Two associates of Rudy Giuliani connected to efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden have been arrested and indicted on criminal charges for allegedly funneling foreign money into US elections.
The charges against the men suggest Giuliani's push on Ukraine and President Donald Trump's receptiveness to it had ties to an illegal effort to influence US politics and policy using foreign funds. The indictment involves two people central to the impeachment inquiry in the House.
The two Giuliani-linked defendants, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, were detained at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington on Wednesday and are scheduled to appear in court in Virginia at 2 p.m. ET Thursday.
Overall, four men were indicted Thursday on two counts of conspiracy, one count of false statements to the Federal Election Commission and one count of falsification of records. The four are alleged in the indictment unsealed by New York federal prosecutors to have conducted a scheme beginning in March 2018 to evade campaign finance laws.
Along with Fruman and Parnas, Andrey Kukushkin has been arrested and is expected to appear in court Thursday in the Northern District of California, according to the Manhattan US Attorney's office. The fourth man, David Correia, hasn't been arrested. All four are US citizens, according to the indictment.
Parnas was Giuliani's fixer in Ukraine, introducing him to current and former officials as far back as 2018, according to CNN's reporting .
Starting in November 2018, Giuliani told CNN, Parnas and Fruman introduced him to former and current Ukrainian officials who provided information that Giuliani claims is damaging to some of Trump's political enemies, including Biden. House Democrats have subpoenaed documents from Giuliani relating to those interactions.
The request from Congress is the second set of subpoenas linking Giuliani and other Trump affiliates to Parnas. The first set, part of a lawsuit filed in federal court in Florida earlier this year, sought Parnas' financial records and included a request for any work he may have done on Giuliani's behalf.
They gave hundreds of thousands in donations to a Trump-allied super PAC, according to the Miami Herald .
The Wall Street Journal first reported the arrests.
Fruman and Parnas asked a US congressman to help get the US ambassador to Ukraine fired at the same time that they were committing to raise tens of thousands of dollars for that congressman's re-election effort, according to the indictment. Parnas made their request to the congressman, who is not named, in part at the behest of one of more Ukraine government officials, the indictment states.
The ambassador at the time, Marie Louise Yovanovitch, was eventually recalled in May after earning the ire of Trump and other conservatives, who viewed her as biased against the President.
Yovanovitch has become one of the central figures in the ongoing impeachment effort in the House and is expected to appear before lawmakers for a deposition on Friday.
As they sought to raise a promised $20,000 for the congressman, Fruman allegedly made a donation to the lawmaker in Parnas' name to skirt limits on individual donations, in violation of campaign finance law, the indictment says.
America First Action, the super PAC, told CNN in a statement they have not used the donation made by the men.
"America First Action placed that contribution in a segregated bank account, it has not been used it for any purpose and the funds will remain in this segregated account until these matters are resolved," America First Action's spokeswoman Kelly Sadler said in a statement. "We take our legal obligations seriously and scrupulously comply with the law and any suggestion otherwise is false."
Push for marijuana retail licenses
Part of the alleged scheme revolved around an effort to curry favor with politicians who could help them win licenses for a retail marijuana business they hoped to establish. The business venture and the ensuing lobbying effort was largely funded by a Russian national, running afoul of campaign finance violations that prohibit political donations from foreigners, the indictment states.
The Russian is not named but identified in court documents as a businessman. At one point, Kukushkin is quoted in the indictment discussing ways to hide the funder's "Russian roots" because of the "current political paranoia about it."
Parnas and Fruman, as well as the two other defendants, are said to have drafted a chart that outlined a "multi-state license strategy," planning for $1 to $2 million dollars in political donations to federal and state committees that were backed by the Russian national.
The foreign national eventually made wire transfers totaling $1 million to Fruman and another unnamed individual last year, and the defendants used those funds to make donations to a number of political candidates in Nevada that they thought could help further their plans for the marijuana business, the indictment says.
The marijuana business never actually came to fruition, according to the indictment.