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Fed Speaks On Indictments Against Two Giuliani Associates; Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) Reacts On The Two Men, Who Helped Giuliani's Efforts To Dig Up Dirt On Biden In Ukraine, Being Under Arrest. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired October 10, 2019 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's it for me. Thank you so much for joining me today. NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you for being with me. Breaking news this afternoon involving Rudy Giuliani and his push to investigate Joe Biden in Ukraine.
Any minute now, two men accused of helping Giuliani and those efforts are expected to appear in a Virginia Federal courtroom after being arrested and indicted for pouring foreign money into a U.S. election.
The charges all relate to donations made by these two men -- so this is Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas -- to former Texas Congressman Pete Sessions, a congressman they allegedly asked to help get the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine fired.
Hang on. Let's go straight to the Seventh District of New York. Let's listen in to these prosecutors.
GEOFFREY S. BERMAN, U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Today, we unseal an indictment charging Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman and two co-defendants for their alleged participation in schemes to violate the Federal Campaign Finance Laws by repeatedly using straw donors and foreign money.
Parnas and Fruman were arrested around 6:00 p.m. last night at Dulles Airport, as they were about to board an international flight with one- way tickets.
As alleged in the indictment, that defendants broke the law to gain political influence, while avoiding disclosure of who was actually making the donations and where the money was coming from.
They sought political influence, not only to advance their own financial interests, but to advance the political interests of at least one foreign official, a Ukrainian government official who sought the dismissal of the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. And with respect to that last allegation, let me take you through some
of the money flow.
Parnas and Fruman contributed $325,000.00 to Committee One. Now this contribution was not made in their name. It was made in the name of a corporation that they set up GEP in order to hide that the true individuals behind the donation were Parnas and Fruman.
The $325,000.00 is of one of the largest donations that Committee One received. And we -- in the indictment, we indicated -- alleged that this was an illegal straw donor scheme.
In addition, Parnas and Fruman made direct contributions to Congressman One. And these contributions, direct and promised totaled over $20,000.00.
Moreover, Committee One spent approximately $3 million to benefit Congressman One. Now, as a result, Parnas and Fruman had several meetings with Congressman One, and at these meetings Parnas on behalf of a Ukrainian government official lobbied Congressman One to advocate for the removal of the then U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.
Protecting the integrity of our elections and protecting our elections from unlawful foreign influence are core functions of our Campaign Finance Laws. And as this office has made clear, we will not hesitate to investigate and prosecute those who engage in criminal conduct that draws into question the integrity of our political process. And I want to add that this investigation is continuing.
Now, I want to acknowledge and thank our wonderful AUSA's, who worked on prosecuting and investigating this case and will continue to investigate this case.
To my right, is Rebekah Donaleski, someone who would ordinarily be to her right Nick Rose could not be here today because he is in the Eastern District of Virginia, assisting with the presentment of Parnas and Fruman.
But to Rebekah's right, is Russ Capone, and Edward Diskant and they are our marvelous co-chiefs of our Public Corruption Unit. And I also want to thank our partner in this case, and so many of our important cases, the New York Office of the FBI, represented here today, to my left Bill Sweeney. My good friend, the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York field office to his left, Mike Driscoll, the Special Agent in Charge of the Criminal Division and to his left, George Khuzami, the Special Agent in Charge of Public Corruption at the FBI
And now I'd like to invite to the podium my very good friend, Bill Sweeney, for any comments he would like to make.
WILLIAM F. SWEENEY, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR-IN-CHARGE, FBI NEW YORK OFFICE: Thanks, Geoff. Last night at the Washington Dulles International Airport, the FBI arrested Lev Parness and Igor Fruman on Campaign Finance related charges as they attempted to leave the United States.
[14:05:13] SWEENEY: Andrey Kukushkin was arrested in San Francisco shortly
thereafter. David Correia the fourth individual charged in today's indictment is not yet in our custody.
Campaign Finance Laws exist for a reason. The American people expect and deserve an election process that has not been corrupted by the influence of foreign interest. And the public has a right to know the true source of campaign contributions.
