While President Trump has sought to distance himself from Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, The Washington Post reports that the three men discussed Ukraine as early as April 2018, at a dinner for big donors of a super PAC tied to Trump. According to the Post, Parnas has told associates that he and Fruman spoke to the president at the dinner and told him the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was no good for him and his interests. The two men are said to have gotten invitations to the event at Trump’s Washington hotel after they promised a large contribution to America First super PAC. Parnas also told associates that Trump reacted strongly to what they said about then-Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Parnas reportedly told associates that Trump immediately suggested she be fired. She was removed from her post over a year later, and told Congress Trump had been pushing for her removal since the summer of 2018. Parnas, a lawyer for Fruman, and the White House have not spoken publicly about the matter.
The super PAC's spokeswoman, Kelly Sadler, claimed the event was “typical of the dinners arranged for potential donors.” Trump has previously told reporters that he did not know Parnas or Fruman after they got arrested on campaign finance charges. The two men, associates of Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, recently pleaded not guilty to facilitating illegal donations to a former Congressman who wrote a letter to the Secretary of State pushing for Yovanovitch's removal.