Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani who was arrested on campaign finance charges Wednesday, attended President Trump’s 2016 invite-only election night party according to a new report by France’s Le Figaro newspaper.
Trump is seeking to distance himself from Parnas and fellow arrested associate Igor Fruman, and told reporters Thursday “I don’t know those gentlemen,” despite photos showing them together.
“I don’t know them, I don’t know about them, I don’t know what they do,” Trump added. “I don’t know, maybe they were clients of Rudy’s. You’d have to ask Rudy.”
A photograph of Trump smiling with Giuliani and Soviet-born businessmen, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, has been published by multiple news outlets.
Who are you going to believe about Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas?
Jay Sekulow, who says Trump has nothing to do with Rudy's henchmen?
— Grant Stern (@grantstern) October 10, 2019
Despite Trump’s claims, Parnas described himself as a friend of Trump’s who lived near his South Florida residence while speaking with France’s Le Figaro newspaper, Politico reported.
Parnas reportedly said that a friend from his hometown of Boca Raton, Fla., had hosted fundraising events for Trump and that his daughter sang on Trump’s behalf, although it’s not clear what specifically Parnas was referencing.
“We are confident,” Parnas reportedly said. “America wants a change.”
Fruman and Parnas were attempting to leave the U.S. when they were arrested on campaign finance violation charges at the airport on Wednesday evening.
Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York’s office said in a press conference Thursday afternoon that the two men were arrested at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia with one-way international tickets.
“These allegations are not about some technicality, a civil violation or an error on a form,” William Sweeney, assistant director in charge at the FBI’s New York office, said at the press conference. “This investigation is about corrupt behavior [and] deliberate lawbreaking.”
“Protecting the integrity of our elections and protecting our elections from unlawful foreign influence are core functions of our campaign finance laws and as this office has made clear, we will not hesitate to investigate and prosecute those who engage in criminal conduct that draws into question the integrity of our political process,” said U.S Attorney Geoffrey Berman.
The men are accused of engaging in a scheme using a shell company called Global Energy Producers to funnel donations to numerous Republican political committees, including ones supporting Trump and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R).
The contributions, the indictment alleges, were “made for the purpose of gaining influence with politicians so as to advance their own personal financial interests and the political interests of Ukrainian government officials, including at least on Ukrainian government official with whom they were working.”
The organization made a $320,000 donation to America First Action, a pro-Trump super PAC in May 2018, according to campaign finance filings.