How Rudy Giuliani And His Indicted Buddies Stormed The ’18 Midterms

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November 12, 2019 3:57 p.m.
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Airpods. MAGA. The Lubavitcher Rebbe. Rudy Giuliani.

It might not be what you expect, but for Giuliani and his two Soviet-born buddies, that’s what peak political performance looks like.

Giuliani barnstormed the country in the week before the 2018 midterms, supporting various GOP candidates. And he brought two trusted political advisors in tow — neither of whom had yet been indicted: Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas.

At multiple campaign stops in the week before the midterms, the duo can be seen lingering, smiling, near the former New York mayor. TPM found several campaign stops in which Giuliani brought the pair of aging Floridians along as part of his campaign entourage. But no one seems to be able to explain why they were there.

The campaign stops were spread across the country, from an Orthodox Jewish tomb in Queens, New York to a congressional race in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Giuliani plopped into the midterm elections after a brief buckraking sojourn to a conference in Armenia on Oct. 24, 2018. Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York are now examining his financial records, while Parnas and Fruman are out on bail after being charged with campaign finance crimes.

TPM reconstructed Giuliani’s travels across the country with Parnas and Fruman, examining what happened at each location and why he brought two future federal criminal defendants in tow.

Make it here, make it anywhere

Giuliani began his pre-midterms week at the grave of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Queens, New York, on Nov. 1. The site is important to the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement, which has many adherents in New York City and state.

He attended with Chele Farley, a GOP candidate for Senate running to beat Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

Also in attendance were Parnas, Fruman, and Moishe Asman, a Kyiv-based rabbi who worked on an international charity with Fruman. Charles Gucciardo, a Long Island-based GOP donor who reportedly invested $500,000 in Giuliani’s work, also made an appearance.

After the event, Giuliani went with Parnas, Fruman, and Asman to a dinner at the home of Young Israel vice president Joe Frager.

Frager told TPM that he had first met Parnas and Fruman in June 2018, at an event put on by pro-Trump Super PAC America First Action, a $325,000 donation to which later landed the pair in the cross sights of federal prosecutors.

“They seemed to be sincerely interested in Jewish affairs,” Frager recalled. “I believe they spotted my skullcap and said hello.”

From there, the pair appear to have used their influence with Giuliani to penetrate deeper into the group — and into GOP circles.

Farley Weiss, the head of Young Israel, told TPM that the pair were given an award — and the opportunity to take a trip to Israel with Mike Huckabee and Anthony Scaramucci — because they guaranteed that Giuliani would appear at a dinner the group held.

“We were hoping that since they’re philanthropists they would give a lot of money,” Weiss said.

The Nov. 1 dinner at Frager’s home appears to have been an extension of that relationship.

It presaged a whirlwind trip that the group took which began on Nov. 3.

Jetsetting

They left New York City that morning in style, departing Teterboro airport in New Jersey on a Bombardier Global Express XRS. The large, speedy and expensive plane is enjoyed by celebrities such as Oprah, and can do “Moscow-Tokyo in eight hours and 22 minutes,” as its manufacturer brags.

Their first stop that weekend was in the suburbs of Indianapolis, where the trio campaigned for Sen. Mike Braun’s (R-IN).

Braun’s staff had heard from Rudy’s people a few days earlier that the former NYC mayor wanted to attend “one or many” of the events they had planned on Nov. 3, Braun’s campaign manager and current chief of staff Joshua Kelley recalled to TPM.

Rudy ultimately only had time for one event — and a quick one, too.

“They were there for a few minutes and then left. Never got on the bus. Never really had any other interaction,” Kelly said. “He kind of popped on the podium and got the crowd riled up.”

Parnas and Fruman kept to themselves.

“The main interpretation and recollection of the team is that we thought they were drivers or a security detail or something,” Kelly said.

