Trumpworld's crimes are coming so fast it's hard to keep up
It has been a whirlwind week of scoops arising out of, or at least related to, Stupid Watergate.
According to NBC, "Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, two foreign-born donors who gave money to a political action committee supporting President Donald Trump, were arrested Wednesday night and face charges tied to campaign-finance violations."
Fruman and Parnas worked with Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney, Giuliani has previously said, as part of his dealings in Ukraine that involved efforts to encourage the nation to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Parnas is Ukrainian, while Fruman is Belarusian, according to the indictment unsealed Thursday.
According to the indictment, filed in the Southern District of New York, the two men, along with fellow defendants David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin, "conspired to circumvent the federal laws against foreign influence by engaging in a scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates for federal and state office so that the defendants could buy potential influence with candidates, campaigns, and the candidates' governments."
The indictment describes an elaborate scheme to conceal the real source of the political donations through the use of secret agreements, limited liability corporations and straw donors.
The defendants deceived "the candidates, campaigns, federal regulators, and the public by entering into secret agreements, laundering foreign money through bank accounts in the name of limited liability corporations, and through the use of straw donors ... who purported to make legal campaign contributions in their own names, rather than in the name of the true source of the fund," according to the document.
The story was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. We don't know if the men had any assistance setting up this "elaborate scheme" using LLCs and straw donors, but if any American did so that would amount to conspiracy to bypass campaign finance laws, and possibly fraud against the United States government. If any American knowingly solicited donations from foreign nationals, that would also be a crime. The two grifters made huge donations to America First Action, a Trump-aligned super PAC. Among its leadership is former Trump campaign advisor Corey Lewandowski, Linda McMahon, the wrestling honcho who serves as Small Business Administration chief under Trump and former sheriff and current belligerent wingnut David Clarke.
According to The Texas Tribune, another big beneficiary of Fruman's and Parnas's largesse was former Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, who lost a close race for re-election last year and is currently running for Congress in a different district.
Regarding Sessions, the indictment against the two men states that they “committed to raise $20,000 or more for a then-sitting U.S. Congressman” who is referred to in the court document as “Congressman-1.” The indictment goes on to state that the congressman “had been the beneficiary of approximately $3 million” in donations from a campaign committee. NBC News and other outlets identified that person as Sessions and reported that the committee was a Trump-aligned super PAC.
NBC identified it as America First Action.
Federal authorities alleged that around the same time, Parnas "sought Congressman-1's assistance in causing the U.S. government to remove or recall” the American ambassador to Ukraine at the time, Marie Yovanovitch. Yovanovitch was a well-regarded diplomat who came into disfavor within the Trump administration and was removed from her post earlier this year.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Sessions, in his capacity as House Rules Committee chairman, advocated for the ouster of Yovanovitch.
This is just one thread in the regime's unravelling. It comes as Democrats are taking a fresh look at an earlier weapons sale to Ukraine that coincided with the Ukrainian government announcing that it was dropping its investigations into Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
And this latest story dropped on the same day that Bloomberg reported that Trump "pressed then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to help persuade the Justice Department to drop a criminal case against an Iranian-Turkish gold trader who was a client of Rudy Giuliani." The trader, Reza Zarrab, "was being prosecuted in federal court in New York at the time on charges of evading U.S. sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program. He had hired former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Giuliani, who has said he reached out repeatedly to U.S. officials to seek a diplomatic solution for his client outside the courts."