This week, two associates of President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani were abruptly arrested at a D.C.-area airport as they attempted to leave the country. The men — Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — have been charged with a campaign finance law violation scheme that included them funneling at least $1 million from a Russian businessman into the campaigns of U.S. politicians — which it should go without saying is illegal, besides utterly outlandish in terms of the scope of what’s going on.
The FBI’s William Sweeney explained at a press conference:
‘These allegations are not about some technicality, a civil violation, or some error on a form. This investigation is about corrupt behavior, deliberate lawbreaking.’
The watchdog group Common Cause’s Paul S. Ryan added:
‘Today’s indictments, though, likely represent only the tip of the iceberg in terms of foreign meddling in general but also by Parnas and Fruman. Both men were also heavily involved in the efforts by the White House and President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate unsubstantiated allegations against Trump’s political rival Joe Biden.’
It’s true — they helped connect Giuliani with figures like former Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin, who those in the president’s orbit claim as the figure that former Vice President Joe Biden pushed out of office to benefit his family and particularly his son Hunter, who worked with a company Shokin had been investigating. There’s no evidence of this, however — but that hasn’t stopped the president from repeating the conspiracy theory over and over and over again.
Fruman and Parnas also apparently pressured now former Republican Congressman Pete Sessions — who also served at one point as chair of the Republican Party’s main Congressional campaigning arm — to try and get now former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch fired, apparently at the direct urging of a so far not publicly named Ukrainian government official. Sessions complied, sending a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking for the removal. Although that’s not the only source of contention with Yovanovitch, Trump eventually ordered removed reportedly because he perceived her as blocking his efforts to get Ukraine to try and procure dirt on the Bidens.
Former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman shared:
‘To a prosecutor’s eye, this really looks increasingly like one big scheme, overseen by Trump and Giuliani, to obtain illegal assistance from Ukraine in the 2020 election.’
Fruman and Parnas also poured more money than they were allowed to into the campaign of a Congressman believed to be that Texas Republican Pete Sessions, who was defeated by a Democrat in 2018 but is currently running for Congress again.
The pair had been scheduled to testify to Congress about their role in the growing Ukraine scandal on the day that they were trying to leave the country, but it’s certainly not a given that they were actually going to show up. Setting up another potential court battle, House Democrats, who have launched an impeachment inquiry over the Ukraine scandal, have issued subpoenas for Fruman and Parnas alongside subpoenas for Giuliani and others.
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