EXPLAINED: The Soviet Jews At The Center Of Trump, Giuliani’s Ukraine Obsession
Two Soviet-born, Florida-based men were indicted Thursday for suspicion of campaign finance violations, allegedly performed to benefit President Trump and his Republican allies and tied to a larger dirt-gathering campaign on his Democratic challenger Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter.
The men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, are known as Giuliani’s “Florida Fixers” by the Associated Press. They also have deep ties to the Jewish community and make regular trips to Israel. This summer, the two brought along short-term Trump Press Secretary Anthony Scaramucci and former Arkansas Governer Mike Huckabee, according to Jewish Insider. In March, the National Council of Young Israel awarded the pair during their annual gala - a decision which prompted the organization to reconsider its awards criteria when it was revealed the two were wanted for questioning before Congress last week. They also visited the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s grave with Giuliani.
Here’s a timeline:
1. October 2016 - May 2018 - The Money Starts Flowing
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are businessmen and Republican donors based in the Sunshine State. Parnas co-founded a business called “Fraud Guarantee,” Fruman owns a club called “Mafia Rave.” As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Parnas made his first political donation of around $100,000 to Trump and other Republicans two weeks before the 2016 election. In October, Robert Pereira, the host of an October fundraiser in Hillsboro, Fl., recalls Parnas introducing himself to Giuliani and Trump. Following this initial donation, the money kept coming, and the two donated around $1 million, reaching a notable peak in May of 2018.
2. Summer 2018 - Getting in Deeper
According to the Justice Department’s website, Parnas and Fruman gained access to political events with Republican politicians beginning around May 2018. That month, they dined at the White House and hobnobbed with Donald Trump, Jr. at a fundraising breakfast in Beverly Hills, Calif. While Parnas and Fruman were getting more involved in Republican politics, a new idea was just emerging, which would expand the role the two could play for the president.
3. March 2018 - On the Bidens and Ukraine
Nearly two years ago,, Breitbart editor Peter Schweizer, in his March 2018 book “Secret Empires,” introduced the idea that Joe Biden, while vice president, pushed for the removal of Ukrainian Prosecutor Viktor Shokin for looking into Burisma, a gas company on whose board Joe Biden’s son Hunter served. Biden said he wanted Shokin out because he didn’t do enough to fight corruption. An existing investigation into Burisma was dormant during Shokin’s tenure, according to the New Yorker. Nonetheless, the theory caught on, and by late 2018 Giuliani was looking into it, aided by Parnas and Fruman, according to the Journal.
4. Late 2018 - Giuliani’s Fixers
By late 2018, the men were introducing Giuliani to Ukrainian prosecutors. Parnas worked to gather information on the business interests of Hunter Biden in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Giuliani was reportedly retained for hundreds of thousands of dollars by Parnas’ company Fraud Guarantee. Giuliani told The Times his payments were for business and legal advice.
5. July 2018 - Fall 2018 - A Scheme Is Hatched
According to the Justice Department, around July 2018, Parnas, Fruman and two other men — David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin — arranged for an unnamed foreign national, who has “Russian roots,” according to a court filing, to wire money for campaign contributions from overseas, which is illegal. The plot involved a number of transfers and a lot of scheduling designed to obscure the source of the donations and to dodge giving limits. The biggest transfers were scheduled for the fall. According to U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman, Parnas, Fruman and the other two men sought political influence “to advance the political interests of … a Ukrainian government official who sought the dismissal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.” That ambassador, Marie L. Yovanovitch, who was dismissed in May. She testified in front of Congress about the circumstances of her dismissal on Friday, October 11.
6. October 9, 2019 - Arrested and Indicted for Funneling Foreign Money
On Wednesday, Parnas and Fruman were arrested at Dulles Airport in Virginia. The men were indicted Thursday for conspiring to funnel foreign money into Republican campaigns, according to a court filing unsealed on Thursday and contributed to a Trump Super-PAC through a company, LLC Global Energy Producers, to avoid reporting the donation. Their co-conspirator Kukushkin, was apprehended in California. Correia remains at large.
7. October 10, 2019 - Court Filing Alleges Pressure on Congressman to Remove Ambassador
The New York Times identified “Congressman-1,” noted anonymously in the indictment, as Texas Congressman Pete Sessions. Parnas and Fruman are alleged to have persuaded Sessions through donations to his campaign to push the Trump administration for the removal of Yovanovitch. Sessions wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to complain about Yovanovitch’s performance. The Associated Press reported that Yovanovitch was ousted for urging Giuliani to use official channels to communicate with Ukrainian officials.
8. October 9, 2019, Lunchtime - A Last Minute Nosh
According to the Wall Street Journal, Parnas, Fruman and Giuliani were seen having lunch together at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, hours before their arrest.
PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture fellow. He can be reached at Grisar@Forward.com.