Gov. DeSantis attempting to wash hands of Ukraine scandal figures

Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses the Capital Press Corps during the Associated Press Legislative Planning Session on Oct. 29, 2019. The annual event allows state leaders to brief reporters about their hopes for the regular legislative session. Credit: Michael Moline

Gov. Ron DeSantis insists he is done discussing Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, the Rudy Giuliani associates who contributed to his campaign last year and now face federal charges of steering overseas money into the U.S. political process.

Asked during a news conference Monday about his relationship with the pair – implicated along with Giuliani in President Trump’s effort to push Ukrainian authorities to investigate Democrat Joe Biden and his son, Hunter – the governor refused to engage.

“I’m not going to have any comment on that. I’ve made my comment, and so I’ll just focus on this,” DeSantis said, apparently referring to the intended topic of his news conference – a new website intended to help Floridians comparison shop for health care services..

Under persistent questioning, he insisted: “I’ve said all I have to say, and I’m going to focus on doing the people’s work in Florida. Because, ultimately, this stuff matters to people’s lives. The other stuff – you know, it is what it is. As soon as the revelations came out, you know, we refunded the donation. The right thing to do. And so, I’m going to look forward from here.”

DeSantis then cut the news conference short.

The governor actually turned over a $50,000 donation Parnas and Fruman made through their company, Global Energy Producers, to the U.S. Treasury rather than reimburse them after their involvement in the Ukraine scandal was made public.

Initially, DeSantis’ office played down his involvement with the pair, but news organizations discovered they’d been more closely involved with the campaign than the governor’s team had acknowledged.

Reporters have been asking DeSantis about his relationship with Parnas and Fruman, who reportedly participated in his campaign and appeared during this election night victory party. Pictures showed him hugging the two.

On one occasion, DeSantis said they appeared at “a lot” of GOP functions and that Parnas was known in party circles as a leading supporter of President Trump in Florida. “And so it was just like any other donor. Nothing more than that,” he said at the time.