WASHINGTON • Mr Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's attorney, is being scrutinised by federal investigators for his financial dealings following the indictment of two of his associates for violating campaign finance laws, said a law enforcement official.
The official declined to discuss details about the scrutiny, but it is a dramatic development for a man who made his reputation as a crusading mob prosecutor when he was the US attorney in Manhattan.
Mr Giuliani now finds himself drawn into an expanding criminal investigation run by his old office into illegal campaign contributions amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars in foreign money to support Mr Trump and other candidates for office.
Mr Trump told reporters on Thursday he did not know the men - Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. "Maybe they were clients of Rudy," he said. As for photos of himself with Parnas at the White House posted on Facebook, Mr Trump said it was possible, "but I have pictures with everybody".
The men are represented by Mr John Dowd, Mr Trump's former lawyer, who wrote last week to Democrats saying the two men would not testify in the House impeachment inquiry into Mr Trump.
House investigators pounded the Trump administration and its allies on Thursday with new subpoenas, demanding documents from Energy Secretary Rick Perry as they aggressively challenged a White House pledge to starve their impeachment inquiry of evidence.
Three Democratic chairmen leading the inquiry instructed Mr Perry to turn over by next Friday any records that would shed light on President Trump's attempts to pressure the Ukrainian government to open corruption investigations into former vice-president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Investigators also want answers on whether Mr Perry tried to influence the management of Ukraine's state-owned gas company.
Hours earlier, they demanded that Parnas and Fruman appear for depositions next Wednesday and hand over records related to their work with Mr Giuliani.
Parnas and Fruman had lunch with Mr Giuliani at the Trump International Hotel in Washington on Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported. That would have been just hours before prosecutors said the two were arrested trying to board a flight out of the country on one-way tickets.
The indictment does not just draw Mr Giuliani closer to prosecutors' glare; after the arrest, House Democrats subpoenaed the men's communications with Mr Giuliani. The timing of the arrest suggests prosecutors knew the two men were leaving the US, which means they were being tracked closely.
Prosecutors are likely to want to know whether the two men informed Mr Giuliani about their plans to leave and whether they wanted to avoid testifying in the Trump impeachment inquiry.
Parnas, who was born in Ukraine, and Fruman, in Belarus, are both US citizens now.
The pair had been targeted by the Democrats because of their work in Kiev with Mr Giuliani to dig up incriminating information on Mr Joe Biden, the leading contender to challenge Mr Trump in next year's presidential election, and his son.
According to the indictment, the men also played a role in another incident that House Democrats are zeroing in on: Parnas allegedly pressed an unidentified congressman to push for the ouster of the US envoy to Ukraine at the behest of Ukrainian government officials.
The ambassador, Ms Marie Yovanovitch, was recalled in May and was scheduled to testify before the impeachment inquiry yesterday. It was unclear whether she would testify.
The Giuliani associates appeared before a judge in Alexandria, Virginia, on Thursday afternoon. They were granted a US$1 million (S$1.37 million) bond and will be released to home confinement with electronic monitoring.
Meanwhile, the US ambassador to the European Union, Mr Gordon Sondland, will testify before Congress next week as part of the impeachment investigation of Mr Trump, despite a State Department order not to, his lawyer said yesterday.