2 Giuliani Associates Tied to Ukraine Scandal Arrested on Campaign Finance Charges

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

2 Giuliani Associates Tied to Ukraine Scandal Arrested on Campaign Finance Charges

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, associates of President Trump’s personal lawyer, were also part of the pressure campaign on Ukraine to investigate Democrats.

ImageRudy Giuliani, left, and Lev Parnas at the Trump International Hotel in Washington last month.
Credit Aram Roston/Reuters

WASHINGTON — Two associates of the president’s private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who helped fund efforts to investigate one of President Trump’s political rivals, were charged in a separate case with violating campaign finance laws, according to court documents.

The two men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, believed to be important witnesses in the House’s impeachment inquiry of Mr. Trump, were arrested on campaign finance charges. The arrests and charges were first reported by The Wall Street Journal. Two other men, David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin, were also indicted.

Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman aided Mr. Giuliani’s efforts to gin up investigations in Ukraine into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden, among other potentially politically beneficial investigations for Mr. Trump. Mr. Parnas had been scheduled to participate in a deposition with House impeachment investigators on Capitol Hill on Thursday, and Mr. Fruman on Friday. Neither had been expected to show up voluntarily. House Democrats were preparing to issue subpoenas to force them to do so.

Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman were arrested and were expected to appear in court in Northern Virginia on Thursday, according to a spokesman in the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan.

The indictment said Mr. Parnas and Mr. Kukushkin are Ukrainian-born Americans, while Mr. Fruman was born in Belarus and became an American citizen. Mr. Correia is American-born. Mr. Kukushkin was arrested Thursday in California, and Mr. Correia was still at large, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman have acted as emissaries in Ukraine for Mr. Giuliani as he has sought to uncover information about, and encourage investigations into, Mr. Trump’s rivals, including Mr. Biden.

Mr. Parnas, who has known Mr. Giuliani for years, worked with Mr. Fruman to connect Mr. Giuliani to Ukrainian prosecutors who provided information to Mr. Giuliani, as The Times revealed in May.

Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman are based in South Florida, and are executives of an energy company that donated $325,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC last year, prompting a Federal Election Commission complaint by a nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog accusing the men and the company of violating campaign finance laws.

Last month, Mr. Giuliani sought to minimize the significance of the campaign finance inquiry into the two men.

“They had a campaign finance issue,” he said in an interview late last month. “I referred them to a campaign finance expert who pretty much resolved it.”

Their lawyer, John M. Dowd, who previously represented Mr. Trump against the special counsel’s inquiry, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the arrest.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Nicholas Fandos and Kenneth P. Vogel contributed reporting.

Correction: 

An earlier version of this article misstated the custody status of two men who were indicted. Andrey Kukushkin was arrested in California, and David Correia was still at large, not the reverse.

Eileen Sullivan is the morning breaking news correspondent in Washington. She previously worked for The Associated Press for a decade, covering national security and criminal justice. @esullivannyt

Adam Goldman reports on the F.B.I. from Washington and is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. @adamgoldmanNYT

William K. Rashbaum is a senior writer on the Metro desk, where he covers political and municipal corruption, courts, terrorism and broader law enforcement topics. He was a part of the team awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news. @WRashbaum  Facebook

Trump-Ukraine suspicions raise specters of collusion and impeachment

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER)

 

Trump-Ukraine suspicions raise specters of collusion and impeachment

Presidential impeachment looms, and perhaps even removal, because Donald Trump may have colluded after all.

Or, to use the correct legal terminology, maybe the president tried to engage in a “conspiracy” with a foreign government, to wit, an effort to use American assets in a quid pro quo arrangement to directly affect a national election and both nations’ systems of criminal justice.

This is what House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California and other Democrats suspect with regard to a whistleblower’s complaint that reportedly was “prompted by President Trump’s interactions with a foreign leader.”

The evidence already indicates a significant likelihood that the suspicions are correct. If — repeat, only if — the reports do prove true, then Trump is in massive trouble.

Granted, Schiff himself is hardly a reliable interpreter of events. He’s a far-left ideological enemy of Trump’s, a publicity hound prone to grandstandinggullibility, and prevarication. Still, even political hacks sometimes stumble upon important information.

What’s known is this: First, former Vice President Joe Biden is suspected by many in Trump world of having used undue influence to kill a Ukrainian investigation into potential illegalities by his son, Hunter. If Biden did so, that would almost surely be illegal and would by all reasonable standards make him unfit for the presidency.

