When you’re defending yourself against allegations of corruption, as Donald Trump is, and are trying to make the case that you acted completely appropriately when you leaned on another country to investigate your political rival, it’s generally considered inadvisable for your personal attorney to be a key player in the plot that might get you impeached. For Rudy Giuliani that ship sailed quite some time ago. Still, up until today, Trump could at least say that his defense lawyer wasn’t, like, under criminal investigation or anything. That sort of thing is typically viewed as something of a distraction while trying to argue your innocence and, well, you can probably see where this is going.
ABC News reports that the business relationship between Giuliani and Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, the two men arrested Wednesday night as they tried to leave the country, is “a subject of the ongoing criminal investigation being conducted by federal authorities in New York,” according to people familiar with the matter. The investigation is being conducted by the FBI’s New York field office and the Southern District of New York, where, in a rather awkward twist, Giuliani worked before he became mayor. Parnas and Fruman, both born in former Soviet republics, were charged with conspiracy, falsification of records, and lying to the FEC about their political donation as part of an alleged scheme to “funnel foreign money to U.S. politicians in a bid to affect U.S.-Ukraine relations and launch a marijuana business,” according to the Washington Post. Giuliani, who like Trump, only surrounds himself with “the best” people, identified both men as clients back in May and had lunch with them at the Trump International Hotel in Washington hours before they were arrested. The former mayor’s work with the two men was reportedly related to, wait for it, Fraud Guarantee. Yes. Yes.
In addition to allegedly funneling foreign money to U.S. politicians—including, per their indictment, $325,000 to the pro-Trump super PAC American First Action through an LLC called Global Energy Producers that has since been placed in a segregated account—Parnas and Fruman are said to have played a valuable role in Giuliani’s attempt to dig up dirt on Joe Biden. According to the Wall Street Journal, the duo “introduced Mr. Giuliani to several current and former senior Ukrainian prosecutors to discuss the Biden case, acting as key conduits of information.” Parnas also accompanied Giuliani to a July breakfast meeting with Kurt Volker, then the U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations, who told House committees that Giuliani mentioned at the time that he was investigating Biden and 2016 election interference. Parnas and Fruman also allegedly sought the assistance of a U.S. congressman to help oust Marie Yovanovitch, the then U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who Giuliani told Trump was hampering his efforts to investigate Biden. And, because he was such a helpful guy, Parnas also reportedly arranged a Skype session between Giuliani and Viktor Shokin, the Ukrainian prosecutor who was pushed out in 2016 and who Giuliani and Trump have insisted was fired because he was looking into Burisma, the company on whose board Hunter Biden sat. (In reality, the investigation into Burisma had long since closed, and Joe Biden, along with many others, wanted Shokin fired because he was too easy on corruption.)
Speaking to the New York Times on Thursday, Giuliani initially appeared to acknowledge advising Fraud Guarantee and then said “I can’t acknowledge it’s Fraud Guarantee, I don’t think.” But he was happy to admit extensive ties to Parnas and Fruman, saying “I can acknowledge I gave them substantial business advice.” Giuliani added that he had no regrets about working with the two men, seemingly suggesting that there was a plot to take them down and, separately, that they were the only people willing to help him out with his deranged Biden campaign. “I have to presume they’re innocent,” he said. “There are a lot of motives going on trying to smear people, so I wouldn’t say that I regret it, no. Who else would I have turned to?” In what must have purely been a coincidence, Parnas and Fruman were arrested while trying to leave the U.S. on one-way tickets to Vienna, where Giuliani was also scheduled to travel last night.