At first blush, the charges against Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two highly controversial associates of Rudy Giuliani, might make yesterday's developments look like a campaign-finance scandal. And to a certain extent, that's a key piece of the puzzle: the Florida businessmen stand accused of funneling very large amounts of illegal campaign contributions to various Republican politicians and political entities, including a leading super PAC allied with Donald Trump.
What's more, according to prosecutors -- who took Parnas and Fruman into custody shortly before they were prepared to take a one-way flight out of the country -- the two cooked up a variety of schemes to make illegal donations to Republicans.
But this isn't just a campaign-finance controversy, and it's important to appreciate what else these guys were up to.
[Parnas and Fruman] were helping President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani set up meetings with high level Ukrainian officials, according to documents obtained by the State Department inspector general. Giuliani has acknowledged that he lobbied those people to investigate the Bidens and the 2016 campaign, in what Democrats say was an effort to uncover dirt on the president's political enemies.
While the nature of the criminal charges obviously matter, yesterday's developments are also a key ingredient to the larger impeachment crisis unfolding around Donald Trump.
It's impossible to do this justice in a single blog post, so I'll just encourage you to watch Rachel's A block from last night. In the meantime, though, let's pause to note that Parnas and Fruman may not be the only ones who'll face charges.
Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, explicitly told reporters yesterday that his office's investigation is "ongoing," suggesting additional indictments may be on the way.
It was against this backdrop that CNN ran this report:
Rudy Giuliani's financial dealings with two associates indicted on campaign finance-related charges are under scrutiny by investigators overseeing the case, law enforcement officials briefed on the matter said.The FBI and prosecutors in Manhattan are examining Giuliani's involvement in the broader flow of money that have become the focus of alleged violations that are at the center of the allegations against Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, the sources said. The sources did not say that Giuliani was a target of the investigation.
Bloomberg News added early this morning that, according to a law enforcement source, Giuliani "is being scrutinized by federal investigators for his financial dealings."
Neither the CNN report nor the Bloomberg News report have been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News.
It's difficult to say what, if anything, will come of this, though we learned some additional contextual details as yesterday unfolded, including the fact that Giuliani was with Parnas and Fruman as recently as Wednesday at -- where else? -- Trump's D.C. hotel. We also learned that Parnas and Fruman were headed to Vienna. Giuliani, it turns out, was also on his way to Vienna.
All of this, incidentally, is unfolding two weeks after Giuliani told The Atlantic, "I will be the hero! These morons -- when this is over, I will be the hero."
The president was asked yesterday, "Are you concerned that Rudy Giuliani could be indicted in all of this?" Trump, whose original personal attorney is already in prison, replied, "Well, I hope not."