It is not, however, obvious that Biden did what is suspected. Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani, though, obviously want Ukraine to r-open the investigation into Biden. It long has been evident that Trump world believes that among the current Democratic presidential candidates, Biden would be his most serious challenger. If Ukraine finds Biden actually did something wrong, or even if they publicly are investigating him, Trump’s reelection prospects surely would improve.

Hence, Giuliani’s now-admitted efforts to ask Ukraine’s current regime to ensnare Biden in a major investigation. If Giuliani did so at Trump’s request, which is certainly not far-fetched, that alone would be dicey behavior. As the United States is a key ally for Ukraine’s very survival, any implied pressure on it from someone acting for the president, on behalf of the president’s political interests, would be ethically questionable.

Yet Trump is now suspected of doing even worse, than that. A whistle blower filed a report to the inspector general for the U.S. intelligence community — a complaint the White House is withholding from Congress, but whose existence if not exact details are known — alleging an “urgent” matter arose from a “promise” Trump made in a phone call with a foreign leader. Available evidence makes it almost certain that the complaint involved July 25 call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, at a time when Trump was delaying a $250 million military assistance package for Ukraine already approved by U.S. law.

Trump subsequently allowed the aid to go forward.

In sum, Democrats suspect Trump conditioned the aid delivery on Ukraine’s willingness to investigate Biden.

Every bit of circumstantial evidence so far, including Giuliani’s similar mission and including a Ukrainian official summary of that July 25 phone call, makes that suspicion entirely plausible. If so, it would be a serious conspiracy indeed.

Substitute “Ukraine” for “Russia,” in this sentence from special counsel Robert Mueller’s explanation (p. 66) as to what potential crime he was investigating: “coordination or conspiracy … with respect to Russia providing assistance to the campaign in exchange for any sort of favorable treatment in the future.” In the new Ukraine case, the suspected quid pro quo is obvious and far worse than what Mueller investigated. If the president uses U.S. taxpayer-financed military supplies as, in effect, a bribe to induce a foreign government to harass the president’s domestic opponent, it’s a horrible crime.

If it is true, this is a scandal much worse than Watergate. If it’s true, Trump must be removed from office.

Rudy Giuliani: ‘No one really respects’ James Comey (In Fact No One Respects Rudy!)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK POST)
(As is normal, Rudy Giuliani has it backwards, every single person I have spoken to has absolutely ZERO RESPECT for Giuliani and total respect for Mr. Comey. But then again, THE TRUTH is never THE TRUTH with Giuliani!)(OPED by oldpoet56)

Rudy Giuliani: ‘No one really respects’ James Comey

Rudy Giuliani says “no one really respects” ex-FBI director James Comey “or wants to hear from him.”

The late-night put-down came Friday after Comey bashed Attorney General William Barr, tweeting that the AG is “sliming his own Department.”

“If there are bad facts, show us,” Comey’s tweet continued. “An AG must act like the leader of the Department of Justice, an organization based on truth. Donald Trump has enough spokespeople.”

Giuliani, one of Trump’s personal lawyers, made his retort about an hour later.

“Someone should tell Jim Comey no one really respects him or wants to hear from him,” the former New York City mayor tweeted. “The Dems wanted him fired when he violated DOJ ethics in slimming Hillary. Rs believe he committed perjury and abused his power as FBI Director.”

Barr on Friday vowed to uncover the origins of the investigation of the Trump campaign. He previously characterized the investigation of Trump staff as “spying.”

FILED UNDER   

Trump’s lies betray his desperation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE)

 

Column: 

Trump’s lies betray his desperation

Here’s what I hope Robert Mueller will conclude when he is done investigating Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign: The president is innocent of criminal wrongdoing. He did not know of or approve contacts with Russians to influence the election. His interactions with FBI Director James Comey and other Justice Departmentofficials never rose to the level of obstructing justice.

But it would require an extraordinary faith in Trump’s character and a stubborn disregard for his behavior to expect that outcome. If there is one inference to be drawn from everything he has done with respect to the investigation and the Russian government, it’s that he suffers from a powerful consciousness of guilt.

The latest came in a tweet expressing bitter regret that he didn’t choose someone other than Jeff Sessions for attorney general — because Sessions recused himself and therefore can’t send Mueller packing. Trump doesn’t want a fair and impartial investigation; he wants no investigation.

He insists over and over that there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians. But we already have evidence there was — in the form of guilty pleas by Trump aides Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos for lying to the FBI about their contacts with Russians.

