Ask Parnas, though, and the relationship is much different. There’s little question that Parnas, an associate of Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, had an at least indirect connection to the president. Speaking to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow earlier this month, Parnas suggested a more direct one.
“I was with Rudy more than — I mean, four or five days out of the week,” Parnas said. “I mean, I was in constant contact with him. So — and I was with Rudy when he would speak to the president, plenty of times.”
On numerous occasions, he said, he’d tell foreign officials that he was representing Giuliani and the president.
This is an issue of ongoing importance. On Friday, ABC News reported on the existence of an April 30, 2018, recording in which Trump demanded the firing of then-Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. That comment appears to have followed disparagement of Yovanovitch by Parnas, who told the president that Yovanovitch was “basically walking around telling everybody, ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached, just wait.’ ” (The Post first reported on Parnas’s conversation with Trump in November.) A year later, Yovanovitch was recalled from her position after a prolonged pressure campaign with Giuliani at its center.
That’s just one example. When Trump has denied having a relationship with Parnas, Parnas’s attorney, Joseph Bondy, has posted images on social media showing his client and the president together. By now, there’s a glut of images showing Parnas with Trump and other officials, suggesting a deep integration with Trump’s team and political allies.
But is that suggestion accurate? Is there validity to Trump’s assertion that Parnas was simply an opportunist, eager to document his proximity to Trump on those occasions where he had any? Or is it Trump who is misrepresenting their relationship?
In an effort to answer those questions, we looked through all of the images including both Trump and Parnas that we could find. We identified 11 discrete occasions on which the two were in the proximity of one another — several of which have since been reported to have included detailed political conversations.
Oct. 23, 2015: Parnas and Trump met again at Doral. This time, Trump was a candidate for president and the event was a fundraiser.
The encounter between the two was one of a number of images captured on Parnas’s private Instagram account. The Wall Street Journal gained access to the account last year and compiled an overview of what it showed.
The image from the October 2015 event can be seen at the 1:57 mark in the Journal’s video. It shows Parnas, Trump and Parnas’s son with the caption, “Next president and future president!”
October 2016: Parnas attended another fundraiser in Florida at the home of a Trump donor. In a photo, Parnas is seen standing next to Trump in front of a large door in the foyer.
According to a report from USA Today, this was the month that Parnas first made contributions to a federal political campaign: Trump’s.
December 2016: After Trump denied familiarity with Parnas last week, Parnas’s attorney, Bondy, released a brief video of Parnas encountering Trump during an event at Mar-a-Lago.
Here’s the “I don’t know him at all, don’t know what he’s about, don’t know where he comes from, know nothing about him” guy, w Lev Parnas & Roman Nasirov, former head of Ukrainian Fiscal Service, at Mar-a-Lago 12/16. @POTUS .@realDonaldTrump @Acosta #LevRemembers #LetLevSpeak pic.twitter.com/5B5QY2DJEg— Joseph A. Bondy (@josephabondy) January 16, 2020
You’ll notice that this video, like the preceding photos (and many of those that follow), doesn’t seem to suggest a close relationship between Trump and Parnas. At this point, though, Parnas and Giuliani weren’t yet working together.
Jan. 19, 2017: Parnas attended a pre-inauguration event at Washington’s Union Station. Photos uncovered by CNN show Parnas in a large crowd of people surrounding the president-elect. It’s not clear that the two actually met at the event.
That wasn’t the only inauguration-related event Parnas attended. He was also photographed with Donald Trump Jr. at a Republican Party leadership luncheon, as seen in a photograph turned over to the House Intelligence Committee by Bondy.
April 20, 2018: Included in the material turned over to the House Intelligence Committee are a number of images from an event hosted at Mar-a-Lago. It appears to be a donor roundtable, a high-dollar event in which contributors get access to the president.
The images show that Parnas was seated next to Trump and that he posed with the president both in the room where the roundtable was held and in front of the flags of the United States and the state of Florida.
Update: The Post confirmed the date of the event as April 20. Our reporters obtained video captured during the fundraiser. Also in attendance was Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.
April 30, 2018: The dinner during which Parnas and Trump discussed the firing of Yovanovitch appears to have been part of an event in support of America First Action, a political action committee that was part of the web of contributions that eventually led to Parnas’s indictment on alleged campaign finance violations.
It took place at Trump’s D.C. hotel, with Parnas posting on Facebook a number of images and video of himself with or near the president.
June 18, 2018: Parnas’s contributions to America First earned him VIP status at an event the PAC held at Trump’s D.C. hotel. A photograph provided to the House Intelligence Committee appears to show Parnas approaching Trump at that event as Trump puts a piece of paper or envelope in his jacket pocket.
Oct. 20, 2018: The indictment against Parnas alleged that he’d made illegal contributions to a political candidate in Nevada and attended a political rally in support of him. CNN tracked down video of the rally at which Trump spoke, identifying Parnas among a crowd of people on the risers behind the stage.
Dec. 6, 2018: Parnas accompanied Giuliani to a Hanukkah event at the White House. New York Times photographer Doug Mills captured the pair during the event. Parnas is visible between Giuliani and a phone being held in the air by someone in the audience.
There are a number of other photographs of the event, including one that can be seen at the 4:11 mark in the Journal video. The material provided to the House Intelligence Committee includes a blurry shot of Parnas appearing to show Trump something on his phone during the event.
In November, CNN’s Vicky Ward reported that Parnas and Giuliani joined Trump for a private meeting. Two people who’d spoken with Parnas at the time told Ward that “Parnas said that ‘the big guy,’ as he sometimes referred to the president in conversation, talked about tasking him and [Giuliani associate Igor] Fruman with what Parnas described as ‘a secret mission’ to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate [former vice president] Joe Biden and his son Hunter.”
Date unknown. There’s one additional photo of Trump and Parnas together that, like the one from April 20, 2018, shows the two posing in front of the same flags.
The date of the photo isn’t clear.
It, like many of the other public photos, don’t clarify the central question about the relationship between the two men. They are, overwhelmingly, photos of someone at events making casual contact with the president. While they also overlap with reports about closer conversations between Trump and Parnas, they don’t, of themselves, prove that the two had an intimate working relationship.
The number of photos allows Parnas to claim that they did. The distance they suggest allows Trump to claim that they didn’t. The emergence of audio of the two interacting in April 2018 — evidence that their relationship ran deeper than president-posing-with-donor — is therefore a significant boost to Parnas’s case.