Former Associate of Representative Pete Sessions Testifies at Giuliani Partner’s Trial
The original indictment in the case suggested that Parnas’s offers to donate and fundraise for the sessions were linked to an effort to oust then-US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovich. Parnas and Fruman worked closely with Giuliani in this campaign, which ultimately led to Trump’s first impeachment. However, Giuliani has not been charged in the case, and the Justice Department quietly removed the allegation from an updated version of the indictment last year.
Boothe was not asked about this aspect of Parnas’ relationship with the sessions, but said when the men offered to help the congressman’s campaign financially, she suggested they discuss it outside. of the building.
“I said, ‘I’d like to talk more about it. Let’s do it across the street, ”Boothe said, taking the group to the Capitol Hill Club. “You cannot run any unofficial campaign or business on government property,” she told the jury.
Boothe said the men were excited to help Sessions. “They were really happy to help. Lev said he would maximize, but also help pool contributions, ”she recalls. “He mentioned the pooling of about $ 20,000.”
However, a request from Parnas’ assistant days later to donate $ 20,000 to a single credit card raised some questions, Boothe said. She consulted with longtime Sessions chief of staff who had just resigned, Matt Garcia, who told her it was allowed but that it would be “nicer” for the money to be debited to separate cards. Boothe testified that she ultimately referred the issue to Sessions fundraising.
In the end, only $ 5,400 came in and fundraisers were asked to award half to Parnas and the other half to Fruman. Sessions donated the money to charity after the men were arrested in 2019.
Boothe also added colorful testimony at the trial, acknowledging that Parnas looked a bit out of place on Capitol Hill and in fundraising photos due to his penchant for gold chains. Examining the photos presented as evidence at trial, she confirmed that Parnas was seated in the chair of the President of Sessions during a tour of the House Appropriations Committee room and that in the photos taken at the Trump Hotel International, Parnas wore the Congress of Sessions baseball jersey.
“Congressman Sessions is a very nice man and likes to do friendly things,” she told Parnas defense attorney Joseph Bondy. “I don’t know exactly why.
Parnas’ attorneys and an associate on trial with him, Andrey Kukushkin, told jurors the campaign finance law was complex and nuanced. Defense lawyers seek to cast doubt on whether the government has proven the couple knew they were breaking the law by donating money on loan from a Russian businessman.
When questioned by the prosecution, Boothe said categorically that any money coming from a foreign national or donated on behalf of another person would have been rejected, had she known. “It’s illegal,” she said for about 90 minutes on the witness stand, interrupted by a one hour lunch break.
But during cross-examination by Bondy, Boothe admitted that some of the campaign finance rules have exceptions, such as the one that allows strangers with green cards to donate money. She said she “had no reason to” think Garcia wanted to break the law, but wanted to be extra careful.
“At the end of the day, I saw what is black and white and we are going to go that route. I don’t want gray, Boothe said. “I was a chef for 72 hours at the time, so I wanted to make sure I was crossing all my t’s and pointing all my i’s.”
“Great minds may differ,” Bondy added later.
Boothe may also have inadvertently underscored the defense’s perspective on the complexity of the law by claiming at the start of his testimony that people under the age of 18 cannot donate. Such a ban was included in the McCain-Feingold Act passed in 2002, but the Supreme Court struck down the provision the following year.
The Sessions ended up losing the 2018 race to Democrat Colin Allred, but regained another House seat in 2020 after moving his residence from Dallas to Waco.
Prosecutors appear ready to close their case on Tuesday after announcing that they had abandoned plans to call Joseph Ahearn, CFO of pro-Trump super PAC America First Action. Bondy said he may seek to call Ahearn as a witness, possibly later on Tuesday. United States District Court Judge Paul Oetken said he would approve a defense subpoena for Ahearn when the court receives it.
It is still unclear whether Parnas will take a stand in his own defense. Prosecutors and the defense are expected to argue Tuesday morning over the scope of Parnas’ potential cross-examination, if he chooses to testify.