We have evidence in the 2016 meeting hosted by son Donald Jr. and attended by son-in-law Jared Kushner with a Russian lawyer who had promised information from the Kremlin incriminating Hillary Clinton. Meeting secretly with Russians in hopes of cooperating for mutual benefit is collusion, whether illegal or not.

This week, we got confirmation that the statement Donald Jr. issued — claiming the meeting was primarily about adoption issues — was dictated by his father. When The Washington Post reported that last year, the White House denied the story. In a memo to Mueller obtained by The New York Times, however, Trump’s lawyers admitted it was true.

Yet he has insisted that “nobody’s found any collusion at any level.” The assertion is not only false; it’s flagrantly, obviously false.

Over and over, Trump has resorted to complaints, attacks and deceptions. He fired Comey ostensibly because of how the director mishandled the investigation of Clinton. But Trump went on to say repeatedly that he did it because of the Russia probe. Recently, though, he tweeted, “I never fired James Comey because of Russia!” Lying is generally not a manifestation of innocence.

His shifting position on being interviewed under oath by Mueller likewise betrays him. When the question first was posed, Trump declared himself “100 percent” willing. Or maybe it’s zero percent. In January, his lawyers sent a letter to Mueller rejecting the idea.

“Your office clearly lacks the requisite need to personally interview the President,” they told him. “Having him testify demeans the Office of the President before the world.” One of his lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, added another reason for this reluctance, expressing concern that Mueller might “trap him into perjury.”

But someone who tells the truth is in no danger of committing perjury. What Trump might be in danger of is admitting to crimes that could lead to his indictment or impeachment.

Giuliani, however, has not ruled out that Trump, if subpoenaed, might invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself. (Trump in 2016: “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”) Nor has Giuliani ruled out refusing to submit to a subpoena.

If that weren’t enough to indicate the president has a large pile of things to hide, Trump now claims the power to grant himself a full pardon. But a pardon would be necessary only if he is guilty of specific crimes.

It’s impossible to exaggerate his lawyers’ claims about his impunity. They say a president may not be indicted. Giuliani said Trump could not be indicted even “if he shot James Comey.”

The president can’t obstruct justice, his team insists, because the president has complete power over federal law enforcement. Anything he does in that realm is therefore legal.

Maybe his pattern of chutzpah and untruth is just the essence of his toxic character, which bubbles over no matter what. But more likely, the conduct of Trump and his attorneys reflects their knowledge that he is guilty of serious offenses and their fear that he will be exposed and punished. He looks like someone terrified of going to prison.

Even congressional Republicans say he won’t do anything so foolish as to fire Mueller or pardon himself. But desperate men do desperate things.

Steve Chapman, a member of the Tribune Editorial Board, blogs at www.chicagotribune.com/chapman.

[email protected]

Twitter @SteveChapman13

Following the Money in Trumpland Leads Ugly Places

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘NEW YORKER’ MAGAZINE)

 

 / THE NATIONAL CIRCUS

Following the Money in Trumpland Leads Ugly Places

By 

Michael Avenatti is doing what Woodward and Bernstein did: exposing the money trail. Photo: MSNBC

Most weeks, New York Magazine writer-at-large Frank Rich speaks with contributor Alex Carp about the biggest stories in politics and culture. Today, the meaning of Michael Avenatti’s disclosures, Trump’s decision to kill the Iran deal, and Rudy Giuliani’s media tour.

With Michael Avenatti’s revelation that the shell company Michael Cohen used for the Stormy Daniels payoff also received money tied to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg (as well as payments from other companies with government business), it looks like the two main threads of Donald Trump’s legal troubles may be part of the same story. Has Avenatti found the “collusion” that Trump has spent so much energy denying?

Avenatti, whose revelations have since been verified by the Times and others, is doing exactly what Woodward and Bernstein did in Watergate — following the money. By doing so he has unveiled an example of collusion so flagrant that it made Trump and Rudy Giuliani suddenly go mute: a Putin crony’s cash turns out to be an essential component of the racketeering scheme used to silence Stormy Daniels and thus clear Trump’s path to the White House in the final stretch of the 2016 election. Like the Nixon campaign slush fund that Woodward and Bernstein uncovered, this money trail also implicates corporate players hoping to curry favor with a corrupt president. Back then it was the telecommunications giant ITT, then fending off antitrust suits from the government, that got caught red-handed; this time it’s AT&T. Both the Nixon and Trump slush funds were initially set up to illegally manipulate an American presidential election, hush money included. But the Watergate burglars’ dirty tricks, criminal as they were, were homegrown. Even Nixon would have drawn the line at colluding with Russians — or, in those days, the Soviets — to sabotage the Democrats.

