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Giuliani helper pleads guilty to violating campaign finance laws

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 9/10/2021
Rudy Giuliani, John Catsimatidis are posing for a picture: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. © Robert Bumsted Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

NEW YORK — A Soviet-born businessman who assisted Rudy Giuliani in his Ukrainian political efforts on behalf of then-president Donald Trump pleaded guilty on Friday to violating campaign finance laws, as others charged in the case prepare to stand trial.

Igor Fruman, 56, who was arrested with co-defendant Lev Parnas at Dulles International Airport in 2019, entered a guilty plea to one count of soliciting foreign campaign contributions and is expected to be sentenced on Jan. 21 by US District Court Judge J. Paul Oetken.

Prosecutors previously said there were two wire transfers from a Russian national totaling $1 million — in September and October 2018 — given with the expectation that the money would be donated to politicians in states where Fruman and his business associates believed they could get retail marijuana licenses.

In federal court in Manhattan, Fruman admitted to knowing he could not make donations to candidates in US elections on behalf of a foreign national. In a statement he drafted with his attorney, Fruman called the straw donor “an experienced investor in the cannabis space” and said the business plan involved making donations to “government officials” in states where marijuana was legalized.

One of his partners, whom Fruman didn’t name, made a list of Democrat and Republican candidates whom they should donate to, according to the prepared admission.

“At that time I had little experience in the rules surrounding political donations,” said the statement Fruman read in court through a mask. “But I generally understood that foreign nationals and individuals who were not American citizens were not allowed to make political donations in the United States.”

Fruman’s attorney, Todd Blanche, said in a statement after the court appearance that his client “is not cooperating with the government and has determined that this is the fairest and best way to put the past two years of his life behind him.”

Per his agreement with prosecutors, Fruman only had to plead to one count out of several charged in the indictment. He faces a maximum of 46 months in prison.

Parnas and another man, Andrey Kukushkin, are slated to go on trial next month on several charges stemming from efforts to influence US elections on behalf of foreign interests through donations.

Parnas and Fruman’s ties to Giuliani played prominently in Trump’s first impeachment proceeding, in which the president was accused of abusing his authority by threatening to withhold $400 million in military aid from Ukraine if officials there did not announce a criminal investigation into candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Giuliani allegedly recruited Parnas and Furman to search for intelligence overseas that would incriminate Biden in advance of the 2020 election.

Giuliani has not been charged in connection to the alleged scheme but is the subject of an investigation by the US attorney in Manhattan, which is prosecuting the Parnas and Fruman case.

The former New York mayor and prosecutor, who once headed the prestigious office that now has him under a microscope, has vehemently maintained his innocence. Investigators are evaluating whether Giuliani violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act in his interactions on behalf of his presidential client.

In April, a search warrant was executed at Giuliani’s home and law offices in Manhattan, and FBI agents collected a number of electronic devices.

Oetken has appointed a special master to sort through the contents of the phones and computers for any communications that may be protected by attorney-client privilege.


Video: Guilty plea from Giuliani associate likely sends chill through parts of Trumpworld (MSNBC)

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WASHINGTON POST

Christie critical of Trump-led Republican Party

Without ever mentioning Donald Trump by name, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie gave a stinging critique of the Republican Party the former president leads, saying it must focus on the truth and not conspiracy theories and false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

“Pretending we won when we lost is a waste of time, and energy and credibility,” Christie said in a speech on Thursday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, part of a speaker series on the future of the GOP.

Trump has refused to accept his loss to Joe Biden in last November’s presidential election, continuing to claim, falsely, that voter fraud set in motion by a Democratic conspiracy denied him a second term. In the wake of Trump’s accusations, Republican governors and legislatures in several states have enacted restrictions on voting.

Christie, who ran unsuccessfully against Trump in 2016 and has said he wouldn’t rule out running again in 2024 even if the former president enters the race for the White House, as he has teased, said Republicans must “stop wallowing in the past” and “free ourselves from the quicksand of endless grievances.”

Citing the struggle against the far-right John Birch Society by Reagan and the conservative editor and author William F. Buckley in the 1960s, Christie, a United States attorney before becoming governor, said the GOP must discredit extremists and conspiracy theories to offer credible alternatives to Democrats and win midterm elections in 2022 and the White House in 2024.

“We need to renounce the conspiracy theorists and the truth deniers — the ones who know better, and the ones who are just plain nuts,” Christie said, singling out supporters of QAnon, a collection of groundless allegations that took hold during the Trump years.

Christie also decried what he described as the politics of getting support by saying “a bunch of things that aren’t true” and “bending to the will of any one person rather than advocating ideas for the good of all people” — a veiled reference to Trump.

“No man, no woman, no matter what office they’ve held or wealth they’ve acquired, are worthy of blind faith or obedience,” Christie said.

Former House Speaker Paul Ryan spoke at the library in May as part of the speaker series and said the GOP needs to avoid culture wars and move beyond Trump. In his address at the library in June, former vice president Mike Pence defended his acceptance of Electoral College votes cast for Biden on Jan. 6 against Trump’s wishes, saying he was proud to fulfill his duty.

BLOOMBERG

Trump appointees bounced from military academy boards

WASHINGTON — Eighteen Trump administration appointees serving on the advisory boards of military service academies have either resigned from their positions or were terminated, following a request from the Biden administration earlier this week, a White House official said Friday.

The appointees had been serving on the advisory boards of the Air Force Academy, Naval Academy, and US Military Academy at West Point, with six on each board, according to the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Among the Trump appointees were former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, and former national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

On Wednesday, the White House defended the move, arguing that it was about qualifications and values, not politics.

“The president’s objective is what any president’s objective is: to ensure you have nominees and people serving on these boards who are qualified to serve on them and who are aligned with your values,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. “And so, yes, that was an ask that was made.”

The boards are composed of members of Congress and presidential appointees. Board members serve for three years in an advisory capacity.

Conway had been appointed to the Air Force Academy Board of Visitors. Spicer, a Navy Reserve commander, had been serving on the Naval Academy’s advisory board. McMaster had been appointed to the advisory board at the US Military Academy; the retired US Army lieutenant general is a West Point graduate and previously taught history there.

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