NEW YORK (AP) — Two Rudy Giuliani associates with ties to Ukraine pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges they used foreign money to make illegal campaign contributions, with a defense lawyer for one of them floating the idea that the White House could assert executive privilege over evidence in the case.
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arraigned in federal court in Manhattan in a case that has cast a harsh light on the business dealings of Giuliani, who is President Donald Trump's personal lawyer and a former New York City mayor.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebekah Donaleski told a judge Wednesday that a dozen search warrants had produced a "voluminous" amount of evidence, including emails and other electronic communications. A lawyer for Parnas, Ed MacMahon, responded by suggesting that some of the communications could be protected by attorney-client and even executive privilege since his client was doing work for Giuliani while Giuliani was representing the president.
MacMahon didn't claim to know whether the president planned to evoke the privilege, only that the possibility should be a concern as the government reviews the evidence. Donaleski told the judge that government was "attuned to those concerns."
Outside court, Parnas — who like Fruman wore an American flag lapel pin to court — told reporters that he would fight to clear his name.
"Many false things have been said about me and my family in the press and media recently," he said. "I look forward to defending myself vigorously in court, and I'm certain that in time, the truth will be revealed and I will be vindicated."
Fruman and his lawyers had no immediate comment.
Prosecutors say Parnas, 47, and Fruman, 53, made the donations while lobbying U.S. politicians to oust the country's ambassador to Ukraine. Giuliani, who at the time was trying to get Ukrainian officials to investigate the son of Trump's potential Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, has said he knew nothing about the donations.
Trump's efforts to press Ukraine for an investigation of the Bidens are now the subject of a House impeachment inquiry.
Prosecutors allege that Parnas and Fruman also worked with two other men, David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin, in a separate scheme to make illegal campaign donations to politicians in several states in an attempt to get support for a new recreational marijuana business. Correia and Kukushkin pleaded not guilty last week.
The four defendants are U.S. citizens, but Kukushkin and Parnas were born in Ukraine and Fruman in Belarus. All are free on bail.