WASHINGTON — An attorney for Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani who was charged last month with campaign finance violations, said Monday that his client is willing to comply with the House impeachment inquiry — and challenged the notion that President Donald Trump does not know Parnas.
In a statement to The Washington Post, Joseph Bondy noted that Parnas had a number of interactions with the president and his personal attorney, Giuliani, despite Trump’s claim that he was not familiar with his client.
“Any sentient being looking at the public record of the president and Parnas together — during intimate dinners, waving to each other at rallies, taking pictures together, and of Parnas’s alleged involvement with the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani — could divine that the president and Parnas knew each other,” he said.
Bondy said that it would “defy all reason” to conclude that the two did not know each other. “If the president really did not know Mr. Parnas, it would imply a degree of ignorance that we are not prepared to attribute to him,” he said.
He also said Parnas plans to “honor and not avoid” requests from congressional investigators, “to the extent they are legally proper while scrupulously protecting Mr. Parnas’ privileges including that of the Fifth Amendment” to avoid self-incrimination.
Last month, three House committees delivered subpoenas to Parnas and his associate Igor Fruman for documents and renewed their request for the men to testify, which they had refused to do.
Parnas’ willingness to comply with the impeachment inquiry could provide congressional investigators with a trove of information about Giuliani’s shadow foreign policy efforts in Ukraine. Parnas and Fruman helped Giuliani in his attempts to locate information in Ukraine that is damaging to Democrats. Parnas’ stance was first reported by Reuters.
A White House spokesman and Giuliani did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Parnas and Fruman were arrested last month at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. Both were charged with conspiring to violate campaign finance laws by funneling foreign money to various state and federal candidates. They have pleaded not guilty.
Parnas and Fruman have emerged as central figures in the impeachment inquiry into Trump. The two men, who were born in the former Soviet Union and maintained business contacts in Ukraine, helped connect Giuliani with former prosecutors in that country.
Photographs posted by the two men to social media also show that they interacted with Trump repeatedly since Parnas first gave a $50,000 donation to his campaign in October 2016. In May 2018, the pro-Trump super PAC America First reported receiving a $325,000 donation from an energy company the duo had recently formed.
On Monday, America First confirmed that Parnas and Fruman were part of a small dinner on April 30, 2018, that was organized by the group and attended by Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr. at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. White House pool reports show Trump was at the dinner for nearly 90 minutes.
Alan Futerfas, an attorney for Donald Trump Jr., said in a statement that “over the past few years, he has attended literally hundreds of donor events. Nothing about this one stands out.”
Kelly Sadler, a spokeswoman for the super PAC, said the roundtable dinner was “typical of the dinners arranged for potential donors.” She declined to comment on what was discussed at the off-the-record event.
The dinner was one of a number of gatherings for top donors, designed to indicate that the super PAC was the organization that had the president’s imprimatur to collect large checks, according to a person familiar with the event who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private dinner. About 15 people were in attendance, according to another person familiar with the gathering.
On May 1, the day after the dinner, Parnas posted a photo of himself with Trump standing between two American flags, giving a thumbs-up. “Thank you President Trump !!!” he wrote, adding, “incredible dinner and even better conversation.”
Fruman has also posted photographs of himself with Trump at the president’s Florida estate Mar-a-Lago. Parnas was also an occasional figure near the president at Mar-a-Lago, according to an administration official and club member. And the two men were photographed with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at a White House Hanukkah party in December.
But after Parnas and Fruman were arrested, Trump told reporters that he did not know the two men.
“I don’t know those gentlemen,” the president said the following day. “Now it’s possible I have a picture with them because I have a picture with everybody, I have a picture with everybody here,” he said.
But, he added, “I don’t know them. I don’t know about them. I don’t know what they do, but I don’t know, maybe they were clients of Rudy. You’d have to ask Rudy, I just don’t know.”
Bondy said Parnas had learned of the president’s comments while in jail, awaiting release on bail, and was “very disappointed.”
Parnas had previously been represented by John Dowd, a former personal attorney for Trump, who had told Congress last month that Parnas would not cooperate with congressional requests for information.
It is unclear whether House Democrats would be willing to grant Parnas congressional immunity to secure his testimony.
Such immunity is a seldom-granted privilege that prevents prosecutors from using in a criminal case whatever a witness tells lawmakers. That can significantly complicate prosecutors’ ability to proceed, as it essentially taints even evidence they have gathered independent of Congress. Typically, lawmakers consult with the Justice Department before offering immunity, and in this instance, the department would almost certainly oppose the move.
A spokesman for the House Intelligence Committee and a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York declined to comment.
Washington Post writers Matt Zapotosky, Ellen Nakashima and Alice Crites contributed to this report.