NEW YORK — A Florida man who helped Rudy Giuliani seek damaging information against Joe Biden in Ukraine was sentenced to a year and a day in prison and fined $10,000 Friday in an unrelated campaign finance case.
Igor Fruman was told to report to prison March 14. He pleaded guilty in September to a single charge of solicitation of a contribution by a foreign national.
As part of the plea, he admitted soliciting a million dollars from a Russian entrepreneur, Andrey Muraviev, to donate to Republicans in Nevada, Florida and other states as part of an effort to launch a recreational marijuana business.
Federal prosecutors in New York had urged Judge J. Paul Oetken to sentence Fruman to between three and four years in prison. Defense lawyers had argued he should face no incarceration because he has otherwise led a law-abiding life.
Oetken said the crime of soliciting foreign money for U.S. political campaigns was serious and deserved incarceration.
“It undermines the integrity of elections in our country,” he said as he announced the sentence. “It undermines democracy.”
Fruman, 55, the father of four children, told the judge he had reflected on his crime.
“It's a shame that will live with me forever,” he said through a white face mask as several family members watched from wooden benches in an area for spectators.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Hagan Scotten had urged a sentence of at least three years behind bars, saying the crime had caused “incalculable damage” because it harms the trust the public has in U.S. elections.
“That all the things they fear are happening with politicians are happening,” he said.
Scotten said the crime does “grave damage to the integrity of the electoral system.”
Defense lawyer Todd Blanche said his client had suffered from eight days in jail after his arrest and two years and four months of home incarceration.
“That's punishment enough, your honor,” he said.
The pair served as liaisons between Giuliani and Ukrainian officials and business tycoons as the former New York City mayor tried to persuade prosecutors in that country to investigate Biden's son, Hunter, over his work for an energy company.
U.S. prosecutors haven't brought any charges in connection with the Ukrainian influence campaign, which was the subject of one of former President Donald Trump's impeachment trials, but focused instead on donations that Fruman and Parnas made to U.S. politicians as they sought to build influence in Republican political circles.
Parnas was convicted in October of campaign finance crimes and awaits sentencing.
Politicians who got the illegal donations, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, have said they were unaware the money secretly came from a foreign source.
Muraviev was not charged in the case.
Giuliani, who worked for Trump as a personal attorney, faces a continuing investigation into whether he was required to register as an agent of a foreign government during his dealings with Ukraine authorities.
The inquiry partly involves an examination of whether Giuliani offered to lobby or influence the Trump administration on behalf of Ukrainian figures. Giuliani has said everything he did in Ukraine was done on Trump’s behalf and there is no reason he would have had to register as a foreign agent.
Following raids on Giuliani's home and business last year, former federal judge Barbara Jones was appointed by a judge to determine what materials on electronic devices seized in the raid can be turned over to criminal prosecutors.
In a four-page report issued Friday, Jones said only a few dozen items among tens of thousands of communications on seven of his electronic devices have been prevented from being turned over to prosecutors because they contain privileged communications. She said she was awaiting further assignments.
President Joe Biden is nominating a new commissioner to the Federal Election Commission, the nation's chief campaign finance watchdog.
The White House announced on Friday that Biden was putting forward Dara Lindenbaum, a campaign finance attorney, to join the six-member board governing the agency, which is charged with enforcing campaign finance laws and issuing opinions guiding federal officeseekers.
Lindenbaum, according to her bio on her law firm's website, was general counsel to Stacey Abrams' 2018 Georgia gubernatorial run and deputy general counsel for former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's 2016 presidential bid.
If confirmed, she would replace longtime commissioner Steven Walther, who said in a statement that he would remain on the board until his replacement is confirmed by the Senate. Axios first reported of Lindenbaum's nomination.
About the agency: The agency is notorious for routinely deadlocking on major decisions. Broadly, the Democratic bloc of commissioners support stricter regulation of campaign finances and disclosures, while Republican commissioners usually favor lessening them, often in the name of protecting freedom of speech.
