Federal prosecutors on Wednesday described a “blatant” conspiracy by a business associate of former President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani to violate laws banning foreign donations to U.S. campaigns.
Lev Parnas, 49, is accused of illegally funneling more than $100,000 in funds from a Russian businessman into U.S. political campaigns and groups, including a political action committee controlled by Trump allies. Prosecutors say the donations were aimed at helping Parnas and wealthy Russian Andrey Muraviev get the permits needed to launch legal marijuana businesses in various states. Prosecutors also detailed another $325,000 donation by Parnas that they said was illegal.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Aline Flodr told the jury that Parnas and co-defendant Andrey Kukushkin knew what they were doing was against the law.
“These men shoveled thousands and thousands of dollars of foreign money to U.S. politicians, laughing about how they were breaking the law along the way,” Flodr said in the prosecution’s opening statement. “Their crimes were blatant. … That is what secret foreign money infiltrating an American election looks like.”
While the prosecutor avoided mention of Trump and Giuliani in her opening and even omitted the Republican affiliation of the candidates and groups that got the money, Parnas’ attorney Joseph Bondy was more direct with the jury about his client’s political allegiances. The defense lawyer said that Parnas became a fan of Trump and other GOP candidates, making and pledging big money to get access during the 2018 election cycle.
“That might not be some of our stride, but that’s what he was interested in,” Bondy