Trump donors charged in campaign finance case

This Facebook screen shot provided by The Campaign Legal Center shows from left Donald Trump Jr. Tommy Hicks Jr. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman posted

The two men were arrested Wednesday evening at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C.as they were waiting to board a one-way overseas flight. 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'.

Two other people who were charged in the indictment were David Correia, a USA businessman, and Andrey Kukushkin, a Ukrainian-born US businessman. Each was charged with two counts of conspiracy, one count of false statements and one of falsification of business records.

The documents say Parnas' efforts to have the USA ambassador removed were "conducted, at least in part, at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials". They made an initial appearance in court Thursday afternoon in Virginia.

Sessions lost his reelection bid in 2019. The campaign finance allegations against them are inextricably linked with that effort.

Giuliani and John Dowd, the lawyer for the two men, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Campaign Legal Center, a non-profit that favours campaign finance regulation, had urged a USA government agency in a July 2018 complaint to investigate whether Parnas and Fruman had broken the law by using a shell company to disguise the source of a $325,000 donation to a pro-Trump political action committee.

They have been peddling unsubstantiated corruption claims against Democratic White House contender Joe Biden.

In issuing the subpoenas, the House committee chairmen conducting the impeachment inquiry insisted that they appear to testify. "In order to hide from third parties, including creditors, their sources of funding and capital, Parnas and Fruman created a limited liability corporation, Global Energy Producers, and then intentionally caused certain large contributions to be reported in the name of GEP instead of in their own names".

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Mr Trump has denied wrongdoing and has described the impeachment probe as a partisan smear.

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.

Federal investigators say Parnas and Fruman sought to use foreign money to gain political influence.

Attorney General William Barr, who visited the Manhattan US Attorney's office Thursday in what officials said was a routine stop, was briefed on the investigation into Parnas and Fruman in February after he took office, and he supported the prosecution, according to a US Justice Department official. In fact, the company had no real business, the indictment added.

Mr Parnas and Mr Fruman were trying to buy political influence to help them set up recreational marijuana businesses, prosecutors said. Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for the president, said neither the president nor his campaign was aware of the alleged scheme.

"I do know both these gentlemen [Fruman and Parnas]", Sessions told OCCRP.

Parnas said any violations of U.S. Federal Election Commission rules were unwitting and a "clerical thing" because he was not an experienced political donor.

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