Trump impeachment: Text messages and images that could expose president's Ukraine dealings handed over to inquiry

Andrew Feinberg
Mr Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has coffee with Ukrainian-American businessman Lev Parnas: Reuters

One of Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani's Ukrainian-American allies has handed the House Intelligence Committee a trove of information that could shed more light on alleged efforts by the president to influence US foreign policy to his own political benefit.

Lev Parnas, one of two Giuliani associates who was arrested for alleged campaign finance violations in October, has given the committee a cache of "WhatsApp messages, text messages and images" which detail "interactions with a number of individuals relevant to the impeachment inquiry," his attorney Joseph Bondy said on Twitter Monday morning.

In addition, Mr Bondy said he and his client have also turned over the contents of one of his iPhones and another Samsung phone to the committee, though the information contained in them remains under a judge's protective order prohibiting its public disclosure. He added that he and Mr Parnas "will be working to provide the other materials" -- the contents of two more iPhones -- to the committee "as soon as possible".

The Florida-based former stockbroker is also seeking a court's permission to turn over "additional materials" from three more electronic devices to the committee, he added.

Federal agents arrested Mr Parnas and his business partner, Igor Fruman, on 9 October as the pair prepared to leave the country on one-way tickets to Vienna, Austria.

Prosecutors from the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York charged Mr Parnas and Mr Fruman, along with two associates, with conspiring to "circumvent the federal laws against foreign influence by engaging in a scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates for federal and state office so that the defendants could buy potential influence with the candidates, campaigns, and the candidates’ governments".

According to campaign finance records, one of the committees the pair supported was the main political action committee supporting President Donald Trump's re-election effort.

Lev Parnas , right, claims he pressured Ukraine to investigate the Bidens on Rudy Giuliani's orders (REUTERS/Aram Roston/File Photo)

William Sweeney, the head of the FBI's New York Field Office, said the allegations against the men – which arose out of an investigation which is also examining the affairs of Mr Giuliani, a former US Attorney who ran the SDNY in the 1980s – is about "corrupt behaviour" and "deliberate lawbreaking" rather than "some technicality, a civil violation or an error on a form".

Mr Giuliani is alleged to have retained Mr Parnas and his business partner in late 2018 for the purpose of having them seek out information which could be used to undermine the investigation then being conducted by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, as well as information which could damage the reputation of former Vice President Joe Biden, who was then considering a bid to challenge Mr Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

Mr Parnas and Mr Fruman were allegedly central players in Mr Giulani's scheme to force the removal of Marie Yovanovitch, then the top US diplomat in Kyiv, because Mr Giuliani reportedly believed she was an impediment to his goal of having Ukraine's government announce investigations into Mr Biden and his son Hunter, as well as a debunked conspiracy which posits that Ukraine – not Russia – interfered in the 2016 US presidential election.

John Dowd, a criminal defence attorney who once represented Mr Trump during early stages of Mr Mueller's probe, said in a statement to Congress at the time of the two men's arrest that the pair had been assisting Mr Giuliani in his work on Mr Trump's behalf.

But one of Mr Trump's current attorneys, Jay Sekulow, said in a statement at the time that neither Mr Trump nor his campaign were aware of the campaign finance scheme detailed in the indictment against Mr Parnas and Mr Fruman.

Neither Mr Sekulow, Mr Giuliani or his spokesperson immediately responded to requests for comment from The Independent.

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