Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman gave thousands in campaign donations to several Republicans and a Trump-aligned super PAC.
Republicans moved to distance themselves from funds raised by two associates of Rudy Giuliani who were arrested on Thursday for allegedly violating federal campaign finance laws.
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who have been working with Giuliani to help persuade Ukraine to investigate Donald Trump's political rival, Joe Biden, were accused in a federal indictment of trying to "circumvent the federal laws against foreign interference by engaging in a scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates for federal and State office."
The men allegedly funneled money from a Ukrainian politician to America First Action, a Trump-aligned super PAC. They were also donors to Republican election campaigns, though it is unclear where those funds came from.
When asked about the arrests, Trump told reporters on Thursday that he did not know the men, despite appearing in multiple photographs with them, stating, "Maybe they were clients of Rudy."
"They said we have nothing to do with it," Trump added.
Trump has made similar denials in the past, claiming, for example, to be unaware of hush money payments from his own personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. It was later revealed he knew many of the details of those transactions.
Last June Parnas and Fruman donated $17,000 to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), and a joint fundraising committee called Protect the House. Protect the House was supposed to help McCarthy to defend vulnerable Republicans and keep the party in control of the House in the 2018 midterms. (Democrats won that battle, retaking control of the chamber in January.)
After the donations were exposed, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) slammed McCarthy for taking the tainted funds.
"If the GOP Minority Leader and his campaign committee are willing to pocket money from a man who was just arrested for funneling Russian campaign donors into American elections, then it is clear there no line they will not cross," said DCCC spokesman Cole Leiter in a release.
"This is a question of un-American activity: either you stand for the sanctity of our elections and defending our Constitution, or you do not. Today, Minority Leader McCarthy and his campaign arm need to make a choice."
A few hours later, McCarthy responded through a spokesperson, saying he would give the money away.
"A McCarthy spokesman told VICE News that he would donate the money to charity, but didn’t say whether he’d ever met either man," Vice News reported.
McCarthy's operation attempted to put distance between the top Republican and the funds.
The NRCC has also said it will donate the funds it received from the men.
A spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill that the NRCC, the campaign arm of the House GOP, would "donate $3,300 it received from Lev Parnas," though they did not specify where the funds would end up.
Both Republican Congressman Brian Mast (FL) also received a $2,400 donation from Fruman in 2018. A spokesperson told the Sun Sentinel Mast would "return the money he received to either charity or the treasury," stating that, "Until today, we had no idea who [Fruman] was."
Republicans at the state level have also chosen to give up the money from Giuliani's associates.
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) said he would give back $50,000 Parnas and Fruman donated to his PAC last year through an LLC called Global Energy Producers. According to the Miami Herald, Global Energy Producers "made the contribution one day before Trump endorsed DeSantis for Florida governor."
A spokesperson told the outlet the allegations against Parnas and Fruman were "troubling."
"Therefore, Governor DeSantis is directing the political action committee to return the money to the federal government," they said.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) also received a donation of $15,000 to his affiliated PAC from Fruman. He has not yet said whether he will donate the funds.
Fruman and Parnas appeared in court Thursday, where a judge set their bond at $1 million. They were also ordered to surrender their passports.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.