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Giuliani Associates Plead Not Guilty To Charges Of Making Illegal Campaign Donations

Two of Rudy Giuliani's associates appeared in federal court Wednesday in Manhattan, where they pleaded not guilty to charges of illegally funneling foreign donations to U.S. political candidates.

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are both U.S. citizens born in the former Soviet Union: Parnas in Ukraine, and Fruman in Belarus.

They face charges of conspiring to violate the ban on foreign donations and contributions in connection with federal and state elections, conspiring to make contributions in connection with federal elections in the names of others, and with making false statements and falsifying records.

Prosecutors say that last year, Parnas and Fruman began attending political fundraisers and making substantial contributions to candidates. They allegedly used a shell company to make a $325,000 donation to a SuperPAC called America First Action; they're also accused of raising money for the campaign of Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, who lost his reelection bid in 2018, as part of a scheme to have the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine removed from office.

The case is happening amid the larger impeachment inquiry into President Trump's alleged withholding of aid to Ukraine while pressuring it to investigate Joe Biden, Trump's potential 2020 rival. Investigators are exploring the nature of Rudy Giuliani's relationship to Parnas and Fruman as it relates to Ukraine.

Parnas and Fruman were arrested two weeks ago at Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., with one-way tickets out of the country.

Two other men, David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin, pleaded not guilty last week to charges that they worked with Parnas and Fruman to make illegal campaign donations in an effort to clear a path for a new recreational marijuana business.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.