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December 1, 2021

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Group seeks full accounting of Laxalt’s correspondence with Russian campaign backers

Adam Laxalt

John Locher / AP

In this Nov. 5, 2020, file photo, former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt speaks during a news conference in front of the Clark County Election Department in Las Vegas.

The Nevada Democratic Victory, a group whose mission is to help Democratic candidates across the state win their races, filed a public records request today with the state seeking details on former Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s activities during his unsuccessful 2018 campaign for governor.

Laxalt testified earlier this month at the federal trial of Lev Parnas, a Florida businessman who was found guilty Friday of funneling more than $100,000 in Russian money into U.S. political campaigns during the same election cycle.

Laxalt, who is seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Nevada Democratic incumbent Sen. Cortez Masto in the 2022 midterm elections, testified for about two hours Oct. 15 in New York regarding a $10,000 campaign donation from Parnas’ colleague to Laxalt. Nevada Democratic Victory asked Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford’s office to obtain communication between Laxalt, the attorney general’s office during Laxalt’s tenure, Trump advisers and the Russian conspirators.

Parnas and other co-conspirators had used a Russian backer’s money to fund political contributions they hoped would win them political favor and help with their plans for a joint marijuana venture, federal prosecutors allege.

“This is familiar territory for Laxalt, who was constantly embroiled in pay-to-play scandals while serving as Nevada’s attorney general, just like (former President Donald) Trump,” Andy Orellana, senior communications adviser for Nevada Democratic Victory, said in a statement. “Now that he is running for U.S. Senate, he will have to explain to the people of Nevada why they should trust him when he has shown that he will do literally anything to benefit himself and his shady political donors.”

Laxalt’s campaign did not return requests for comment.

During his testimony, Laxalt detailed how he met Parnas in 2018 at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. There former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani invited Laxalt to a balcony where some people were smoking cigars and having drinks. Parnas was on the balcony and “immediately offered” to help Laxalt’s campaign, saying he would like to help raise money in the final months of the race, Laxalt told the jurors during trial.

Parnas pledged $10,000 and offered to stage a fundraiser for Laxalt. But in the weeks that followed, the fundraiser never materialized, and Laxalt seemed increasingly desperate to see a contribution from Parnas.

When Laxalt pressed for money just days before the election, he received a text from Parnas referencing Federal Election Commission litigation and saying his lawyer would not let Parnas or his wife make a contribution in their names.

Finally, a $10,000 check from “Global Energy Producers” arrived. Prosecutors maintain the money was really from the Russian financier, Andrey Muraviev.

They also made campaign contributions to Nevada Republican attorney general candidate Wes Duncan, who also lost in the general election. Both Duncan and Laxalt said they returned the money.

“We sought the advice of counsel and we returned the check of the $10,000 to the United States Treasury,” Laxalt said in his testimony.

Prosecutors did not allege that Laxalt or other candidates who received donations from Parnas and Fruman knew where the money had come from.

“Had you believed this donation came from someone who was not a U.S. citizen or green card holder, what would you have done?” a prosecutor asked during testimony.

“We certainly would not have accepted it,” Laxalt replied.

On the stand, Laxalt had a difficult time recollecting specifics and the order of events, such as details about a dinner he had at Piero’s Italian Cuisine in Las Vegas with Parnas or the name of Parnas’ colleague, Fruman, who had sent the $10,000.

Court documents also revealed text exchanges between Laxalt and Parnas, as well as WhatsApp messages between Parnas, Muraviev, Ukraine-born investor Andrey Kukushkin (who was also found guilty), co-defendant David Correia (who was sentenced to a year in prison) and America First Action Financial Director Joseph Ahearn.

Some of those messages were about marijuana legislation, donor contributions and a Laxalt campaign event where former Vice President Mike Pence was in attendance.

“The records revealed previously unreported meetings and engagement between Laxalt and the men who are now facing charges, including Kukushkin who said Laxalt was ‘willing to help in Vegas’ after a ‘good meeting’ with him during his time as attorney general,” the public records request from the Nevada Democratic Victory reads.

Records also revealed that Fruman said Laxalt called him and was “personally waiting for us with his deputy, who would take over from him when he becomes governor, to discuss our issue,” according to the court documents. The men were aware they had missed the deadline to obtain a marijuana license, “unless we change the rules,” Kukushkin said in a message to Parnas, Muraviev and Fruman.

“We need Governor’s approval and green light to implement this with December licenses awards and to include us in per plan . . .” Kukuskhin wrote Oct. 24, 2018. About a week later the $10,000 contribution was made to Laxalt’s campaign.

Those messages and Laxalt’s testimony left the court with “more questions than answers,” Nevada Democratic Victory said in an email.

The organization is requesting all correspondence that mention or are between Laxalt and Parnas, Fruman, Kukushkin, Muraviev, Correia and Ahern from Jan. 5, 2015, to Jan. 6, 2019, which was Laxalt’s term as attorney general. It also wants Laxalt’s full schedule from that time period, all records regarding marijuana business permits during that time period and any correspondence between those people and the attorney general’s office.

“Given this new information indicating that Laxalt was believed to be willing to help his donors obtain a marijuana permit using the power of the governor’s office, or at least suggested to these men that he would be willing to help while they were financially supporting his political campaign, we have reason to believe this is a previously unreported scandal with especially nefarious actors,” the request concludes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.