Texas Congressional Hopeful Pete Sessions Tangled Up in Ukraine

D.C. bust connects foreign hustlers, Giuliani, and “Congressman-1”

Pete Sessions
Pete Sessions

Recently, defeated GOP Congressman Pete Sessions went shopping for a new political venue: part-Austin TX-17. In light of the latest Ukraine-scandal headlines, he might also be looking for new attorneys.

According to stories breaking all over D.C. this morning, two business associates (aka “clients”) of Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy GiulianiIgor Fruman and Lev Parnas – were arrested at Dulles Airport early this morning, on charges of campaign finance violations. According to various reports of the indictment filed by the Manhattan district attorney, the men are under investigation for allegedly funneling foreign money into U.S. political campaigns, specifically including that of Sessions’ 2018 campaign for TX-32, which Sessions lost to Democrat Colin Allred.

Sessions is not named in the indictment, but he is identifiable as “Congressman-1” from other information in the document. As summarized in the Texas Tribune today (“Pete Sessions is ‘Congressman-1’ in indictment …”:

Regarding Sessions, the indictment against the two men states that they “committed to raise $20,000 or more for a then-sitting U.S. Congressman” who is referred to in the court document as “Congressman-1.” The indictment goes on to state that the congressman “had been the beneficiary of approximately $3 million” in donations from a campaign committee. NBC News and other outlets identified that person as Sessions and reported that the committee was a Trump-aligned super PAC.

Federal authorities alleged that around the same time, Parnas "sought Congressman-1's assistance in causing the U.S. government to remove or recall” the American ambassador to Ukraine at the time, Marie Yovanovitch. Yovanovitch was a well-regarded diplomat who came into disfavor within the Trump administration and was removed from her post earlier this year.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Sessions, in his capacity as House Rules Committee chairman, advocated for the ouster of Yovanovitch.

Sessions has not yet responded to the published reports. Last month he announced he would be moving from his suburban Dallas district to Waco to run in the more conservative TX-17 in 2020. The current TX-17 incumbent, Republican Bill Flores, has announced his retirement, although he pointedly did not welcome Sessions into the race, saying he would prefer that a local Republican succeed him. (“GOP’s Pete Sessions Announces for TX-17,” Oct. 4)

Trent Sutton has also filed for the Republican nomination, and Rick Kennedy (who lost to Flores in 2018) is currently the sole candidate for the Democratic nomination.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee quickly responded to the latest news concerning Sessions. DCCC spokesman Avery Jaffe released a statement: “This shocking news about Pete Sessions and his connection to Giuliani’s Ukraine henchmen demonstrates just how entangled Sessions is in the corruption and shady behavior of Republicans in Washington. The DCCC was proud to put Congressman-1 into retirement in 2018 and send him back home to Florida where he belongs.”

As summarized in the Washington Post, the indictment against Parnas, Fruman, and two other men is “packed with allegations of political donations secretly made for the benefit of foreign interests.” Announcing the arrests, New York FBI head William F. Sweeney Jr. said, “These allegations are not about some technicality, a civil violation or an error on a form. This investigation is about corrupt behavior, deliberate lawbreaking.”

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