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Trump Denies Knowing Giuliani Associates Arrested On Campaign Finance Violations


Late yesterday, two men were arrested at Dulles Airport. They are businessmen, they are based in Florida, and they were arrested on campaign finance charges. Now, we're talking about this because the businessman worked with Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, and they were gathering information in Ukraine about former Vice President Joe Biden. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith is with us now with more.

Hey, Tam.


KELLY: Who are these men, and what exactly is their connection to Giuliani?

KEITH: Well, they are both clients of Giuliani's but also worked as fixers for him, in effect, as he worked to find information and to make connections with Ukrainian officials. One of them, Lev Parnas, spoke with our own Jeff Brady a couple of weeks ago. He said that he's known Giuliani socially for several years and that he actually set up several meetings that Giuliani had with Ukrainian officials.

KELLY: You mentioned he spoke to our Jeff Brady. He was - has been speaking to reporters and fielding calls from reporters because these two men had already come to the attention of Congress, which has wrapped them up in the impeachment inquiry. I mean, how did they fit into the whole timeline of what we know about Ukraine and whistleblower and impeachment and all of it?

KEITH: Right. So the way they fit in is that they were working with Giuliani in his efforts to convince Ukrainian officials to investigate Vice President Joe Biden, his son, a Ukrainian energy company that Biden's son worked for, as well as, as Giuliani is has put it, sort of the true origins of the Russia investigation into President Trump. There's conspiracy theories out there that the president has pushed forward and that Giuliani has pushed that somehow, Ukraine was actually responsible for hacking the emails.

Those are conspiracy theories that have no basis in fact. But both of these two men worked with Giuliani as he investigated and held meetings with Ukrainian officials. Earlier this year - January, February - Giuliani met in person both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S. with a top prosecutor in Ukraine.

KELLY: OK, so what exactly were they arrested for? I said this was campaign finance charges.

KEITH: That's right. So they were arrested at Dulles Airport - at the International Airport, allegedly with one way tickets out of the U.S. And they are charged with creating a company that was essentially a straw company that would be used to hide where the money was coming from for some pretty significant campaign donations. There was a $325,000 donation that they made to a pro-Trump superPAC, and it came from this company that they created. Also, they were - allegedly made personal donations - not allegedly. The campaign finance...

KELLY: Yeah. You can check the records.

KEITH: ...Documents are right there. You can find them. And according to the indictment, there is an unnamed congressman who they made contributions to. That won them several meetings with the congressman, and their goal, according to the indictment, was to get the congressman's help with pushing out the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, who ultimately was pushed out, in part by President Trump.

KELLY: And this unnamed congressman - not named, obviously, but if you cross-check it with campaign finance records, it appears this is Pete Sessions of Texas, who is no longer in Congress.

KEITH: That's right, and he's also tweeted about it, saying that he did meet with them but that he did nothing in his official duties at their behest.

KELLY: OK. Real quick, Tam - any response from President Trump?

KEITH: He says he doesn't know them and he's never heard of them, though there are pictures of him standing with them at a fundraiser. He says he takes pictures with lots of people, so don't read anything into it. He says, I don't know what Giuliani had to do with these guys. In fact, their attorney says that they were working with Giuliani for Trump.

KELLY: All right. Thank you, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome.

KELLY: NPR's Tamara Keith. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.