In more recent history, it is known for not being able to enforce campaign finance laws at all. Twice during former President Donald Trump's presidency, the agency lacked a quorum of at least four commissioners, leaving it unable to issue any final guidance or enforce penalties.
By law, there can be no more than three members of the same political party on the commission. While Walther is an independent, he regularly sided with Democratic commissioners in the agency. Should Lindenbaum be confirmed, she would be unlikely to dramatically alter the balance of the board.
Three of the agency's six commissioners are also currently serving on expired terms: Walther, Democratic commissioner Ellen Weintraub and Republican commissioner Sean Cooksey. Commissioners are allowed to serve after their terms end — until a replacement is confirmed.
Latvia and Lithuania confirmed Friday they will send Stinger ground-to-air missiles to Ukraine, adding a major new capability to Kyiv’s ability to defend itself against a possible Russian incursion.
The two countries were joined by fellow NATO member Estonia, who confirmed they would send Javelin anti-armor missiles to Ukraine in the coming days.
The three countries — all former Soviet satellite states — showed a united front Friday, releasing a joint statement declaring they “stand united in their commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in face of continued Russian aggression.”
The upcoming shipments of Stingers will give the Ukrainian military the ability to shoot down helicopters with accuracy.
The impending shipments were first reported by POLITICO this week when the State Department quietly signed off on the transfers of the U.S.-made Stinger and Javelin missiles to Ukraine.
“Let's face it — the war in Ukraine is ongoing and it is important to support Ukraine in every way we can so that they can resist the aggressor," Estonian Defense Minister Kalle Laanet said in a statement.
U.S. export control regulations required the three allies to obtain approval from the State Department before passing along the weapons, approval for which came this week.
The U.S. has sent Javelin missiles to Ukraine in the past, and a new shipment, part of a $200 military aid package approved by the White House, should begin arriving in the coming days, according to State Department and Pentagon officials.
The Stingers by themselves are not necessarily a game-changing technology and have limited effectiveness against high-flying drones or fighter jets, which Russia demonstrated in Syria is its preferred way of hitting targets from a safe distance.
“From the Ukrainian point of view, any new capability is better than no new capability,” said Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at the Center for Naval Analysis who studies Russian military capabilities. “It does help if things do go badly and Ukraine ends up in a situation where they're trying to engage in a guerrilla warfare operation — there they could be quite useful.”
The Biden administration sent about $650 million worth of military equipment to Ukraine in 2021, the most transfers since the equipping program began in 2014, and has notified Congress of its intent to transfer Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters to Ukraine, White House pres secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday. The helicopters, originally intended for shipment to Afghanistan before the government collapsed, were in Ukraine for refit when the Taliban took over Kabul.
The U.K. also stepped up its support for Ukraine this week, sending C-17s full of anti-tank weaponry to Kyiv.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told the House of Commons on Monday that London is providing Ukraine “light, anti-armour, defensive weapon systems,” and is deploying a small team of British soldiers to train the Ukrainians how to use the weapons.
“This support is for short-range, and clearly defensive weapons capabilities; they are not strategic weapons and pose no threat to Russia,” Wallace said.
The past week has seen an added sense of urgency on both sides of the Atlantic after President Joe Biden predicted that Russian President Vladimir Putin would likely authorize an invasion soon. “My guess is he will move in. He has to do something,” Biden told reporters at his first news conference of the year.
WASHINGTON — A U.S. judge in Texas issued a nationwide injunction on Friday barring the federal government from enforcing President Joe Biden's requirement that federal workers without qualifying medical or religious exemptions be vaccinated for Covid-19.
Judge Jeffrey Brown, who was appointed to the District Court for the Southern District of Texas by then-President Donald Trump, ruled that opponents of Biden's vaccination mandate for federal employees were likely to succeed at trial and blocked the government from enforcing the requirement.