Laws make up the fabric of who we are as a nation. These allegations are not about some technicality, a civil violation or an error on a form.
This investigation is about corrupt behavior, deliberate law breaking.
The FBI takes the obligation to tackle corruption seriously. There are no exceptions to this rule. We gather evidence, we collect facts, and we will act on them when appropriate.
As Geoff mentioned, our investigation will continue. Many thanks always to Geoff and your team of prosecutors here at the Southern District.
Thank you as well to our FBI personnel in our offices in Miami, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., and of course, thanks, Mike and George to your team, and the team of agents and professionals who are quiet professionals and solid public servants here in the New York office. Thank you.
BERMAN: Thank you.
BALDWIN: OK, so let's take it from here. So again, these two men we are talking about who have been arrested and indicted, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, right?
So they were, as you just heard, they were at Dulles International Airport. So right in the Washington, D.C. area last evening, with one way tickets, and that is when the Feds came in and grabbed them.
So they've been arrested and indicted for pouring foreign money into the U.S. election. Let's go first to CNN Crime and Justice Reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, so Shimon, break this down for us. What just happened?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: So this was a very quick statement. I think what we saw here, and from what we've been told, prosecutors were not ready to bring forward these charges. They were not ready to make these charges public that is partially why they did not take questions.
Also the investigation, I don't think they're ready to talk about exactly where they stand in terms of this investigation. It looks like it's still a very much active investigation.
So for anyone who was involved in this certainly concerned that they could get arrested. Now, obviously, the big question is Rudy Giuliani, what did he know? What did he know about these men and who was funding some of their contributions? Was he in any way receiving any money from these men?
These are all very serious question that perhaps investigators right now are not ready to reveal. But one of the most significant things we learned here is that these men were about to board a flight, an international flight. They had one way tickets.
The FBI keeping track of them, moved in and arrested them, because of obvious concerns that they were going to flee the country, and then they would not be able to get them back. So that is very significant.
Obviously a lot of attention, this Ukraine matter. The Ukraine situation, getting a lot of attention, perhaps may have spooked these individuals and so they decided that they wanted to flee the country.
But there are still, obviously so many questions that needs to be answered about these men, about their involvement, who was funding them.
The indictment alleges that there was a Russian national, a foreign national Number One alleged to be a Russian that was involved in this. Obviously, this brings us back to the entire Mueller investigation, the entire Russian influence campaign.
And this is the thing that the FBI and U.S. officials have been so concerned about. When you look at what these men were able to do, the influence that they were able to have on getting a U.S. Ambassador tossed from her job.
The whole -- really, you can argue they had a way to get to the President. Yes, it was through Rudy Giuliani, but they had the President's ear through Rudy Giuliani, obviously another big concern here.
So I think there's still a lot more that we don't know, and obviously for the FBI, there are still a lot to work through here. And for the Southern District of New York here. It's these same prosecutors from the Public Corruption Unit, who have been dealing with Michael Cohen, who have been dealing with other things related to the election, to Russian influence. They are still very much involved in this investigation, and we saw some of them here.
So still a lot we don't know. A lot of mystery here, certainly. And of course, everyone wants to know, what did Rudy Giuliani know and what was his involvement exactly with these men?
BALDWIN: That is precisely what I want to get at with my next couple of guests. Shimon, thank you so much. So much to discuss here.
BALDWIN: Elie Honig, former assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He is also a CNN Legal Analyst. Gloria Borger is with us, CNN's Chief Political Analyst, and Renato Mariotti, he is a former Federal prosecutor. He is also a CNN Legal Analyst. And so let's dive in. Elie, first to you, let's just back up. This
could potentially be huge. What could prosecutors -- like what if these two guys, these two Giuliani associates decide to talk?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right? That is the million dollar question for me -- will either or both of these guys flip? And if they do, heaven knows what they could deliver.
I'm doing sort of the rough prosecutor math in my head here. Okay, so the charges are serious. They're looking at real jail time here.
BALDWIN: Couple of years?
