Former Texas Congressman Distances Himself From Ukraine Scandal

U.S. Rep Pete Sessions, R-Texas, opens a meeting of the House Rules Committee at the Capitol in Washington on Feb. 2, 2015.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

DALLAS (CN) – Former Texas Representative Pete Sessions said late Friday he will donate to charity campaign contributions made by two indicted associates of Rudy Giuliani accused of laundering foreign money to influence American elections.

Prosecutors unsealed an indictment Thursday against Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, both Soviet-born and living in Florida, in federal court in Manhattan. They are accused of acting on behalf of a Ukrainian official who wanted the dismissal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

They are charged with four counts of conspiring to defraud the United States, false statements to the Federal Elections Commission and falsification of records.

Sessions, a Republican, is reportedly identified as Congressman-1 in the indictment, who the pair are accused of soliciting a favor from in 2018.

“At and around the same time Parnas and Fruman committed to raising those funds for Congressman-1, Parnas met with Congressman-1 and sought Congressman-1’s assistance in causing the U.S. Government to remove or recall the then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine,” the indictment states.

The then-ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, was recalled from her post one year later.

Sessions is not accused of any crime and has denied any knowledge of the men’s activities. He claims to have learned of the alleged campaign finance crimes on Thursday. Parnas and Fruman each contributed $2,700 to his campaign, the maximum possible individual contribution under federal law.

“Their deception cannot, and should not, be tolerated,” Sessions said in a written statement. “Therefore, I am contributing the amount of their contributions to charities that serve abused women and children and the elderly in central Texas.”

Sessions said he was first approached by the men for a meeting “about the strategic need for Ukraine to become energy independent” from Russia.

“There was no request in that meeting and I took no action,” he said. “Over time, I recall that there were a couple additional meetings. Again, at no time did I take any official action after these meetings.”

Sessions said he only wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Yovanovitch after several fellow lawmakers told him she was “disparaging President Trump to others” as part of her official duties.

“I wrote a letter to the secretary of state to refer to this matter directly,” he said.

Sessions sent the letter within hours of meeting the two on May 9, 2018. Parnas posted an image on Instagram that day of himself, his business partner David Correria and Sessions at the U.S. Capitol. The image is captioned “Hard at work!!” Correira is a co-defendant in the case.

Sessions also distanced himself from Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney who is embroiled in an impeachment controversy that has rocked Capitol Hill regarding accusations Trump withheld Ukrainian aid in exchange for a politically-damaging investigation of Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

“I do not know what his business or legal activities in Ukraine have been,” Sessions said of Giuliani, who he describes as his personal friend of over 30 years.

Parnas and Fruman were arrested Wednesday at Washington Dulles International Airport as they were boarding one-way flights to Vienna. They remain in federal custody pending the posting of $1 million bond for each.

Sessions formerly represented Texas’ 32nd Congressional District, which includes large sections of north Dallas and the suburbs to the northeast. He was defeated during last year’s midterm elections by attorney and former professional football player Colin Allred, losing by a margin of 7%.

Sessions recently announced his intention to run for the open seat in Texas’ 17th District. The incumbent, Republican Rep. Bill Flores, is not running for reelection. The district includes Waco, Bryan and College Station.

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