Two men associated with U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have been arrested over violations of campaign finance laws.
The New York federal prosecutor Jeff Berman on Thursday announced the charges against Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PROSECUTOR FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK JEFFREY BERMAN, SAYING: "Parnas and Fruman were arrested around 6 pm last night at Dulles Airport as they were about to board an international flight with one-way tickets.
As alleged in the indictment the defendants broke the law to gain political influence while avoiding disclosure of who was making the donations and where the money was coming from." A lawyer for the two men declined comment on the charges.
The arrests come as Parnas and Furman emerge as potential key players in an effort by Trump and Giuliani to press Ukrainian officials into investigating Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and Biden's son over their past dealings in that country.
Those efforts now the subject of an impeachment investigation on Capitol Hill.
Last week Giuliani told Reuters the two men charged Thursday assisted him in his attempt to get Ukraine to probe the Bidens, saying, "Igor and Parnas helped me on certain things.
They helped me with logistics.
They know the Ukraine, they speak Russian.
They helped me locate people in a few cases." Giuliani on Thursday did not return a request for comment.
The indictment Thursday may turn the tables on Giuliani: his associates in an effort to brand political opponents with the charge of corruption were themselves criminally charged with trying to corrupt American elections.
The assistant director of the FBI's New York field office Bill Sweeney did not mince words.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) ASSISTANT DIRECTOR IN CHARGE OF FBI NEW YORK FIELD OFFICE BILL SWEENEY, SAYING: "Campaign finance laws exist for a reason.
The American people expect and deserve and election process that has not been corrupted by the influence of foreign interests and the public has a right to know the true source of campaign contributions." Prosecutors accused Fruman and Parnas of creating a shell corporation to illegally funnel campaign contributions to a political super-PAC and to an elected U.S. Representative.
They further alleged that Fruman and Parnas, acting on behalf of Ukrainian officials, tried to use their political connections to get the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine recalled.
Both men figure into the impeachment probe.
Parnas had been scheduled to be deposed in a House committee hearing on Thursday, Fruman on Friday.
Democrats have issued subpoenas for both men to appear, now at a later date.
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