NEW YORK – Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt testified at a trial Friday, describing how his enthusiastic pursuit of big contributions from a Rudy Giuliani associate he met at a Trump hotel during his 2018 run for governor ended with a $10,000 check he had to reject.
Adam Laxalt, 43, now a 2022 candidate for U.S. Senate, was repeatedly shown text messages he exchanged with Florida businessman Lev Parnas as he followed up with what he thought was a well connected man who could possibly raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for his campaign.
Parnas and Andrey Kukushkin are facing charges that they conspired to use over $100,000 of a $1 million investment from a Russian financier to fund politicians they thought could advance their business interests, including in an energy company and in the fledgling legal marijuana industry in the West.
Laxalt is considered a prize witness in the prosecution of Parnas and Kukushkin at a trial where prosecutors expect they might rest late Monday or early Tuesday, less than a week after they began.
An ally of former President Donald Trump and Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Laxalt spearheaded efforts to overturn President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in Nevada through failed legal challenges of mail-in voting and the vote counting process.
Giuliani is not charged in the case, though he is under investigation for whether he was required to register as an agent of a foreign government for actions he insists he took to aid Trump. Parnas was sometimes with Giuliani in 2018 as he helped Trump’s then-personal lawyer try to persuade Ukrainian officials to investigate Biden’s son.
Laxalt testified from inside a see-through, air-protected box that enabled him to remove his mask while most others in the courtroom, including jurors, remained masked to protect against the coronavirus.
His testimony seemed aimed at supporting the prosecution's claims that Parnas made himself seem wealthy and influential — a prized fundraiser — when he was actually relying on financial support from others.
At one point, according to text messages shown to jurors, Parnas offered Laxalt a trip to an event on a private jet. Laxalt turned him down.
Laxalt, who served one term as Nevada's attorney general before his run for governor, said he was introduced to Parnas weeks before Election Day in 2018 when he was in Washington at the Trump International Hotel at an event where then-Vice President Mike Pence spoke.
Parnas said he “could raise a couple hundred thousand dollars,” some of it through a fundraiser he'd stage, Laxalt testified.
But in the weeks that followed, the fundraiser never materialized, and Laxalt seemed increasingly desperate to see a contribution from Parnas.
When he pressed for money just days before the election, Laxalt 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 and a lawyer advised the campaign to reject it, Laxalt testified. Prosecutors maintain the money was really from the Russian financier, Andrey Muraviev.
On cross examination by attorney Joseph Bondy, who represents Parnas, Laxalt did not dispute Bondy's claims that he might have referred to Parnas as “a novice, clownish or odd."
Laxalt said candidates meet a lot of odd characters on the campaign trail who offer a lot.
“They don't necessarily help," he said.
Associated Press Writer Michelle Price contributed to this report.