“These men have given thousands and thousands of dollars of foreign money to American politicians, making fun of how they break the law along the way,” Flodr said in the prosecution’s opening statement. “Their crimes were blatant.… This is what secret foreign money infiltrating an American election looks like.”
The trial is expected to take jurors into the world of fundraising for high-budget political campaigns, including an intimate dinner with Trump at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, in April 2018 and a “leaders’ summit” that s ‘will be there two months later. Witnesses scheduled to testify for the prosecution include the head of fundraising for the pro-Trump America First Action super PAC, as well as former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt – the Trump-endorsed candidate to oust Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.) Next year.
Prosecutors said the politicians and fundraisers involved were unaware that the money came from overseas or that the names of donors reported in official documents obscured the true source of the funds.
As Parnas’ defense reported plans to claim he did not know foreign or “straw” donations were illegal, Flodr argued for jurors that the men’s attention to the details of licensing laws of marijuana jeopardized any possibility that they were unaware that the donations they made and arranged were against the law.
“You will see that this group paid close attention to laws legalizing marijuana, but chose to break the simple law on foreigners who do not donate in US elections, ”the prosecutor said.
Giuliani – who is not expected to testify – has denied committing wrongdoing, despite coming under close scrutiny in a related investigation into alleged violations of agent registration laws foreigners headed by the same prosecutors who oversaw the case against Parnas and supervised by the judge in charge of the case. ongoing trial, J. Paul Oetken, a person appointed by President Barack Obama.
In April, the FBI raided Giuliani’s home and office, seizing phones and other electronic devices as part of the foreign influence investigation.
The original indictment returned against Parnas and three other men in October 2019 claimed part of the ploy was to try to influence US officials to sack then-US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie. Yovanovich. Prosecutors quietly withdrew the allegation during a review of charges last year.
Giuliani has been deeply involved in efforts to oust Yovanovich, who was finally recalled in May 2019. The episode, and a related effort to get Ukraine to announce an investigation into then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, led to to Trump’s first impeachment by the House. and final acquittal by the Senate.
In recent weeks, prosecutors have sought to downplay the roles Giuliani and Trump were likely to play in evidence and testimony at trial, while defense attorneys warned the judge those names would come up frequently and many photos of the fundraising events in question show Giuliani or Trump.
Further, at the request of defense lawyers and with the prosecution’s consent, Oetken agreed to withdraw from the trial the charge most closely linked to Giuliani: the allegation that an anti-fraud company Parnas et al. Defendant Igor Fruman began, called “Fraud Guarantee”, was in itself a fraudulent scheme that men used to pay millions of dollars in their own personal expenses.
Fruman struck a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to the case last month, though plea bargaining does not require him to cooperate with the investigation. He awaits the conviction.
Another man charged with fraud, Florida businessman David Correia, pleaded guilty last year and is serving a one-year sentence in a North Carolina federal prison.
Giuliani also sought to distance himself from the case, saying he was not aware of any illegal campaign donations or fraud on the part of Parnas or Fruman. However, it is clear that he was far from being a mere acquaintance of the couple.
The former mayor admitted to having accepted consulting fees of $ 500,000 for work on the “Fraude Guarantee” company. Additionally, Giuliani was close enough to Parnas to invite him to attend the funeral of former President George HW Bush in December 2018. Video and photos show Giuliani and Parnas arriving together for the ceremony at the Washington National Cathedral, DC
Parnas’ attorney, Joseph Bondy, said his client had had lengthy discussions with prosecutors and the FBI in an attempt to reach a plea bargain in the case, but no such deal has ever been made. been concluded. It is not clear if Fruman intends to take a stand in his own defense, but if he does and contradicts any of his previous statements to prosecutors, they will be allowed to question him about his proposal to the government. .
Parnas also faces a second challenge at trial: Kukushkin, the only remaining co-accused who has not pleaded guilty, Apparently considering arguing to jurors that there was never a deal to make illegal donations to the campaign because Fruman still intended to steal the money.
At a hearing last week, Oetken warned Kukushkin’s attorney, Gerald Lefcourt, that the claim was not really a legal defense for his client, but the judge appeared to leave the door open for Lefcourt to attempt to to lay responsibility for any wrongdoing on Parnas.