RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Two men linked to President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have been arrested, that's according to the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan. The men were picked up yesterday at an airport outside of Washington D.C. on campaign finance violations.
NPR's Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department and is in studio with me. Hi, Ryan.
RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning.
MARTIN: Can you begin by telling us what we know about these men, how they're connected to Giuliani?
LUCAS: So their names are Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. They are two Florida-based businessmen. Parnas was born in Ukraine, Fruman in Belarus, but they are both now American citizens. And they both worked with the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, in Giuliani's efforts to dig up derogatory information on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, related to Hunter's work for a Ukrainian energy company. This, of course, lies at the heart of the complaints about the president's phone call with Ukrainian president. This all ties into Giuliani's efforts.
Parnas has told our colleague Jeff Brady that he worked as a fixer of sorts for Giuliani in Ukraine. He connected him with current and former prosecutors in the country. Parnas says that he has known Giuliani for years. They've become friendly, go golfing, meet up from time to time. So they do have a connection going back. But, of course, the root of the question now is the connections related to Ukraine.
MARTIN: Right. So the attorney's office says that they are accused of campaign finance violations. So can you make those connections for us? What does that have to do with what we're talking about in terms of digging up dirt on Joe Biden?
LUCAS: Well, actually, we just got a copy of the indictment. It is 21 pages, and it alleges that Parnas and Fruman were part of a straw donor scheme - to basically funnel foreign money to candidates for federal and state office.
We know that Parnas and Fruman say that they're the owners of a company called Global Energy Producers LLC. It made a $325,000 donation to a pro-Trump super PAC. That caught the attention of a watchdog group here in D.C. It flagged it. It filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Committee. And there are - that ties into this indictment.
But there is a connection into Ukraine in the indictment. It says that Parnas and Fruman were raising funds for an unnamed congressman. And that Parnas met with this congressman and sought the congressman's assistance in causing the U.S. government to remove or recall the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. And the indictment also alleges that Parnas was working, at least in part, at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials.
So there is a tie into Ukraine, but it is unclear at this point. And, again, I have just skimmed the indictment.
LUCAS: It is a long indictment. There is a tie into Ukraine, but it's unclear how this ties into the broader picture that people are questioning about - the impeachment inquiry.
MARTIN: Right. So meanwhile, Congress moves forward. I assume that they are going to want to hear from these two men if they can.
LUCAS: They have actually already subpoenaed both of them.
LUCAS: In conversations that I've had with their lawyer, John Dowd, it has become clear that they have little intention of appearing for their depositions on the Hill. And, of course, now they have been arrested. They are going to make their initial court appearance today in the Eastern District of Virginia here, outside of D.C, but this case, of course, is based up in New York.
MARTIN: Meanwhile, the House is going to hear testimony, behind closed doors, tomorrow from two key witnesses, right?
LUCAS: Well, we know that the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who was pushed out of her post, is scheduled to testify behind closed doors on Friday. A former National Security Council official, Fiona Hill, is scheduled for Monday. And then there's a State Department official, George Kent, scheduled for Tuesday.
MARTIN: All right. NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas for us, following all of this. Thank you so much.
LUCAS: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.