Prosecutors indict Russian Trump donors on campaign finance charges


Two foreign-born Florida businessmen associated with U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have been arrested on suspicion of conspiring to funnel foreign money to U.S. political candidates, officials said on Thursday.

The Trump campaign declined to comment to NBC News. No destination was disclosed.

In another development, House Democrats issued a subpoena for a member of Trump's Cabinet, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, for documents over any role he may have played in Trump's effort to get Ukraine to investigate Biden.

The indictments mark the first criminal charges related to the Ukraine controversy.

Fruman and Parnas asked a U.S. congressman, who is not named in the indictment but appears to be former Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, to help get the USA ambassador to Ukraine fired at the same time that they were committing to raise tens of thousands of dollars for that congressman's reelection effort, according to the indictment.

Trump said Thursday that he hasn't spoken to Giuliani about the associates.

Both men donated to Republican campaigns, and gave $325,000 to America First Action, a pro-Trump super PAC in 2018. But wire transfer records that became public through a lawsuit show that the corporate entity reported as making the transaction was not the true source of the money. One of the allegations appears to refer to their efforts to lobby for the removal of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

Federal Magistrate Judge Michael Nachmanoff imposed a lengthy, strict set of conditions that Mr Parnas and Mr Fruman must meet to be released including each posting $US1 million bond and being placed on Global Positioning System monitoring in home detention. Rick Scott's campaign and $2,400 to Congressman Brian Mast.

A separate charge alleges the four defendants colluded with a Ukrainian national as part of a business venture to create a recreational marijuana company.

The two men were donors to a pro-Trump fundraising committee and the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has said they helped him as he sought to investigate former Vice President Biden and Biden's son Hunter.

The men were arrested around 6 p.m. Wednesday and booked at a local jail in Alexandria, Virginia.

The pair are expected to appear in federal court Thursday. Both have been under investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan.

The two men were arrested Wednesday evening at Dulles International Airport in Washington, they were waiting to board a one-way overseas flight. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

Parnas was Giuliani's fixer in Ukraine, introducing him to current and former officials as far back as 2018, according to CNN's reporting.

Prosecutors charge that the two men falsely claimed the contributions came from GEP, which was described as a liquefied natural gas business. At that point, the company had no income or significant assets, the indictment said. What it found to be true is that committees for Obama's reelection campaign "unknowingly received approximately $1.87 million in foreign contributions as a result of an alleged criminal conspiracy to funnel illegal donations to the campaign and hide their true source". Two other people were charged in the indictment, according to court documents.

The commitment to raise more than $20,000 for the congressman was made in May and June 2018. A spokesperson said in an email Thursday the money given to a political action committee would be returned to the federal government.