5 of the Most Blatantly Unethical Moves by the Trump Administration

I know some accuse Avenatti of being a media whore, but he’s the one media whore I can’t get enough of. He knows what he’s doing, he has the goods, and he is playing high-stakes poker, shrewdly, with what appears to be a winning hand. It is also entertaining to imagine how crazy he is driving Trump. In personality and presence he’s exactly the kind of take-no-prisoners television defender that Trump would want appearing with Sean Hannity in his defense. That was the point of the Mooch. That is the point of Rudy. Apparently that was even once the point of Michael Cohen. If Avenatti, as others have noted, is Billy Flynn from the musical Chicagothen Trump is left with Larry, Curly, and Moe.

Donald Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. from the Iran deal has drawn condemnation from European alliesBarack Obama, and scores of other experts. Will Trump face any political penalty for his choice?

Honestly, I doubt Trump will still be in office when the full fallout of this blunder is felt. The blunder, one should add, is not only to pull out of a deal that was working but also to have no “better deal” (or policy at all) to take its place. But the interesting political piece about both this decision and the onrushing summit with Kim Jong-un is that Trump has persuaded himself that big bold foreign policy moves, however harmful to America and its allies, will rescue him from the rampaging scandal at home. This, again, has a Watergate echo: As the revelations of White House horrors piled up during the midterm election season of 1974, Nixon decided to travel to Moscow, ostensibly a diplomatic mission in the cause of détente. This stunt didn’t stave off the wolves closing in on him in Washington, and the current regurgitation of this tactic won’t save Trump either.

At least Nixon had foreign-policy expertise. He wouldn’t have given away the store to the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. By contrast, there’s every reason to fear that Trump’s ignorant foray into Korea will make Neville Chamberlain’s performance at Munich look Churchillian. Kim is not an idiot; he will keep playing the American president for all he can, knowing that Trump needs a “win” abroad to counterbalance all his losses at home. And Trump’s desperation to make a “deal” with North Korea for his own personal political salvation gets visibly greater with every Michael Avenatti television appearance. Witness the president’s decision to turn up at Andrews Air Force Base at 2 a.m. tomorrow to personally greet the three American detainees that North Korea released today. That Trump thinks this photo op will be effective counterprogramming to Stormy Daniels suggests he’s now lost one talent he unassailably did possess, an intuitive knack for show business.

Even in non-corrupt modern presidencies, there’s little evidence that foreign-policy achievements sway voters. (Foreign-policy debacles — wars that devolve into quagmires, for instance — do move voters, but not in a good way.) In Trump’s case, his America First base could not care less if he wins one of those suspect foreign Nobel Prizes as meaningless as the one awarded Obama. The majority of Americans who are not in Trump’s base won’t care either. Meanwhile, nuclear proliferation and possibly war hang in the balance.

After subjecting the country to a week of the Rudy Giuliani media tour, Donald Trump is now considering sidelining the lawyer. Has Giuliani done more damage to his own reputation or to Trump’s defense?

Both Trump’s legal strategy (if there is one) and Rudy’s reputation were in tatters well before this frequently hilarious and wholly unhinged media tour. It’s an indicator of how much the Trump defense is in disarray that the White House thought it was a good idea to send Giuliani to last weekend’s Sunday shows even after nearly a full week of screwups. And the debacle just keeps rolling along: Just hours before Avenatti posted his bombshell yesterday, Rudy was firmly declaring that Michael Cohen “possesses no incriminating information about the president.”

There’s clearly not just a screw loose in Giuliani but a missing link in his story with Trump. Rudy was a fierce Trump defender during the campaign and lobbied vociferously for a Cabinet position during the transition. Twice he was considered for both secretary of State and secretary of Homeland Security, and twice he was rejected. What does that say about him when you consider that those who did make the cut to top Trump administration jobs included Michael Flynn, Ben Carson, Tom Price, Scott Pruitt, Betsy DeVos, and Ryan Zinke? What does Giuliani have for — or on — Trump that brought him into the fold now? Inquiring minds would like to know.

In any case, Trumpism has bequeathed America not merely a post-fact but post-rule-of-law culture. Rudy, like his boss, claims nonexistent extralegal privileges for presidents, dismisses FBI agents as “stormtroopers,” and endorses “rumor” as a legal strategy. I’d say his record for mad-dog lunacy is perfect were it not for the moment when he told Hannity that Jared Kushner is “disposable” — a judgment that no doubt reflects the view of Kushner’s father-in-law and is surely correct. That is our national Godfather replay at its best.