Parnas and Fruman face campaign finance fraud charges in U.S. District Court in Manhattan for allegedly funneling donations to American politicians on behalf of at least one Ukrainian government official, in what prosecutors say was an attempt to buy access and influence.
They are also charged, along with David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin, in an alleged plot to earn political favor they believed would help them get into the medical marijuana business — a prospect they engaged in with an unnamed Russian national.
Kukushkin’s lawyer, defense attorney Gerald Lefcourt, writing on behalf of the four defendants, said he believes that their extensive foreign ties suggest there are probably intelligence files on them.
Lefcourt said the government is required to answer for whether the defendants’ communications were intercepted by the National Security Agency, the CIA or any other intelligence-gathering agency.
“After all, among other things, the charges involved foreign nationals, foreign money, and foreign communications, and the indictment contained what the government purports to be direct quotes of messages between the defendants,” Lefcourt wrote in a letter to Judge J. Paul Oetken filed Friday.
He argued that they are entitled to know whether intercepts were collected “as a result of [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] warrants, National Security Letters, or any other form of NSA or intelligence agency surveillance.”
Parnas was named in the recent House impeachment proceedings against Trump for his role in Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine.
Lefcourt wrote, “It is clear that the allegations involve matters of national security and conduct and communications of United States and foreign political leaders.”
The defendants believe that an “all agency” search should be done, in case exculpatory records exist among them, he said.
Lefcourt raised the issue in court at a recent proceeding, at which Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Zolkind said his team did not have any such recordings and did not intend to try to use anything of the sort at trial.
Zolkind did not “affirm or deny” the existence of any records kept by the government outside his office.
Since that court appearance, prosecutors have moved to revoke Parnas’s release conditions of house arrest and a $1 million bail bond, citing what they said were lies he told to a pretrial services monitor in Florida about the terms of his release and his finances — including a $1 million payment he got in September from a Russian bank account.
Prosecutors are trying to have him jailed without bail pending his trial.
A hearing on Parnas’s bail terms is set for Tuesday.