How 2 arrested Giuliani associates are connected to Trump impeachment inquiry


JUDY WOODRUFF: A new twist in the impeachment
inquiry.
Two associates of Rudy Giuliani who were to
appear before Congress today and tomorrow
have been arrested on charges of violating
campaign finance law.
The two, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were
apprehended at Dulles International Airport
in Washington with one-way tickets out of
the country.
This afternoon, a U.S. attorney in New York
and assistant director of the FBI laid out
the severity of the charges and how they strike
at the heart of our democratic system.
GEOFFREY BERMAN, U.S. Attorney, Southern District
of New York: 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.
WILLIAM SWEENEY, Assistant FBI Director: These
allegations are not about some technicality,
a civil violation or an error on form.
This investigation is about corrupt behavior,
deliberate lawbreaking.
JUDY WOODRUFF: To examine these latest developments
and how the American public views them, our
own Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor.
Hello to both of you.
So much going on.
Yamiche, I’m going to come to you first.
Tell us who these men are.
And what is their connection to Rudy Giuliani?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Well, the allegations laid
out against them are very serious in this
21-page indictment.
Parnas and Fruman are accused of trying to
channel and funnel foreign money into U.S.
elections to try to interfere with U.S. elections.
They’re accused of setting up a company to
mask hundreds of thousands of dollars of donations
to foreign — to U.S. politicians and candidates
in a pro-Trump super PAC.
They are accused of also working with President
Trump and Rudy Giuliani to pressure Ukraine
to investigate Joe Biden.
That’s really important, because, even as
Rudy Giuliani is saying he’s not really connected
with these two men in terms of the work that
they were doing, these two men are accused
of essentially trying to meddle in these elections
by using this money.
Now, it’s also important to note that these
are two men that House Democrats want to know
a lot about.
There are photos of President Trump and these
two men circling around on the Internet, both
with Rudy Giuliani and with the president.
The president just took questions about this
on the White House lawn.
He says: I don’t know these two men.
I take photos with a lot of different people.
The president said that he hopes Rudy Giuliani
doesn’t get indicted, but he wouldn’t say
whether or not he was concerned about that.
It’s also important to note that these two
men were arrested, as you said, with one-way
tickets on an international flight.
Federal prosecutors are essentially saying
they were trying to get out of town.
Rudy Giuliani says that they were just going
on a business trip.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, so again, so much to
follow.
So, Lisa, tell us more about how all this
relates to Ukraine, as Yamiche mentioned,
and to the House impeachment inquiry.
LISA DESJARDINS: There are so many complicated
threads, but here are the connections we know
about right now distinctly.
First of all, we know that these two men worked
not only for Rudy Giuliani, but, specifically,
that they assisted the president’s work — Giuliani’s
work for President Trump.
We also know from reports from many different
outlets that these two were pushing Ukraine
to investigate Vice President Biden and his
son Hunter Biden.
Also, these two men are cited in the whistle-blower
complaint.
So it does draw together some of these threads.
Judy, also today, we had a new subpoena, not
only for these two men, but for Energy Secretary
Rick Perry.
How does that connect?
Part of that subpoena is asking for information
about why Perry was pushing for a change in
management at a Ukrainian energy company.
Who else might have an interest in that Ukrainian
energy company?
Democrats say these two men also had interest
in that Ukrainian energy company.
So a lot of sort of early edges to this puzzle.
Many questions still remain.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, separately from all this,
Yamiche, we have the results now of a new
poll, “PBS NewsHour”/NPR/Marist, looking at
how voters are reacting to the impeachment
inquiry.
What do we see from that?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: This new poll that is out
this afternoon shows that a slim majority
of Americans now support going forward with
an impeachment inquiry against President Trump.
I want to walk you through some of the numbers.
The poll shows that national support for an
impeachment inquiry has actually been up after
— from two weeks ago.
Two weeks ago, 49 percent of U.S. adults supported
an impeachment inquiry.
Now it’s 52 percent.
That — those numbers dovetail with The Washington
Post and FOX News and a number of other polls
who show that the majority of Americans want
to see an impeachment inquiry.
I also want to walk through that independents
are a big part of this.
Two weeks ago, when we took this poll, 44
percent of independents supported an impeachment
inquiry.
Now the poll that’s out today shows an uptick
of 10 points to 54 percent.
That’s — that’s bad news for President Trump.
He wouldn’t answer questions about this poll
specifically at the White House lawn today.
But what it tells you is that the president
is essentially facing more pressure with impeachment
inquiry, as he says that he did nothing wrong,
as he says that he doesn’t want to comply
with House Democrats.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Fascinating.
And, Lisa, I know they’re watching all this
closely on Capitol Hill.
What are you learning from there?
LISA DESJARDINS: They are.
Democrats were not sort of like jumping in
the aisles over this.
But they do feel that this adds to the cloud
over the Trump presidency, and it raises more
questions about corruption in his administration
and among those around him.
So they obviously are trying to get details
themselves, but they think that this adds
to what they see as their narrative, which
is, this is an administration that tries to
cross legal boundaries on a regular basis.
Now, Democrats are also paying attention to
some other kind of effects of this.
As part of the indictment today, it named
— it said these two men had been reaching
out to a specific congressman.
We know, from transactions, dates, times and
other reporting, that that congressman is
former Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas.
There he is right there.
He’s not just any Republican.
He was chairman of the Rules Committee, a
very powerful position.
The allegation here in the indictment is that
these two men were trying to get him — to
leverage donations with him to get him to
pressure for the ouster of that Ukrainian
ambassador.
He has released a statement saying there was
no such transaction, no request.
I never did anything like that.
But, Judy, he’s trying to get back into Congress.
And so this is again where Democrats see a
gain for them.
Two other quick notes about what’s happening
with Democrats tonight.
Nancy Pelosi is planning a call tomorrow afternoon
with all of the Democratic members in Congress.
They’re going — or in the House, rather.
They’re going to talk about impeachment and
talk about things like, do they hold a full
House vote?
What do they do next?
How fast do they move?
As these layers pile up, Democrats again will
have to choose which ones they pursue and
for how long.
Finally, tomorrow, Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch,
who we keep bringing up, the one that Giuliani
wanted out, is supposed to testify behind
closed doors.
And my Democratic sources say, even though
she’s still at the State Department, they
think she’s going to come.
We will see.
It’s tomorrow morning.
We will know within 24 hours.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Her testimony was delayed from
last week.
LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you remind us, there has
not been a formal vote yet to pursue an impeachment
inquiry.
LISA DESJARDINS: Not by the full House.
That’s right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa and Yamiche, thank you
both.

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