Two associates of Rudy Giuliani who helped the Trump lawyer in his Ukraine-related investigations pleaded not guilty in federal court in New York City on Wednesday to campaign finance charges.
Prosecutors have accused Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman of illegally masking the source of contributions to Republican political candidates in order to advance personal and political interests.
According to an indictment unsealed on Oct. 10, Parnas, Fruman and two other associates “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.”
Prosecutors also alleged that the Soviet-born Parnas and Fruman made illegal campaign contributions in order to “[cause] the U.S. government to remove or recall the then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine”
That scheme involved campaign contributions to a former lawmaker identified as Pete Sessions, a Republican from Texas.
“PARNAS’s efforts to remove the Ambassador were conducted, at least in part, at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials,” the indictment says.
Parnas met with Sessions on May 9, 2018 to discuss Yovanovitch. That same day, Sessions sent a letter to Sec. of State Mike Pompeo accusing the diplomat of making derogatory statements about Trump.
The Trump administration recalled Yovanovitch from her post in May 2019.
Parnas made a $2,700 campaign contribution to Sessions on June 25, 2018. According to the indictment, Parnas and Fruman committed to raising another $20,000 for the Republican, who lost his re-election bid several months later.
Sessions is cooperating with prosecutors handling the case, his spokesman told The Daily Caller News Foundation on Oct. 15. The Hill reported on Wednesday that Sessions’ former chief of staff, Caroline Boothe, has also been subpoenaed in the investigation, and is cooperating.
Giuliani began working with Parnas and Fruman last year on various Ukraine-related matters.
Parnas and Fruman set up meetings between Giuliani and two former Ukrainian prosecutors who offered up information about Joe Biden and Yovanivitch.
Viktor Shokin, one of the former prosecutors, claimed in a Jan. 23 interview with Giuliani that he was fired in 2016 at Biden’s request because he was investigating Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company that had Hunter Biden as a board member.
Giuliani and his associates interview Yuriy Lutsenko on Jan. 25 and Jan. 26. Lutsenko claimed in the interviews that Yovanovitch ordered him not to investigate several Ukrainians who he claimed had worked with Democrats to influence the 2016 election.
Giuliani’s allegations about the Bidens and Yovanovitch made their way to President Trump, who mentioned both topics during his now-infamous July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Trump asked Zelensky to consider investigating Biden. He also called Yovanovitch “bad news.”
Democrats have opened an impeachment inquiry into Trump’s actions towards Ukraine. Several U.S. diplomats who have testified in the inquiry have lamented that Trump outsourced his policy regarding Ukraine to Giuliani.
The New York Times reported on Oct. 12 that Giuliani is also under investigation over his Ukraine work.
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