Key facts and latest news
- The indictment of two foreign-born men with ties to the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani revealed a sprawling alleged effort to influence American politics and oust a U.S. ambassador.
- The two men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, are accused of funneling foreign money to numerous candidates and committees, including a super PAC supporting the president and a U.S. congressman.
- On a July call between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, President Trump urged Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.
- Soon after the July call, White House officials moved a record of the call to a highly classified computer system, severely restricting who could access it.
Washington — Two foreign-born men who helped the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani in his efforts to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden have been arrested on federal campaign finance charges, with prosecutors describing a sprawling effort to funnel foreign money into the American political process at the behest of Ukrainian officials.
The men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, are both U.S. citizens, according to an indictment brought by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. Parnas was born in Ukraine, while Fruman was born in Belarus, prosecutors said. Two other men, David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin, also face charges.
The indictment alleges the pair concealed the foreign source of hundreds of thousands of dollars in foreign money that eventually went to candidates and committees.
Prosecutors allege the men enlisted a U.S. congressman to seek the ouster of the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, who was prematurely recalled from her post earlier this year. The president called the ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, “bad news” in his July phone call with the Ukrainian president that’s at the center of House Democrats’ impeachment probe.
Yovanovitch, who is still a State Department employee, was scheduled to be deposed by the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry on Friday morning.
Parnas and Fruman were arrested Wednesday evening at Dulles International Airport outside Washington as they were awaiting one-way flights out of the country. They appeared briefly in federal court in Virginia Thursday afternoon and were granted conditional $1 million bond packages, but remain in custody.
Fiona Hill to testify about Giuliani and Sondland
When former National Security Council official Fiona Hill testifies before Congress on Monday, she is expected to tell lawmakers that President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland actively avoided her and the NSC process and ran their own Ukraine policy, a source familiar with Hill told CBS News.
Hill, who is testifying voluntarily, does not intend to hand over documents or texts. She officially left the White House in July, but before the July 25 call between Mr. Trump and Zelensky took place. Hill is an authority on Russia and has written a book on the Russian president, called “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin.”
Lawyers ask if whistleblower can answer questions in writing
Lawyers for the whistleblower have requested “interrogatories” — or written questions for their client to answer — from the intelligence committees, people familiar with the request tell CBS News.
The request was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
One of the people said the Senate Intelligence Committee is “working through it.” — Olivia Gazis
Trump says he doesn’t know Parnas or Fruman
Speaking to reporters before departing for a rally in Minneapolis, Mr. Trump said that he does not know Parnas or Fruman, although he acknowledged he may have taken a photograph with one of them. BuzzFeed News published a photo showing Parnas and Mr. Trump in a Facebook post from July.
“I don’t know those gentlemen,” Mr. Trump said, adding that while he may have a photo with Parnas, “I have pictures with everybody.”
“You’ll have to ask Rudy,” Mr. Trump said about the two, referring to Giuliani. — Grace Segers
Former congressman denies knowledge of scheme described in indictment
Former Congressman Pete Sessions, who received large donations from the super PAC backed by Fruman and Parnas, said in a statement Thursday that he had no knowledge of the scheme described in the indictment against the two. While in Congress, Sessions questioned the fitness of former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, whom Giuliani hoped to have removed.
The contributions to Sessions by the super PAC, America First Action, were first reported by The Daily Beast on Wednesday.
In his statement on Thursday, Sessions said that he could not confirm whether he was the congressman mentioned in the indictment, but that he “will vigorously defend myself against any allegations of wrongdoing.”
“If I am ‘Congressman One’, I could not have had any knowledge of the scheme described in the indictment or have involvement or coordination of it,” Sessions said. — Grace Segers
Parnas and Fruman granted $1 million bond
In a brief court appearance Thursday, a federal judge in Virginia approved $1 million bond packages for both Parnas and Fruman, but the men will remain in custody until they meet the conditions of the bond and complete the proper paperwork.
The terms of their release are as follows:
- $1 million bond for each, secured with property.
- Both will remain under house arrest and be subject to GPS location monitoring.
- Any travel must be approved by pretrial services ahead of time, and travel is restricted to the Southern District of New York and the Southern District of Florida, and they must get approval to go back and forth.
- They cannot discuss the case with each other without their respective counsel present.
- They are required to have a third-party custodian to ensure the conditions are met. They are likely to have separate custodians who must be identified to the court.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael S. Nachmanoff said he was “reluctant to impose” the terms given the “unusual situation” surrounding the case. But federal prosecutor Nicholas Roos said the government felt the conditions were sufficient to “guard against the potential flight risk.”
Kevin Downing, an attorney representing the pair, told CBS News they are not expected to be released tonight, given the amount of paperwork required to satisfy the court’s requirements.
Nachmanoff said both men may be “stuck in limbo” for a few days as the court processes their paperwork and pretrial services can approve co-signers and third party custodians. They’re scheduled to appear before a judge in New York next Thursday.
Both men have already surrendered their passports and told the court they have no other travel documents. — Clare Hymes and Bryce Klehm
House committees subpoena Rick Perry
The three House investigating committees issued a subpoena to Secretary of Energy Rick Perry Thursday demanding documents related to his involvement with Ukraine.
“Recently, public reports have raised questions about any role you may have played in conveying or reinforcing the President’s stark message to the Ukrainian President,” the chairmen wrote in a letter. “These reports have also raised significant questions about your efforts to press Ukrainian officials to change the management structure at a Ukrainian state-owned energy company to benefit individuals involved with Rudy Giuliani’s push to get Ukrainian officials to interfere in our 2020 election.”
Perry was tapped to lead the delegation to Zelensky’s inauguration in place of Vice President Mike Pence, and met with various Ukrainian officials, including Zelensky, several other times.
The White House counsel said Tuesday that no members of the executive branch would cooperate with Democratic demands for documents or testimony. — Stefan Becket
Giuliani’s attorney says indictment does not involve client “in any way”
Jon Sale, Giuliani’s attorney, said in a statement Thursday to CBS News that the indictment of Parnas and Fruman has nothing to do with the former mayor.
“The indictment does not involve Mayor Giuliani in any way. At one point he represented those two men as a lawyer, so that is privileged. He only knew [them] because they were his clients,” Sale said. — Paula Reid
Ukrainian president says he never met with Giuliani associates
Zelensky told reporters in Ukraine on Thursday that he has never met Parnas or Fruman.
“I never met these two men. I heard about them,” Zelensky said during a marathon press conference, adding he never had any phone calls with them either.
The indictment against Parnas and Fruman alleges the pair met numerous times with a member of Congress to urge the ouster of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, working at the direction of Ukrainian government officials. –– Grace Segers
Giuliani associates were arrested while awaiting one-way flight out of U.S.
Parnas and Fruman were arrested at Dulles International Airport outside Washington on Wednesday evening as they were about to board an international flight on one-way tickets, according to U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman, who said at a press conference that protecting the integrity of U.S. elections from foreign influence is of primary importance to his office.
“This investigation is about corrupt behavior — deliberate law breaking,” said William Sweeney, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York office. — Kathryn Watson