It was already clear that the whole scheme that Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani had cooked up in Ukraine was to extort an entire nation and grossly distort U.S. foreign policy merely for the purpose of smearing Joe Biden. But a series of arrests and grand jury indictments on Thursday drove home the point that Giuliani wasn’t alone in his shuttle-shakedown between the U.S. and Ukraine. He had at least a pair of little helpers—who have now been indicted on charges of funneling foreign money into U.S. elections and attempted bribery.
There’s still a lot to learn, but midway through the day, what’s already clear is that Trump’s entire “anti-corruption team” in Ukraine was corrupt. And to make it sweeter, it appears that the money being funneled into U.S. campaigns, including Trump’s, came at least in part from “a foreign national Russian citizen and businessman.”
Here is the information available as of Thursday afternoon.
Four men were indicted on campaign finance violations, in particular for funneling money from foreign sources and soliciting a U.S. congressman for help in getting rid of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. The congressman has been unofficially identified as former Republican Rep. Pete Sessions. Two of the men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, have previously been identified by Rudy Giuliani as “clients.” Parnas and Fruman are now clients of another former Trump attorney, John Dowd, who represented them in legal filings on Thursday. Parnas accompanied Giuliani to a meeting with U.S. Ambassador Kurt Volker in July. Volker mentioned this meeting in his appearance before Congress, describing it as “a long conversation about Ukraine.” That conversation included both the effort to get Ukraine to launch an investigation into Joe Biden and efforts to secure an investigation into supposed Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 election.
Both Parnas and Fruman were involved in helping Guiliani “establish contacts” among current and former Ukrainian officials. That appears to include a former prosecutor who, temporarily, agreed to testify that Biden had done something wrong, before admitting that he was only trying to please Trump and Giuliani. According to the documents provided by Dowd, the two men worked for Giuliani “in connection with his representation of President Trump.”
Funding for some of the contributions made came from “a foreign national Russian citizen and businessman,” according to the indictment. The four men indicted, along with “others known and unknown,” are reported to have conspired together to pass donations from this unknown Russian to candidates for both state and federal office. Parnas and Fruman attempted to flee the country and were arrested at Dulles Airport after purchasing one-way tickets on an international flight. Another of those indicted, Andrew Kukushkin, was arrested in San Francisco.
Before running for the border, Parnas and Fruman had lunch with Rudy Giuliani. No details have yet emerged about discussion at that lunch, or whether Giuliani was aware of any pending legal action.
$325,000 from Parnas and Fruman went through an LLC set up to disguise the source of the contributions to America First Action PAC, a pro-Trump PAC where Donald Trump Jr is part of the leadership along with several former members of the Trump White House. In an afternoon briefing, the FBI called the actions both “corruption” and “deliberate law-breaking.” Though a set of grand jury indictments has been provided, the actually charging documents have not been produced. That leaves open the possibility that others may be charged — including Giuliani. Giuliani’s first response to the arrests was a statement that he didn’t believe the two men would “flip” on his, which is not exactly the first thought of someone uninvolved in crimes. The biggest point out of the afternoon press conference involving the U.S. attorney for Manhattan and the New York office of the FBI was that this remains an “ongoing investigation,” again suggesting that the last handcuff is yet to be deployed.
So, Russian money directed into U.S. campaigns by clients and associates of Rudy Giuliani who were working with him to convince Ukrainian officials into manufacturing dirt on Biden. And all of them working to get rid of Ambassador Yovanovitch and making that request directly to Rep. Pete Sessions after giving him substantial contributions. And they had lunch with Giuliani right before heading for the airport to try and flee the country.
That’s a whole bundle of hand-grenades for Giuliani, with several left over for Sessions, America First Action, and Donald Trump. Plus with “a foreign national Russian citizen and businessman” at the back of these dollars, maybe Robert Muller should come back for additional testimony.
Just when you think the train wreck can’t get worse, they bring in a whole new train.