Biden announced in September that more than 3.5 million federal workers were required to undergo vaccination, with no option to get regularly tested instead, unless they secured approved medical or religious exemptions. The requirement kicked in this past November, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that 98 percent of federal workers are vaccinated.
“We are confident in our legal authority here,” she added.
Those out of compliance with the policy were referred to counseling and could be terminated under an executive order signed by Biden.
Brown wrote that at issue was whether the president "can, with the stroke of a pen and without the input of Congress, require millions of federal employees to undergo a medical procedure as a condition of their employment." He added, “That, under the current state of the law as just recently expressed by the Supreme Court, is a bridge too far."
The Justice Department said it would appeal the ruling.
The suit was brought by the group Feds for Medical Freedom.
The record lobbying surge — more than $20 million for the year — came as the company faced the most serious political crisis in its history, sparked by revelations from whistleblower Frances Haugen, and sought to quash bipartisan legislation aimed at paring back the power of the big tech companies.
Record-breaking year: Facebook, now renamed Meta, had previously set a lobbying record for the company by spending $19.7 million in 2020. That makes Facebook one of the top lobbying spenders in Washington, outpacing power players such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
Meta spent more than $5.4 million on lobbying during the last three months of 2021 alone, marking its highest-spending lobbying quarter ever. Its quarterly record was previously $5.26 million, set during the first quarter of 2020.
In 2021, the company reported lobbying on topics including the antitrust legislation moving through the House and Senate, along with content moderation, election integrity, blockchain policy and much more.
In comparison: Facebook spent more than any other major tech company in 2021, with Amazon as a close second. Amazon in 2021 spent $19.3 million while Google spent $9.5 million. Microsoft, which has been lobbying against the other major tech companies on issues including antitrust, spent $10.1 million in 2021, a roughly 8 percent increase from 2020.
Apple, which typically spends less than its big tech peers, spent $6.5 million in 2021, a slight decrease from $6.65 million in 2020.
Revolving door hires: Facebook last September hired a top congressional aide, John Branscome, to help the company fend off threats from Democratic lawmakers and the Biden administration. Branscome has hit the ground running, according to the latest quarterly filing, lobbying on issues including misinformation, open immigration and algorithmic bias.
The company's in-house lobbying team also includes a former staffer for Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), the top Republican on the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, and a former legislative director to Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Among the records that Donald Trump’s lawyers tried to shield from Jan. 6 investigators are a draft executive order that would have directed the defense secretary to seize voting machines and a document titled “Remarks on National Healing.”
POLITICO has reviewed both documents. The text of the draft executive order is published here for the first time.
The executive order — which also would have appointed a special counsel to probe the 2020 election — was never issued, and the remarks were never delivered. Together, the two documents point to the wildly divergent perspectives of White House advisers and allies during Trump’s frenetic final weeks in office.
It’s not clear who wrote either document. But the draft executive order is dated Dec. 16, 2020, and is consistent with proposals that lawyer Sidney Powell made to the then-president. On Dec. 18, 2020, Powell, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump administration lawyer Emily Newman, and former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne met with Trump in the Oval Office.
In that meeting, Powell urged Trump to seize voting machines and to appointher as a special counsel to investigate the election, according to Axios.
A spokesperson for the House’s Jan. 6 select committee confirmed earlier Friday that the panel had received the last of the documents that Trump’s lawyers tried to keep under wraps and later declined to comment for this story on these two documents.The draft executive order
The draft executive order shows that the weeks between Election Day and the Capitol attack could have been even more chaotic than they were. It credulously cites conspiracy theories about election fraud in Georgia and Michigan, as well as debunked notions about Dominion voting machines.
The order empowers the defense secretary to “seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records required for retention under” a U.S. law that relates to preservation of election records. It also cites a lawsuit filed in 2017 against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
Additionally, the draft order would have given the defense secretary 60 days to write an assessment of the 2020 election. That suggests it could have been a gambit to keep Trump in power until at least mid-February of 2021.
