Two Giuliani associates arrested on campaign finance charges

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Two foreign-born associates of the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who’d been assisting him in his personal investigation of alleged wrongdoing by Obama administration members in Ukraine, have been arrested and charged with violating federal campaign finance laws.

Left largely unmentioned in media reports is the fact that the criminal charges are for activities entirely unrelated to Giuliani or President Trump, and were instead alleged to have occurred prior to their linking up with Giuliani.

“Straw” donations

The Daily Caller reported that Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were named along with two other individuals in an indictment unsealed on Thursday following their arrest late on Wednesday. Giuliani himself is not mentioned in the indictment.

The four men are essentially accused of engaging in a conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws by making “straw” donations to political candidates and committees which concealed the foreign origin of the donated funds that were intended to advance political and business interests and gain influence.

Specifically, the four men are alleged to have “conspired to circumvent the federal laws against foreign influence by engaging in a scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates for federal and state office so that the defendants could buy potential influence with candidates, campaigns, and the candidates’ government.”

In addition to that scheme, the individuals are also accused of working to advance the interests of at least one Ukrainian government official with whom they were associated — primarily, to see the then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine recalled or removed from her post.

Buying influence

The 21-page indictment alleges that Parnas and Fruman made a donation of $325,000 to an unnamed political action committee in 2018, which is believed to be a pro-Trump Super PAC. That PAC, in turn, made approximately $3 million in donations to an unnamed member of Congress, who is believed to have been Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX). It appears that Parnas and Fruman also made direct donations to Sessions, albeit in a manner that concealed the origin of the donated funds.

Parnas is also known to have met with Sessions to pass along the Ukrainian government’s request that the ambassador be recalled from Ukraine, a message that Sessions is believed to have passed along to the White House. Some time later, Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch — who was accused of having a strong “anti-Trump bias” — was recalled from Ukraine.

Furthermore, the indicted individuals are accused of conspiring to influence local Nevada politicians — including by making campaign donations — in a bid to help launch a recreational marijuana business that was funded by an unnamed foreign national, believed to be a Russian who wanted to keep his identity a secret, given the partisan political turmoil over Russia. The planned business never fully materialized.

Indictment unrelated to Giuliani’s work in Ukraine

This activity occurred prior to Parnas and Fruman associating with Giuliani in 2019 to assist him in his information-gathering venture in Ukraine. Giuliani was focused on obtaining evidence of Obama administration officials conspiring with Ukrainian officials to meddle in the 2016 election as well as alleged corruption related to former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter.

It would appear that the role of Parnas and Fruman was to help facilitate meetings between Giuliani and various Ukrainian officials.

Asked if he thought Giuliani would end up being indicted, Trump told CNN, “I hope not. You know, he’s got a lot of clients. So, I just don’t know. I haven’t spoken to Rudy about it, I don’t know.”

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