After the Braun event Saturday, Great America PAC, a deep pocketed pro-Trump super PAC co-chaired by a former campaign staffer for Giuliani, announced that Rudy’s tour was actually a partnership between the former Mayor and the group.

The phone number listed on the PAC’s press release for the tour went to a Yakitori restaurant in Costa Mesa, California. The PAC did not return additional requests for comment.

The announcement promised stops in Indiana, Michigan, Nevada and Florida. (Giuliani and Fruman would later continue to an additional Florida stop, in Boca Raton, before traveling to another unannounced stop in New Hampshire.)

It’s not clear why Rudy chose to support the candidates he did.

Giuliani only expressed an interest in the next event on his Nov. 3 itinerary, for Michigan Senate candidate John James’ campaign, after misspelling the Republican’s name as “Don James” in a tweet on Nov. 1, garnering coverage from local news outlets.

“The morning of the event, somebody called and they were like, ‘Hey, Rudy’s doing a big fly-around tomorrow, and he’s wondering if John has any get-out-the-vote events because Rudy feels so bad about how he embarrassed John that we’re going to try to come to Michigan now for it,'” one person on James’ campaign recalled to TPM, adding that “they were coming because they felt bad about the tweet.”

Twitter/JohnJamesMI

After Michigan, Giuliani and company flew to Las Vegas for two events with Danny Tarkanian, whose congressional campaign lost by nine points three days later.

Tarkanian’s staff hadn’t heard that Giuliani was coming until just before the former mayor’s arrival.

“It was literally just last minute,” one person on the candidate’s team recalled. “They said that Giuliani wanted to stop by. I was like, ‘How are we going to pull that together?’”

Rudy, Parnas and Fruman first went to Tarkanian’s field office for a hastily assembled, poorly attended “rally” where Giuliani was introduced by former Nevada Gov. Robert List, and then to a previously scheduled meet-and-greet. Tarkanian would later swear that Giuliani’s associates “jumped in” a picture with him and Rudy, and that he didn’t remember the men.

Posted by Danny Tarkanian on Saturday, November 3, 2018

Parnas, Tarkanian’s staffer recalled, came off as slightly self-important.

“I just remember one of them was walking around with an iPhone Airpod in his ear, trying to pretend like he was Secret Service or something,” the staffer recalled, referring to Parnas’ signature one-Airpod look.

“He walked out ahead of Giuliani, and he had that little AirPod earpiece in, and it just looked ridiculous.”

A late-night flight to Florida later and the trio was campaigning with DeSantis on Sunday, first at a Daytona Beach Republican Club and then in Boca Raton, which the former mayor called New York’s Sixth Borough due to its density of Big Apple transplants.

The stops added to Parnas’ contacts with DeSantis: Parnas lives in Florida, and, in addition to the two rallies, the Giuliani associate hosted two fundraisers for the congressman-turned-governor. Parnas and Fruman were filmed hugging DeSantis at his victory part, and Parnas even tried to join DeSantis’ transition team, the governor later acknowledged.

As the Florida governor described Parnas two weeks ago, “it was like any other donor, nothing more than that.”

Giuliani then flew in the Bombardier Global Express to Manchester, New Hampshire from Boca Raton on the evening of Nov. 4, flight radar data shows.

The former mayor had been traveling to the area since at least March 2018, where he allegedly met a mistress who has played a role in his ongoing divorce proceedings.

Giuliani had asked to come campaign for Eddie Edwards, a former local police chief who was running for Congress. Photos show the pair campaigning together, with Parnas trailing behind.

Few people in New Hampshire that TPM spoke with could recall Parnas. One local political fundraiser told TPM that, as a New Yorker, Giuliani had an entourage that included many strange people, and that it was hard to single out one in particular.

In any case, Giuliani’s — and his soon-to-be indicted pals’ — political intervention did not benefit those on the receiving end.

Out of all the campaigns that Giuliani stumped for, only Braun in Indiana and DeSantis in Florida emerged victorious.

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