent­ing the men for an ini­tial ap­pear­ance.

David Cor­reia, a busi­ness part­ner of Parnas, and An­drey Kukushkin, a Ukrainian-born U.S. cit­i­zen, were also charged in the case. A fed­eral judge in San Fran­cisco or­dered Kukushkin held Thurs­day pend­ing a bail hear­ing to de­ter­mine whether he is con­sid­ered a flight risk.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr had been briefed on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion soon after he was con­firmed in Fe­bru­ary, was up­dated in re­cent weeks and was made aware Wed­nes­day night that Fru­man and Parnas were be­ing ar­rested, a per­son fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter said.

The in­dict­ment said Fru­man and Parnas “sought to ad­vance their per­sonal fi­nan­cial in­ter­ests and the po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests of at least one Ukrainian gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial with whom they were work­ing” and took steps to con­ceal it from third par­ties, in­clud­ing cred­i­tors. They cre­ated a lim­ited li­a­bil­ity cor­po­ra­tion, Global En­ergy Pro­duc­ers, and “in­ten­tion­ally caused cer­tain large con­tri­bu­tions to be re­ported in the name of GEP in­stead of in their own names.”

Prose­cu­tors charge that the two men falsely claimed the con­tri­bu­tions came from GEP, which was de­scribed as a liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas busi­ness. At that point, the com­pany had no in­come or sig­nif­i­cant as­sets, the in­dict­ment said.

Prose­cu­tors al­lege the pair con­spired to make il­le­gal con­tri­bu­tions to try to skirt the limit on fed­eral cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions. The men also are ac­cused of mak­ing con­tri­bu­tions to can­di­dates for state and fed­eral of­fice, joint fundrais­ing com­mit­tees and in­de­pen­dent ex­pen­di­ture com­mit­tees in the names of other peo­ple.

The com­mit­ment to raise more than $20,000 for the con­gress­man was made in May and June 2018. The law­maker had also re­ceived about $3 mil­lion in in­de­pen­dent ex­pen­di­tures from a su­per po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee that Fru­man and Parnas had been fund­ing.

As a re­sult of the do­na­tions, Fru­man and Parnas had meet­ings with the con­gress­man, and Parnas lob­bied him to ad­vo­cate for re­mov­ing the am­bas­sador to Ukraine, Ber­man said.

Trump re­ferred to Am­bas­sador Marie Yo­vanovitch, who was in­deed re­called to the U.S., as “bad news” in his July phone call with Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Ze­len­skiy.

Ses­sions said in a state­ment tweeted by a spokesman that he “could not have had any knowl­edge of the scheme de­scribed in the in­dict­ment.”

Ses­sions wasn’t asked to take any ac­tion dur­ing the meet­ings with Parnas and Fru­man and wrote a let­ter to the sec­re­tary of state about Yo­vanovitch after col­leagues in Con­gress said she was “dis­parag­ing” Trump, he said.

PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/AP

At­tor­ney Kevin Down­ing, right, rep­re­sents busi­ness­men Igor Fru­man and Lev Parnas.

Parnas

Fru­man

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