House Democrats on Thursday issued subpoenas to two Florida businessmen who worked with President Trump‘s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, on his efforts to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
The subpoenas to Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman for documents by Oct. 16 came hours after reports emerged that the two were arrested on campaign finance charges.
Parnas and Fruman are expected to appear in a Virginia court later Thursday.
The chairmen of the three committees leading the House impeachment inquiry — Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform — argued in a letter to the men’s lawyer, John Dowd, that they must comply despite the White House’s blanket refusal to allow Trump administration officials to testify.
“Your clients are private citizens who are not employees of the Executive Branch,” the chairmen wrote.
“They may not evade requests from Congress for documents and information necessary to conduct our inquiry. They are required by law to comply with the enclosed subpoenas. They are not exempted from this requirement merely because they happen to work with Mr. Giuliani, and they may not defy congressional subpoenas merely because President Trump has chosen the path of denial, defiance, and obstruction,” they wrote.
Dowd had said earlier this week that neither Parnas nor Fruman planned to comply with an earlier request from the committees for documents and depositions that would have been scheduled for this week.
Dowd, in an Oct. 3 letter released by the committees, confirmed that Parnas and Fruman “assisted Mr. Giuliani in connection with his representation of President Trump” and had been represented by Giuliani “in connection with their personal and business affairs.”
But Dowd argued that the committees had not offered sufficient time for his clients to prepare documents and testimony.
The committees said that Dowd, on behalf of Parnas and Fruman, sent an email on Wednesday saying they “agree with and adopt the position of the White House counsel” refusing to cooperate with Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
The subpoena demands that Parnas and Fruman hand over documents and communications related to efforts to pressure Ukrainian officials to investigate matters related to the Biden family, the Democratic National Committee or Hillary Clinton.
According to reports, Parnas and Fruman introduced Giuliani to current and former Ukrainian officials who provided information that Giuliani claimed would be damaging to Trump’s political opponents.
Parnas and Fruman have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to GOP candidates and committees, according to the Miami Herald. In May 2018, they gave $325,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC, America First Action, through an LLC called Global Energy Producers.
The subpoena issued Thursday also demands that Parnas and Fruman provide documents related to contributions or “offers of anything of value” made directly or indirectly to U.S. political campaigns, parties and political action committees, including America First Action.
Parnas and Fruman were charged on Thursday with four counts, including conspiracy, falsification of records and providing false information to the Federal Election Commission. An indictment alleges that the two men funneled foreign money into U.S. elections through a straw donor scheme.
Parnas accompanied Giuliani to a July breakfast with Kurt Volker, the former envoy to Ukraine. Volker, in written testimony to House investigators last week, said they “had a long conversation about Ukraine.” Giuliani, according to Volker, said he wanted Ukraine to investigate Biden and 2016 election interference.
The indictment further alleges Fruman and Parnas asked a U.S. congressman in 2018 to help call for firing the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. The Trump administration eventually recalled that ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, in May.
Former Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who lost his reelection campaign last year, sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in May 2018 calling for Yovanovitch’s removal. Parnas and Fruman later donated to Sessions’s campaign.
Sessions told The Wall Street Journal that his letter came from a concern among lawmakers that the Trump administration needed to move faster in appointing new ambassadors.
The indictment does not name Sessions nor charge him with a crime, but Sessions has previously acknowledged meeting with Parnas and Fruman.
The subpoenas issued by the committees on Thursday also ask for documents and communications related to Sessions, “including but not limited to a meeting in or about May 2018.”
Sessions in a statement later Thursday said that he “cannot confirm” he is the congressman cited in the indictment and denied that he took any action after multiple meetings with the businessmen. He said that he wrote the letter to Pompeo after complaints from “several congressional colleagues.”
“My entire motivation for sending the letter was that I believe that political appointees should not be disparaging the president, especially while serving overseas,” said Sessions, who is eyeing a comeback attempt to the House. “I have been friends with Rudy Giuliani for more than 30 years. I do not know what his business or legal activities in Ukraine have been.”
Updated at 4:54 p.m.