HONIG: Roughly three, four or five years, if you look at the guidelines. The evidence based on what we can tell from the indictment looks strong. They clearly had either wiretaps or somehow they have e-mails and text because they're quoted in here, and it's really devastating.
And then they have records of bank transfers, wire transfers. So this is a paper case, it looks like a pretty strong case.
In the Southern District, important thing to know, if somebody cooperates, they have to tell everything they know. Some prosecutor's offices, just say you're charged in this indictment. You just tell us what you know about this indictment.
BALDWIN: SDNY is like no, we want to know everything.
HONIG: You've got it. And that could likely include Rudy Giuliani, and who knows what else.
BALDWIN: Okay. On Rudy Giuliani, Renato here, this is for you. The journalist Gabe Sherman, actually said he talked to Rudy Giuliani this morning, and this is what he said, quote, "When I asked Rudy about the prospect of the FBI flipping these two guys, Parnas and Fruman to get to him, he replied, good luck."
Renato, Rudy Giuliani sounding pretty confident there -- is sounding the key word like should he be worried?
RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, of course, he should be worried. If you know about criminal activity, and you do something concrete to help make it succeed, you're responsible -- criminally responsible for that activity.
So if Rudy Giuliani knew about this going on, and he was aiding in their efforts, he could get charged. It's aiding and abetting. And it happens all -- you know, it's the sort of thing that's charged on a regular basis.
I have to say, by the way, Brooke, that is a very interesting answer by Rudy Giuliani. He doesn't say they have nothing to flip on. I didn't do anything wrong. He says, good luck. I mean, that's what a mob boss says, right, when his capo is arrested. Good luck, you're never going to flip him. Very unusual thing to say, you know, people who don't have criminal
culpability aren't really concerned about others flipping on them generally, because there's nothing to flip regarding it.
BALDWIN: I mean, Gloria, we laugh because it's all so serious, right? I mean, you --
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, yes.
BALDWIN: And the question is why -- with all of this coming out, all these layers on Giuliani, at what point is Donald Trump say, all right, Rudy Giuliani -- bye. Like, we don't need that. We don't need to have this relationship anymore. Do you think Rudy Giuliani knows too much?
BORGER: First of all, Donald Trump would never throw anybody under the bus, would he? That was a joke.
BORGER: And we'll have to see where this goes. I think it's completely possible, maybe even likely that the President would try and distance himself from Giuliani because Giuliani has some problems here. The question is whether he really can.
And what do these guys have on Giuliani? If we take a step back, what we've been doing over the past two and a half years is talking about Russian influence. Russian influence of the campaign.
And here we are, again. Here we are, again. As Shimon was saying earlier, where's this money coming from? Is it Russian money? Was this, you know, an effort to try and get the Ambassador out? Because the Ambassador wanted to push money to Ukraine. The Ambassador wanted Ukraine to get its foreign aid.
So this is a story that has to unravel. But we also have to see it in the context of what we've been talking about for the last few years.
And so it's kind of stunning to me that Rudy Giuliani, you know, one of the President's attorneys was in the middle of all of this and now, you know, the President is reassembling a legal team again, and it's going to include his old lawyers. You see John Dowd's name popping up who defended these two gentlemen, wrote a letter to Congress on their behalf.
There are now more attorneys coming up. Paul Manafort's former attorney was in court today defending these guys. So it seems like a little bit of deja vu to me.
BALDWIN: A little bit, a little bit. I should also point out Jay Sekulow was quick to say neither Donald Trump nor his campaign had anything to do with these two men.
BORGER: Well, that's under the bus. That sounds a little bit like what they said about Paul Manafort. Paul Manafort, well, he never worked for the campaign. He had nothing to do with us. Well, here we are.
BALDWIN: Passing it along, passing it along. Elie, to you. Back to your point on the evidence. Right? So you've read through this 21- page indictment and you say that the evidence is strong. And I want to point to something you noted on Page 7.
Parnas remarked, this is what happens when you become visible. The buzzards descend. To which Parnas responded, that's why we need to stay under the radar.
BALDWIN: What does that section suggest to you?
HONIG: So the first thing it tells me is they're aware of what they're doing is wrong, dangerous for them.
