The ongoing Ukraine scandal involving President Donald Trump took a dramatic turn in October when two associates of personal Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani were abruptly arrested at the D.C.-area Dulles International Airport shortly before they boarded a plane with one-way tickets to Europe. Now, CNN has helped reveal some details of what federal prosecutors have been looking into involving those two associates, the Soviet-born but now Florida-based businessman Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. The outlet explains that Fruman specifically cited his now under scrutiny, massive political donations as meant to garner support for personal business ventures.
In other words, a close associate of a high-profile personal lawyer for the president of the United States was attempting to use seemingly illegal money funnels to get politicians to support his personal business.
‘Igor Fruman, the Soviet-born South Florida businessman at the center of a federal campaign finance probe involving the President’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, said he put more than $300,000 in political donations on company credit cards in hopes of jump-starting a new business, according to a court hearing transcript obtained by CNN. Fruman, testifying with the aid of a Russian interpreter, said he did so because his New York-based firm FD Import & Export, to which he charged the donations, was “going out of business” and he needed to promote a new company “in order for my family not to drown.”‘
The hearing at which Fruman revealed these motivations involved the financial support he had been providing to his estranged wife, Yelyzaveta Naumova. Apparently, at the hearing, Fruman explained that the $300,000 in donations went out between February 20, 2018 and June 26, 2018, which is approximately the same time period that federal prosecutors have been looking at. They’ve said that their focus is on donations that began around May 2018.
Fruman and Parnas have both been charged with federal campaign finance law violations for their scheme, which included attempted apparent support of a joint venture involved in cannabis production. For that effort, they funneled as much as $2 million to politicians across the U.S. that had at least in part come from a so far still officially anonymous Russian national. Other elements of their scheme include using the wrong name on paperwork in an attempt to get around individual contribution limits for then-Texas Congressman Pete Sessions, who the pair were pressuring to try and get then-Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch fired.
At a hearing last month, a lawyer for one of them directly suggested Trump himself could also be involved in the case.
The New York Daily News notes:
‘After the two men entered their pleas, Edward MacMahon, an attorney for Parnas, said some of that information could be protected by attorney-client privilege as it relates to Giuliani and executive privilege as it relates to Trump.’
Fruman and Parnas have both been subpoenaed by House impeachment investigators, but it’s definitely unclear if either one of them will actually be appearing to testify. In the meantime, investigators continue to gather evidence implicating the president in a scheme to exchange military aid for dirt on the Bidens from Ukraine.