Two associates of Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney and campaign surrogate, were arrested Wednesday night and charged with campaign finance violations, the New York Times reports.
According to the Times, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two Ukrainian American businessmen, are executives of a South Florida-based energy company that donated $325,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC last year. This prompted a non-partisan campaign finance watchdog to file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, accusing the men and the company of violating campaign finance laws.
Parnas and Fruman also allegedly helped Giuliani press Ukraine to investigate former Vice-President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
As ESSENCE previously reported, during a July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump pushed Zelensky to investigate Biden for allegedly encouraging the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who had been investigating Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma, which previously employed Hunter Biden.
At least twice during the conversation, Trump told Zelensky that he would connect him with Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr to further discuss potentially investigating the Bidens.
According to ProPublica, Parnas and Fruman, whom Giuliani referred to as his “clients,” acted as emissaries, introducing the former New York City mayor to Ukrainian prosecutors. The men also went to Ukraine on Giuliani’s—and by, extension, Trump’s—behalf after he canceled a trip there following a New York Times article that revealed his travel plans.
“All we were doing was passing along information,” Parnas told Buzzfeed News at the time. “We’re American citizens, we love our country, we love our president.”
Both Parnas and Fruman, reportedly key witnesses in the impeachment inquiry of Trump, were scheduled to participate in a deposition with House investigators on Capitol Hill this week. Parnas was scheduled to appear on Thursday and Fruman on Friday under threat of subpoena by House Democrats.
Authorities have not stated whether or not there is a connection between Parnas’s and Fruman’s alleged campaign finance violation and their actions in Ukraine.