WASHINGTON — A newly public video recording appears to show President Donald Trump with Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, at the president's Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, further calling into question Trump's assertion that he doesn't know Parnas and his associate Igor Fruman.
In a 37-minute recording that NBC News obtained from Parnas' attorney, Parnas and Fruman are greeted warmly by Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who appears to recognize Parnas.
"Yeah, we've met before, yeah, how are things?" McDaniel appears to say. "I'm glad you're here."
Although photos released by the House had previously placed Parnas at the fundraiser on April 20, 2018, the recording further illustrates the significant access Parnas and Fruman had to Trump, as well as other top Republican figures. The two Florida businessmen's work with Giuliani, an attorney for the president, to advance Trump's goal of getting Ukraine to investigate his political opponents is a key matter in the president's impeachment trial.
Former Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, who became entwined in Giuliani's and Parnas' campaign to oust Marie Yovanovitch as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was also at the event, according to the recording. Multiple senior U.S. law enforcement officials have previously told NBC News that Sessions is the "Congressman-1" mentioned in a criminal indictment charging Parnas and Fruman with campaign finance violations. Sessions lost re-election in 2018.
"We win when we gather ourselves together around a common theme, and that is the president of the United States that wants to make America great again," Sessions appears to say on the tape. "It's the common denominator for every single member of Congress."
Trump can be seen in the beginning and end of the video, which was recorded on a cellphone, including as he poses for a photo with Parnas, who flashes a thumbs-up for the camera. The cellphone was placed on a table with the camera facing the ceiling, so the speakers can only be heard and not seen during most of the video.
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The recording was released Thursday by Joseph Bondy, an attorney for Parnas, who traveled this week to Washington from New York to make his presence known during the impeachment trial as he continues to offer to testify. Bondy said the recording is not under a protective order as part of the criminal investigation of Parnas.
Trump has maintained that he doesn't know Parnas and Fruman as he's sought to distance himself from the two men and their work with Giuliani to dig up dirt on the president's political opponents. He's dismissed the many pictures of himself with the two Soviet-born men as snapshots like those he takes with thousands of people at campaign events.
But Parnas has insisted that the president is "lying" about not knowing exactly who they are, along with their involvement in the Ukraine matters. Another recording, which was released from a donor dinner less than two weeks after the event at Mar-a-Lago, appeared to show Parnas and Trump speaking at length about Ukraine and Yovanovitch, with Trump calling to "get rid of her" without delay.
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The latest recording offers a window into how Parnas, through generous donations to Republican candidates and committees, enjoyed substantial access to powerful figures in the Republican Party, including McDaniel, the chairwoman.
"On a given day, the chairwoman greets hundreds if not thousands of people at events across the country," RNC spokesman Michael Ahrens said. "This is nothing more than that."
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Also present at the Mar-a-Lago event were former White House official Johnny DeStefano, according to a place card visible in the video, and the prominent Republican lobbyist Brian Ballard, according to a reference Trump makes in the recording. Pam Bondi, a lawyer on Trump's legal defense team in his impeachment trial, joined Ballard's lobbying firm last year.