New audio released Thursday by Lev Parnas’ lawyer Joseph A. Bondy appears to show former Rudy Giuliani associates Parnas and Igor Fruman attending an April 2018 fundraising dinner with President Donald Trump along with former Republican Rep. Pete Sessions.
The recording marks the second substantial release of audio showing Parnas interacting with the president at a fundraising event.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged Parnas in October 2019, alongside his business partners Igor Fruman, David Correia, and Andrey Kukushkin, with conspiring to make illegal campaign contributions on behalf of a foreign donor. Parnas and his associates have all pleaded not guilty.
Trump has downplayed his association with Parnas and told reporters: “I don’t know who this man is.”
The recording contains audio of Trump speaking with donors at his Mar-a-Lago private club in Florida and seeking their support ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. At one point, Trump asked then Republican Congressman Pete Sessions to brief donors on the status of the GOP’s midterm prospects. “We are losing some 40 members of congress who have chosen one way or another to leave,” Sessions said. “That is probably the intrinsic value of why we’re a little worried at this point. We’ve got to get back a little bit of momentum.”
Sessions is widely believed to be the “Congressman One” described in the federal indictment of Parnas and his associates. The charges allege that Parnas and Fruman committed to raise $20,000 for a political action committee’s re-election efforts on Sessions behalf as they sought his assistance in removing then Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch from office. Prosecutors claim the effort was directed and subsidized by an unnamed foreign donor.
Sessions has not been accused of wrongdoing and has said he is cooperating with prosecutors in their investigation of Parnas and his associates.
The recording also contains Trump’s response to Dr. Rim Albezem, a Syrian-American cardiologist and activist opposed to the Assad regime, after she told the president about the sale of oil from U.S.-controlled areas of Syria to the Assad regime.
“We control the area militarily. And you’re saying Assad benefits by it?” Trump asked Albezem. “I’m not surprised.”
“You know we control that area and my guys are always saying ‘Sir, we control it for the oil.’ I say ‘Where’s the money go?’ They have no clue. They’re generals. They’re good fighters but they’re not into money.”
Parnas hired Giuliani, who serves as President Trump’s personal attorney, in 2018 seeking help with a business venture called Fraud Guarantee. Giuliani allegedly later used Parnas as a fixer in Ukraine as the former New York City mayor attempted to dig up compromising information on former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter.
At the end of a video taken at the dinner, Parnas can be seen posing for pictures alongside President Trump offering a large thumbs up. Pictures from the photo opportunity were first tweeted by Bondy in mid-January.