Donald Trump claimed that he did not know either of the men connected to his attorney Rudy Giuliani who were arrested this week, but a new report claims that the two were actually guests at the president’s invite-only Election Night party in 2016.
Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas were arrested late on Wednesday on charges that they illegally funneled straw donations to Republican politicians and Trump-supporting super PACs. The two were at Washington Dulles Airport with one-way tickets out of the country at the time they were arrested, suggesting that they were fleeing the country. As New York Magazine reported, the two have been described as “fixers” for Giuliani and reportedly worked to encourage officials in Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. The two were following unsubstantiated allegations that Hunter engaged in corruption.
“At the same time they were advancing Trump’s agenda, they were working on a side hustle in which they tried to push Ukraine’s state-controlled energy sector to sign them up to export liquid natural gas,” the report noted. “The gas proposal appears to be their payoff: They could let Ukraine know they represented Trump, and Ukraine would therefore have an incentive to throw some business their way, despite their lack of expertise in the inner workings of the energy business.”
Trump had already downplayed his relationship to Fruman and Parnas earlier in the week, saying after their arrests that he did not know the men, despite a photograph showing him standing beside them and smiling.
“I don’t know them, I don’t know about them, I don’t know what they do,” Trump said, via The Hill. “I don’t know, maybe they were clients of Rudy’s. You’d have to ask Rudy.”
Another report from The Hill suggested that the relationship between Trump and the arrested men was even deeper, noting that they were guests at his invite-only Election Night party in 2016. The men had also reportedly bragged about their close relationship to the president, noting they were frequent guests at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
The men have now been subpoenaed by Congress to testify as part of the impeachment inquiry against Trump which concerns his pressuring of Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden.
Trump has also started to distance himself from Giuliani amid reports that his personal lawyer is the subject of a criminal investigation related to his work with the two men. Trump was asked by reporters if Giuliani was still his personal lawyer, but the president waffled on the question and would not say for sure.