At the 2018 White House Hanukkah party, Donald Trump took Rudy Giuliani and his now-indicted “associates” Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman aside for a private meeting. At this meeting, CNN reports that Trump instructed them to undertake a “secret mission” designed to pressure Ukraine into an investigation of Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Parnas apparently revealed this assignment to at least two people in the days immediately following the party, telling them that he had a special “James Bond mission” direct from Trump. Giuliani was to act as the contact with Trump while Parnas and Fruman worked on the ground in Ukraine, soliciting information from current and former officials.
That Giuliani, Parnas, and Fruman took on these roles was already clear. What was less clear was that the instructions came straight from Trump. Just as with the revelation that Gordon Sondland was overheard in direct communication with Trump by multiple witnesses, the firewall between Trump’s instructions and Giuliani’s actions seems to be rapidly breaking down. It’s going to be very hard for Republicans to pretend that either Giuliani or Sondland had “gone rogue” and was operating beyond the bounds of what Trump had told them to do, when Trump was directly and blatantly involved in every step of their efforts.
A lawyer for Parnas told CNN that “Mr. Parnas at all times believed that he was acting only on behalf of the President, as directed by his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani …” Parnas apparently repeated the story of his assignment not only in the U.S., but in Ukraine, telling numerous people there that he was working directly for Trump.
A lawyer for Giuliani denied that there was such a meeting, or that Parnas was ever given the kind of assignment he has suggested. However, Parnas’ version of events is supported by both photographs of the trio with Trump (and Mike Pence) at the party, and by all accounts of their action on the ground in Ukraine. And it seems that Trump and Parnas may have known each other directly, not just through Giuliani.