A federal grand jury in New York has issued a subpoena to former Texas congressman Pete Sessions seeking records and other information on his interactions with President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and two Giuliani associates charged last week with a scheme to funnel foreign money to U.S. politicians, according to two people familiar with the investigation.
The subpoena seeks records about Sessions’s dealings with Giuliani and two business associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who had been helping Giuliani investigate Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden.
Parnas and Fruman were charged this week with violating campaign finance law in an ongoing investigation that has ensnared the president’s personal lawyer because of his relationship with the two men.
A spokesman for Sessions, a Republican, said in a statement: “Mr. Sessions is cooperating with the US Attorney from the Southern District of New York and will be providing documents to their office related to this matter over the next couple of weeks as requested.”
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan declined to comment. Giuliani did not immediately return a message.
The subpoena was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, which added that Giuliani seemed to be the “primary focus” of the subpoena.
In the indictment unsealed last week, prosecutors said Parnas and Fruman schemed to exceed campaign donation limits in giving money to an unnamed U.S. congressman, at the same time that they were asking the congressman to get the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, removed from her job.
The indictment did not identify the congressman by name, but public campaign records indicate it was Sessions, who lost his reelection bid last year. In a statement last week, Sessions said he did not know whether he was the congressman mentioned in the indictment but denied any wrongdoing.
“[I]f I am ‘Congressman One’, I could not have had any knowledge of the scheme described in the indictment or have involvement or coordination of it,” Sessions said.
The 21-page indictment said that in the spring of 2018, Parnas met with the congressman seeking his “assistance in causing the U.S. government to remove or recall the then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.” Parnas’s efforts “to remove the Ambassador were conducted, at least in part, at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials,” the indictment said.
Parnas has previously said he and Fruman helped set up a Skype call for Giuliani in late 2018 with Viktor Shokin, who was Ukraine’s prosecutor general from 2015 to 2016, and an in-person meeting in New York in January 2019 with Yuri Lutsenko, Ukraine’s top prosecutor at the time, who had urged the removal of the U.S. ambassador.
In May 2018, around the time the indictment says Parnas and Fruman committed to raising $20,000 for the congressman, Sessions wrote a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, complaining that Yovanovitch was biased against Trump. A year later, she was recalled from her post, after Giuliani told Trump that she needed to go.
“At no time did I take any official action” after meeting with Parnas and Fruman, Sessions said, adding that he sent the letter because he had come to believe the ambassador was disparaging Trump in her conversations overseas.
Parnas and Fruman are scheduled to appear in federal court in Manhattan on Thursday.
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett