Trial starting for Giuliani associate, Lev Parnas, in campaign finances case

(NEW YORK) — Former President Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani face no criminal charges but their names will figure into the trial that starts Tuesday in Manhattan of Soviet-born and Florida-based businessman Lev Parnas, who has been associated with Giuliani and now stands accused of making unlawful campaign donations.

Before they hear any evidence, prospective jurors are being asked about the former president and his personal attorney since federal prosecutors have said Parnas allegedly shared photos of himself with Trump and Giuliani to raise his profile.

When asked about the extent to which their names were going to come up by Judge Paul Oetken during a recent court hearing, assistant U.S. attorney Hagan Scotten replied, “They will come up really only peripherally.”

Parnas, 49, allegedly made unlawful donations totaling more than $350,000 to two pro-Trump super PACs and former Texas Congressman Pete Sessions in 2018. Another part of the case involves Parnas and co-defendant Andrey Kukushkin being charged with acting as straw donors for a wealthy Russian who wanted to enter the burgeoning marijuana market in the United States.

Parnas and Kukushkin have each pleaded not guilty to all charges. Prosecutors have said the recipients of the donations did not know the source of those donations to be the wealthy Russian.

The alleged illicit donations overlapped with Giuliani’s quest in Ukraine to unearth information that could damage then-presidential candidate Joe Biden, an effort in which Parnas allegedly positioned himself as a middleman.

During Trump’s first impeachment, a defense attorney for Parnas cast him as someone who could shed light on the ousting of ex-ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Prosecutors have since eliminated allegations involving Yovanovitch’s firing to “streamline” the case, as they put it to the judge.

In recent weeks, Parnas has claimed he can no longer afford to travel to New York. The U.S. Marshals were ordered to send a plane to bring him Florida and taxpayers will pay his hotel bill for the duration of the trial.

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