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NEW YORK — Lev Parnas, a Florida businessman who is an associate of Rudy Giuliani, was found guilty on Friday of using funds from a foreign investor to try to influence political candidates through campaign donations.

It took the federal jury in US District Court in Manhattan less than a day to find that Parnas committed fraud through donations to several state and federal candidates that were bankrolled by a Russian financier. Parnas was also found guilty on counts related to a $325,000 donation in 2018 to a joint fund-raising committee that supported then-president Donald Trump.

Prosecutors told the jury that the illegal fund-raising efforts documented in text messages and other trial evidence gave Parnas access to elected officials and candidates. They showed photos of Parnas with Trump and Giuliani, who was the president’s personal lawyer, schmoozing at high-end political fundraisers.

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Prosecutors also said Parnas lied to the Federal Elections Committee about the source of the hefty 2018 donation, which he said in filings was from his startup company, Global Energy Producers. The company was in fact not profitable and not functioning as a real business, prosecutors argued. The donation was actually sourced through a mortgage refinance loan obtained by Parnas’s business partner, Igor Fruman, the jury found.

Fruman — whose alleged role in the events was regularly discussed in testimony at the trial — pleaded guilty last month to one count of soliciting foreign campaign contributions. He’s due to be sentenced early next year.

Parnas is also slated to face a second trial in US District Court in Manhattan for charges related to defrauding investors in what prosecutors say was another sham company — Fraud Guarantee.

The venture purported to offer a service to other companies that protected them from fraud. But prosecutors allege that Parnas and another man, David Correia, were actually stealing from their investors. Correia has pleaded guilty to charges related to his role in that case.

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Parnas’s ties to Giuliani when Giuliani was Trump’s personal attorney played prominently in the ex-president’s first impeachment trial. The Ukrainian native was recruited to help Giuliani seek damaging information on Joe Biden — and his son Hunter — before the 2020 election.

Trump was accused of threatening to withhold badly needed aid to Ukraine if officials there did not announce a criminal investigation into the Bidens.

In the campaign-finance trial, prosecutors argued Parnas knew that donations to candidates from outside the United States were illegal, and took steps to conceal that a Russian investor was behind the funds that went to candidates in several states where cannabis had recently been legalized. Giuliani was not charged in the case.

Prosecutors alleged that Parnas used money from Russian financier Andrey Muraviev to try to curry favor with candidates he believed could help him and Fruman win licenses to operate cannabis businesses.

Washington Post

Neera Tanden named White House staff secretary

WASHINGTON — Neera Tanden was named the next White House staff secretary on Friday morning, putting her in the nerve center of the building charged with overseeing the paper flow for President Biden, according to a White House official briefed on the move.

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain announced the move in a morning staff call.

She has been working for Biden since May and will also retain her current title of White House senior adviser, which has allowed her to advise the president on a wide range of issues, the person said.

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Tanden will replace Jessica Hertz, a former Obama administration attorney who worked more recently in the government affairs office of Facebook. White House officials have praised Hertz as a highly regarded, well-liked member of the team.

Hertz left the job on Friday, a planned departure that was first reported by Politico last week, and Tanden will start on Monday, the official said.

The staff secretary, who reports to the chief of staff, traditionally plays the role of both traffic cop and honest broker in the White House, with control over the documents that make it to the president, whether they be briefing books or decision memos laying out the arguments on major decisions.

The White House staff secretary has often served as a steppingstone for other roles in government. Former White House counsel Harriet Miers, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and former White House chief of staff John Podesta, a mentor for Tanden, have all previously held the job.

Tanden, an Indian American, will be the first woman of color to hold the position.

She is well known in Washington as a policy wonk and political strategist. She came to the White House from the Center for American Progress, the liberal think tank, where she had served most recently as president and CEO and before that as a deputy to Podesta, the think tank’s founder.

Biden nominated Tanden last year to become his director of the Office of Management and Budget, but the White House withdrew her nomination in March after it became clear that she lacked the votes to get Senate confirmation. Multiple lawmakers, including Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, objected to partisan comments she had previously made on social media.

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Washington Post

House ethics panel releases reports on 4 congressmen

WASHINGTON — The House Committee on Ethics on Thursday released four reports into separate violations of ethics rules by four congressmen, portraying what investigators suggested was a sweeping array of improper financial conduct.

The allegations against three Republicans and one Democrat center on stock trades and the improper use of campaign funds, according to the Office of Congressional Ethics, which investigated the cases.

Representative Mike Kelly, Republican of Pennsylvania, is under scrutiny over stock purchases by his wife that investigators say were affected by his actions as a member of Congress. Representative Tom Malinowski, Democrat of New Jersey, is facing allegations that he failed to properly disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock trades. Representative Alex X. Mooney, Republican of West Virginia, is accused of improperly using campaign funds for personal expenses, and Representative Jim Hagedorn, Republican of Minnesota, of improperly awarding contracts to companies owned by his aides’ relatives.

All four cases will continue to be reviewed by the House Ethics Committee, a bipartisan panel of lawmakers charged with enforcing the chamber’s internal rules.

In a particularly scathing report about Kelly and his wife, Victoria Kelly, investigators concluded that there was “substantial reason to believe” that she had bought stock in a steel company with a plant in her husband’s district “based upon confidential information” that he had “learned from his official job duties.”

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New York Times