Businessmen with ties to Rudy Giuliani lobbied a U.S. congressman for help ousting the American ambassador to Ukraine around the same time they committed to raising money for the lawmaker. An indictment unsealed Thursday identified the lawmaker only as “Congressman 1.” The donations described in the indictment match campaign finance reports for former Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), who lost his re-election bid in November 2018, the Associated Press reports. Sessions, who has been weighing a comeback, is not accused of wrongdoing and denied that he was aware of what federal prosecutors allege was a coordinated effort to remove Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. He now finds himself entangled in the impeachment investigation centered on President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine as well as Giuliani’s relationships in the former Soviet republic.
The indictment was made public after the arrest of two Florida businessmen with ties to Giuliani. It alleges that Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman leveraged a flurry of GOP political donations in a campaign to force Yovanovitch’s removal, an effort prosecutors say was aided by laundered foreign money. Parnas and Fruman’s outsized political giving allowed the two entrepreneurs to win access to the highest levels of the Republican Party — including face-to-face meetings with Trump at the White House and Mar-a-Lago. Parnas and Fruman were arrested Wednesday evening as they attempted to board an overseas flight at Dulles International Airport in Washington. Correia, and another man, a Ukrainian-born U.S. citizen named Andrew Kukushkin, are also charged in the case. Columbia University Law Prof. Richard Briffault said loopholes in U.S. law make it harder to detect foreign actors trying to influence the U.S. political system by funneling money through shell companies to super PACS.