A picture is worth a thousand words — or at least a clue into a previously unreported private White House meeting involving Rudy Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.
CNN reported Friday night that during the White House’s annual Hanukkah party last year — where a photo posted to social media by Parnas shows the two Giuliani associates posing for a photo alongside President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Giuliani — Parnas and Fruman slipped out of the large reception room filled with Trump donors to privately meet with the President and Giuliani, according to two acquaintances who Parnas talked to right after the meeting.
CNN noted that the private meeting indicates that Trump knew the Giuliani associates, despite how he publicly denied knowing them shortly after news broke of their arrest at the Dulles International Airport last month. Earlier this month, TPM confirmed that they were on their way to Kyiv when they were arrested.
The two Parnas acquaintances told CNN that efforts behind the Ukraine pressure campaign were discussed during the private meeting. They said that Parnas told them that “the big guy,” referring to Trump, discussed a “secret mission” with him and Fruman that centered on pressuring the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
CNN reported that Parnas believed that he had a clear understanding of next steps, which involved plans for Giuliani to issue the President’s directives while Parnas, who is fluent in Russian, would work alongside Fruman, who holds business contacts in Ukraine, as an on-the-ground investigator.
One Parnas acquaintance told CNN that the Giuliani associate believed that he’d been given a special assignment by Trump, likening it to a “James Bond mission.”
“Parnas viewed the assignment as a great crusade,” one of Parnas’ acquaintances told CNN. “He believed he was doing the right thing for Trump.”
On Monday, Parnas’ lawyer claimed that his client told a Ukrainian official in May that unless the country announced an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden, Pence would not attend the incoming Ukrainian president’s inauguration and the United States would freeze aid funds to Ukraine.
Last month, Parnas and Fruman plead not guilty after being arrested for a campaign finance conspiracy as they boarded a one-way international flight out of Washington, D.C. According to CNN, Parnas and Fruman told others that they were going to Vienna to meet Giuliani and help with an interview in the city between Fox News’ Sean Hannity and former Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin.
In late October, Manhattan federal prosecutors subpoenaed Fruman’s brother. Specifics on what information federal prosecutors are seeking in the subpoena were not immediately available.
Read CNN’s report here.