The second thing is that's a direct quote - that means it's taken off of a wiretap, a phone call that they were intercepting, or text or e- mail, right. It's not a summary of what they're saying.
And building on what Gloria said, not only is there a link here to what we will call the Mueller investigation, but there's an even more direct link to the Ukraine impeachment investigation, because one of the allegations in this indictment is that these two guys were part of trying to get the Ambassador, Yovanovitch dismissed.
HONIG: And the reporting is that Rudy Giuliani wanted her out because she was potentially standing in the way of delivering the foreign aid to Ukraine.
So it's all going to connect. It is all going to end up being related, not just to Mueller, not just to Russia, but to Ukraine, the very thing that's in front of the House of Representatives right now and potential impeachment.
BALDWIN: Okay. And then lastly, I think Gloria and Renato can both address this on the point about Attorney General Bill Barr, right, so he made -- he just so happened to make what was described as a routine visit today to the Southern District of New York, right, who just held this news conference.
CNN has learned that he was briefed on this whole investigation in February and supported the prosecution. So, Gloria, and then, Renato, on your thoughts on Bill Barr in all of this?
BORGER: Well, I think he was probably presented with a lot of evidences, as Elie is saying, and said, go ahead -- you know, if he felt that they had a case that he did not stand in the way.
So you know, if he had -- if he thought that they did not have a case, then I think he would have -- I think he would have said otherwise. BALDWIN: Renato, do you -- is there -- down the road, is this Bill
Barr needs to recuse himself from X,Y, and Z?
MARIOTTI: Well, Barr has certainly raised a lot of questions about his, you know, you know, whether or not he is acting on behalf of Donald Trump versus acting on behalf of the American people. So a lot of people are going to have concerns about his involvement here.
There was a lot of speculation when the Cohen investigation, the investigation that ultimately went into the Trump Organization closed down; that he had a role in that.
You know, as a former prosecutor, I don't believe in coincidences, Brooke. It seems awfully coincidental that he happens to be there today. I suspect this is going to generate a lot of questions and if I was advising Attorney General Barr, I would tell him to stay as far away from this investigation, in details of it, as possible.
BORGER: But let me ask the lawyers here. You know, this is high profile, obviously, and the issue of impeachment is before the Congress, and I don't believe in coincidences, either.
But weren't the attorneys in New York correct in letting the A.G. know about this in advance?
BORGER: Because it was so high profile?
HONIG: You have to, in a case like this.
BALDWIN: You have to, yes. You have to.
MARIOTTI: But there's a difference between letting them know and him flying out there and being there hands-on today.
BALDWIN: OK, we'll let that hang. We're going to take a commercial break. I've got so much more to talk about today. Gloria, Elie, Renato, thank you very much. Much more ahead.
A member of the House Intelligence and Oversight Committees will join me to discuss all of this including what the Democrats plan to do next. Stay right here.
BALDWIN: We're back on a very busy Thursday. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
So back to these two associates of Rudy Giuliani, who have now just been indicted of campaign finance charges, right? So they were caught at Dulles International Airport last night with one way tickets to go overseas.
These men illegally, according to prosecutors, funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in foreign money to a Trump allied Super PAC.
They are also connected to efforts to dig up dirt on Joe Biden in Ukraine, and now, the lawmakers pursuing the President's impeachment have just subpoenaed these two men.
And Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi is a Member of the House Intelligence and Oversight Committees. And so Congressman, welcome back. It's nice to see you.
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Thanks, Brooke.
BALDWIN: So you are part of, you know, these committees who have now subpoenaed these two men. We have actually just in the last 60 seconds, my producer just got to my ear and told us that "The Wall Street Journal" is now reporting that I guess, prior to going to Dulles, you know, to take a one way ticket somewhere out of town that they lunched with Rudy Giuliani in Washington. I see you shaking your head. What's your response to all of this?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, just another slow fake news day in Washington and elsewhere. But, you know, the reason why there's so much focus on these two individuals, in addition to what we heard at the news conference about their campaign finance violations, is that they allegedly helped Giuliani and President Trump in pressuring the Ukrainian government to basically smear, you know, Joe Biden, right?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: And meddle in our democracy. And so, these folks have a lot of knowledge about that alleged pressure campaign, as well as attempts to you know, remove Ambassador Yovanovitch and other folks who may have tried to stand in the way of that pressure campaign.
