Nicole Lafond

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.

Articles by Nichole

The biggest impeachment news of note this week:

Giuliani’s friends get arrested: This was big. Two of the associates who helped Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani carry out his pressure campaign in Ukraine were arrested on campaign finance charges. The two men — Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — were apprehended at Dulles airport, just as they were about to board a flight out of the country ahead of their deposition before Congress this week. The charges involve their efforts to funnel foreign money to political candidates in order to gain political influence. The news on its own wasn’t significant for the impeachment inquiry, but there’s more. Reports surfaced alleging that Giuliani’s financial dealings with Parnas and Fruman are being scrutinized by the FBI and Southern District of New York prosecutors, who are overseeing the campaign finance case. ABC News reported that Giuliani’s relationship with the two men is actually the subject of a criminal investigation.

Diplomat dismissed amid Ukraine pressure campaign testifies: Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch confirmed to Congress on Friday that she was forced out of her job thanks to Giuliani, who claimed she was not loyal to Trump and that she prevented Giuliani from pushing for the opening of the Biden family probe in Ukraine. She also claimed in her opening statement that she was targeted by unnamed associates of Giuliani who weren’t happy with her anti-corruption push in Ukraine. She told lawmakers that the State Department runs the risk of being “irreparably” damaged by the Trump administration.

Energy secretary finally subpoenaed: Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s role in the Ukraine mess has been inching into public view for days. On Thursday, he was shoved into the deep end with a subpoena. It appears Perry first became entangled in the scheme when he led the U.S. delegation — which included the two U.S. diplomats at the center of the pressure campaign — to attend Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s inauguration. The subpoena is primarily related Perry’s meddling in the makeup of the board of directors of a Ukrainian natural gas company and his contacts after Zelensky’s inauguration with EU ambassador Gordon Sondland, and then-U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker. Trump has also tried to pin some of the blame for the now-infamous call with Zelensky on Perry.

In other news — Trump’s taxes: A federal appeals court on Friday upheld House Democrats’ subpoena of Trump’s financial records, just one day after a New York federal district court ruled against Trumps bid to block the release of his tax returns. The appeals court ruling in the case regarding the House Oversight Committee’s subpoena to Trump’s accounting firm for his financial records. The subpoena was upheld in May and Trump’s legal team appealed the decision. The panel of appeals court judges then ruled 2-1 to uphold the May decision. The dissenting judge argued in favor of severely limited Congress’ ability to investigate a sitting president. The Trump-appointed judge, Neomi Rao, argued that if Congress wanted to issue a subpoena as part of a probe into the President, it would have to first officially open an impeachment inquiry.

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The Southern District of New York’s investigation into the actions of associates of Rudy Giuliani who violated campaign finance laws is ongoing, SDNY U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said Thursday, following the arrest of the two Giuliani allies the night before.

That means the probe could possibly sprawl beyond the charges already brought against Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, as well as David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin for conspiring to skirt federal laws against foreign interference to gain political influence and avoid properly disclosing political donations.

Both Parnas and Fruman were arrested at Washington’s Dulles airport Wednesday evening just as they were about to board an international flight. Various news outlets previously reported that the pair were attempting to flee the country. Berman confirmed they both had one-way tickets.

Berman outlined the flow of money as it is alleged in the indictment, which TPM covered here. The two were allegedly plotting to “advance the political interests of at least one foreign official, a Ukrainian government official who sought the dismissal of the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine,” Berman said. 

“Protecting the integrity of our elections and protecting our elections from unlawful foreign influence are core functions of our campaign finance laws,” he said. “As this office has made clear, we will not hesitate to investigate or prosecute those who engage in criminal conduct that draws into question the integrity of our political process. And I want to add that this investigation is continuing.”

According to William Sweeney, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York office, at least one suspect — Correia — is still at-large.

Notably, the SDNY’s public corruption unit is involved in the investigation — the same unit of prosecutors that handled the SDNY’s case against Michael Cohen’s as well as other cases related to the Russian election interference.

The duo’s arrest is explosive given their role in Giuliani and President Trump’s campaign to pressure Ukraine into investigating Trump’s political rival — former Vice President Joe Biden. The two were meant to appear before House committees handling the impeachment inquiry on Thursday and Friday mornings.

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The two pals of Rudy Giuliani who were just arrested on campaign finance charges as they tried to flee the country on the morning of their deposition before the House’s impeachment inquiry were also —surprise! — pictured with a whole swath of Trump lackeys and key GOP figures.

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