Former Rep. Pete Sessions’ (R-TX) hopes for returning to the House just got a little more complicated Thursday.
Sessions, who lost his suburban Dallas seat in 2018, was mentioned – though not by name – multiple times in the four-count indictment of two associates of Rudy Giuliani for allegedly violating campaign finance laws.
The indictment suggests a link between Sessions’ 2018 push to remove an ambassador who was targeted as part of Giuliani’s Ukraine pressure campaign and political contributions Giuliani’s cronies were offering the congressman.
Sessions wasn’t named explicitly by federal prosecutors, but rather was dubbed “Congressman-1.” The description in the indictment fits what was already known about Sessions’ relationship to the growing Ukraine scandal that may culminate with President Trump’s impeachment.
The Giuliani associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, allegedly sought for “Congressman-1” to push for the removal of then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Maria Yovanovitch. Sessions wrote a letter in May 2018 to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushing for her ouster, claiming that she had made anti-Trump comments in private.
Yovanovitch was recalled a year later. She is scheduled to speak to House investigators Friday as part of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
The indictment describes the then-sitting congressman as receiving two $2,700 maximum contributions (both allegedly coming from Fruman, though one was reported to the FEC as being from Parnas, the indictment said).
According to the indictment, the congressman’s campaign received $3 million in outside support from a PAC to which Parnas and Fruman are alleged to have routed hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Sessions’ 2018 race, according to the Daily Beast, got a $3 million boost from the pro-Trump group America First Action, which also received a reported $325,00 contribution from Global Energy Producers, Fruman’ and Parnas’ firm.
Sessions is also one of two congressman in the 2018 cycle to have received contributions from Fruman.
The indictment alleges that Fruman and Parnas illegally concealed their connections to the America First contributions and to other political donations, using various tactics.
The PAC donations did not come from the funds of Global Energy Producers, the indictment alleges, and did not even pass through the company’s account.
The funds came rather a “private lending transaction” between Fruman and third parties, and prosecutors allege the firm was used to conceal Fruman and Parnas’ involvement from both the FEC and their creditors.
The indictment alleges that, in pushing to oust Yovanovitch, Fruman and Parnas were working to further the political and financial interests of an unnamed “Ukrainian official.”
It is unclear exactly how Sessions got roped in with the likes of Parnas and Fruman, who had been acting as middle men for Giuliani as he encouraged Ukraine to open probes politically beneficial to Trump. The indictment says Sessions met them at an event sponsored by an outside political group.
Sessions announced his bid last week for a congressional seat that’s being vacated by Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), who is retiring.
Sessions’ loss in 2018 was emblematic of the electoral tides shifting against Republicans in the suburbs due to Trump’s toxicity; the then-11-term congressman, who had once served as the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, was previously seen as untouchable.
While Sessions’ letter didn’t get Yovanovitch fired at the time, Trump eventually ordered her removal, the Wall Street Journal reported, after months of prodding from Giuliani and others. Giuliani told the Journal that he had complained to Trump that Yovanovitch was stymying Ukrainian investigations into the Bidens and that she lacked loyalty to the President.
Sessions told the Journal he never followed up on the letter. He refused to tell the Journal the source of his claim in the letter that Yovanovitch was disloyal to Trump. The claim that she was disloyal also came up in disinformation materials put together by Giuliani that were circulated in the State Department earlier this year.
The indictment, meanwhile, says that at the same time Parnas and Fruman sought “Congressman-1’s” assistance in ousting Yovanovitch, they committed to raising $20,000 or more for his re-election.