BALDWIN: So you bring up Yovanovitch. She is supposed to meet with your committee tomorrow. We saw what happened to you E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who just this week was blocked by the State Department from testifying.
And so we know that the former Ambassador Yovanovitch is a current state employee. Is it possible that the State Department blocks her from testifying in front of you tomorrow? And what would you do about it?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: It is possible. Unfortunately, the Trump administration has taken up a strategy of stonewalling and delaying any kind of production of testimony or documents.
In the case of Mr. Sondland, we then subpoenaed him directly, and said, we are asking you directly to produce documents and produce testimony before our committee. That may be a tool that we use in this case, although I defer to Chairman Schiff on what comes next. But in any case, you know, Ambassador Yovanovitch has a lot of useful
information about really fleshing out what is this alleged scheme and who was involved with it?
BALDWIN: What if she wants to play ball with you all? What if she wants to show up on her own volition? Are there any protections in place for her?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, she could show up in reaction or in response to a personal subpoena potentially.
In terms of protections, as we know, there are Whistleblower Statutes for people who want to come forward with evidence of wrongdoing, and they are protected under that statute.
What I'm always concerned about is, obviously in this case, you know, the President knows her identity. He knows that she was somehow in the way of his alleged pressure scheme with Ukraine. He referenced her in the call transcript.
So I'd be very concerned about him retaliating against her. So we'd have to definitely look out for her interests as well.
BALDWIN: Yes. In this indictment, these two Giuliani associates, quote, " ... committed to raise $20,000 or more for then sitting U.S. Congressman ..." who is referred to in this indictment as Congressman One.
And so CNN is reporting the Congressman One was then Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas.
By the way, seven days ago, he announced that he would be running for Congress in another District of Texas. So what trouble might he be in?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I don't know. I don't want to comment on those specific allegations against him. Although, you know, if there was any effort to essentially provide campaign donations, in exchange for assisting in a pressure campaign or trying to remove someone as an Ambassador to the Ukraine, that could be problems for somebody.
BALDWIN: Let's talk about where Americans are on impeachment. So this Fox News poll now finds 51 percent of registered voters want President Trump impeached and removed from office. That is up nine points from July and we're seeing a lot of your colleagues across the aisle ignoring a lot of these questions on impeachment.
Might these polls coming from some of their own constituents sway their opinions?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: It could. I think that right now, the American people want this Impeachment Inquiry to go forward, and this Fox News poll says they want us to do even more than just go forward with an inquiry.
In this climate, I think stalling or stonewalling the inquiry will not play well with the American people. They would view that as basically getting in the way of trying to get answers and get to the bottom of the allegations in the whistleblower complaint, which is very, very serious.
BALDWIN: So last question, I do want to hold the Democrats' feet to the fire a little bit. Tim Naftali was sitting in your seat yesterday as a Nixon expert and historian. He was doing that.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: My feet are getting warm.
BALDWIN: So I just want to look down at my notes. So his point was going back to the Democrats in 1973. Like, we know, obviously Watergate area that they bent over backwards to make the process appear fair, to make it bipartisan, to allow for Republicans to have cover so that the Republican Party should eventually and could eventually say Nixon needs to go.
And you know, his point wasn't about Democrats versus Nixon, and that this shouldn't be about Democrats versus President Trump - that it should be about America standing up for its Constitution against a lawless President.
So how will your party moving forward bend over backwards, be bipartisan in this effort?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Sure. Well, you know, I'm part of these hearings and closed door hearings and testimony as part of the Intel Committee.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: And I can say that our Chairman has done everything he can to basically elicit voluntary cooperation from the Trump administration. If that doesn't work, then resorting to subpoenas, but really trying to accommodate any kind of legitimate objections in the production of certain information.