The draft order also greenlit “the appointment of a Special Counsel to oversee this operation and institute all criminal and civil proceedings as appropriate based on the evidence collected and provided all resources necessary to carry out her duties consistent with federal laws and the Constitution.”
To bolster its provisions, the draft order cites “the forensic report of the Antrim County, Michigan voting machines.” That report was produced by Russ Ramsland, who confused precincts in Minnesota for those in Michigan, according to the Washington Post. Michigan’s secretary of state, meanwhile, released an exhaustive report rebutting election conspiracy theories and concluding that none of the “known anomalies” in Antrim County’s November 2020 election were the result of any security breach.The draft remarks
The document labeled “Remarks on National Healing,” also now in the select panel’s possession, illustrates its own alternative path never taken in the aftermath of the attack. Its tone stands in jarring contrast to the rhetoric Trump employed at the time and continues to use when discussing the insurrection.
“I would like to begin today by addressing the heinous attack that took place yesterday at the United States Capitol,” it opens. “Like all Americans, I was outraged and sickened by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem. I immediately deployed the National Guard and federal law enforcement to secure the building and expel the intruders. America is, and must always be, a nation of law and order.”
That claim that Trump immediately ordered the National Guard to head to the Capitol may be false. The Jan. 6 select committee sent a letter Thursday saying that Trump’s defense secretary at the time of the riot, Chris Miller, “has testified under oath that the President never contacted him at any time on January 6th, and never, at any time, issued him any order to deploy the National Guard.”
The draft “national healing” document continued with sharp criticism of the attack.
“The Demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American Democracy,” the remarks state. “I am directing the Department of Justice to ensure all lawbreakers are prosecuted to the fullest extent” of the law.”
The document follows with a direct communication to the rioters: “We must send a message - not with mercy but with justice. To those who engaged in acts of violence and destruction, I want to be very clear: you do not represent me. You do not represent our movement. You do not represent our country. And if you broke the law, you belong in jail.”
Such a full-throated condemnation, if Trump had delivered it, would have departed significantly from the way he described the rioters in the wake of the siege. In a video released during the attack, Trump struck a tone of empathy with the mob.
“We have to have peace,” Trump said then. “So go home. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens, you see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel.”
Several days after the attack, though, Trump delivered an Oval Office address with thematic similarities to the remarks drafted for delivery on Jan. 7, 2021. In that address, Trump condemned the violence at the Capitol and called for perpetrators to be held accountable.
A Trump spokesman declined to comment for this story.Draft vs. reality
The draft remarks go on to describe emotions running high after an intense election. “But now, tempers must be cooled and calm restored.”
Trump “vigorously pursued every legal avenue to contest the election results,” the remarks add, and still urges election “reform” so voters could be confident about future contests.
“But as for THIS election, Congress has now certified the results,” the remarks say. “The election fight is over. A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20th. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.”
In reality, Trump’s recent characterization of the attack has veered wildly from that sentiment in the draft remarks. The former president has described the 2020 election as “the insurrection” and Jan. 6, 2021, as “the Protest.” He has also praised Ashli Babbitt, a rioter who entered the Capitol and was shot and killed there by a police officer.
The draft remarks go on to strike a unifying tone in discussing the coronavirus that also differs from Trump’s approach at the time.
“The pandemic isolated millions in their homes, damaged the economy, and claimed countless victims,” the document continues. “Ending the pandemic and rebuilding the economy,” it adds, “will require all of us working together,” along with renewed emphasis on patriotism, faith and community.
“We must renew the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that bind us together as one national family,” it adds.
While Trump has courted the disapproval of some in his own base by publicly sharing that he’s received a booster shot against Covid, he has chiefly emphasized the success of vaccines against the virus as his own personal victory.
“I came up with a vaccine, with three vaccines,” Trump told conservative pundit Candace Owens last month. “All are very, very good.”