New recording shows access Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman had to Trump at Mar-a-Lago donor event

While it was known that Fruman and Parnas had attended an event at Mar-a-Lago, the focus of the event, the timing and who else was in attendance had not been made public.

The April 2018 meeting came days before the two men took part in a donor dinner with with the president at his Washington hotel, an encounter captured on a video released last week by Parnas’s attorney.

During that dinner, Parnas told the president that the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was agitating against him, prompting Trump to abruptly call for her firing.

The recordings of the two events undercut Trump’s repeated assertions that he does not know Parnas and Fruman, who were arrested in October on campaign finance charges. Last week, the president referred to Parnas as “a con man” and a “groupie.”

Taken together, the two recordings provide a window into Trump’s close interactions with high-dollar donors, despite his pledge to “drain the swamp.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“On a given day, the Chairwoman greets hundreds if not thousands of people at events across the country. This is nothing more than that,” said Michael Ahrens, RNC spokesman.

He declined to answer additional questions regarding the event, including about the guests in attendance.

In an interview, Parnas said the back-to-back events he attended with Trump shows the proximity they had to the president.

“When Trump would see us, he would call us, ‘my boys,’” he said. “Me and Igor together? It’s not something you’d forget. Particularly in that scene.”

Giuliani — who began working with Fruman and Parnas later that year — was not present at either gathering, people familiar with the meetings said.

Parnas had donated $50,000 to a joint fundraising committee for Trump’s campaign and the RNC in October 2016, campaign finance records show.

Parnas’s attorney, Joseph A. Bondy, provided the recording of the Mar-a-Lago gathering to The Washington Post. He said he has previously given a copy to House impeachment investigators.

Parnas and Fruman say little in the recording, but Parnas can be seen acting as a photographer for the group, snapping photos of other attendees on their cellphones before posing for a picture with Trump himself

McDaniel — whose nameplate can be seen directly across from where Fruman was seated — can be heard giving a presentation on polling and the 2018 midterms.

Also in attendance: then-Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, who has been subpoenaed as part of the ongoing criminal investigation, and Brian Ballard, a Florida lobbyist who is close with Trump.

Ballard and Sessions declined to comment.

In the recording, which lasts about 37 minutes, Trump talked about his poll numbers and asked Sessions and McDaniel to provide the group with an update on Republican efforts to win the 2018 midterm elections. At the time, Sessions was head of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

“Mr. President, thank you very much. We win when we are together. We win when we gather ourselves together around a common theme. That is, a president of the United States that wants to make America great again. It’s the common denominator for every single member of Congress,” Sessions said.

McDaniel also gave the group a pep talk about the upcoming elections, explaining that Democrats were energized but that Republicans were excited with Trump’s leadership.

“We must win. And we can win,” she said of the election, in which a Democratic wave ultimately swept Republicans from power in the House.

At one point, the group talked about Syrian policy with the president, with an unidentified attendee criticizing President Barack Obama’s actions in the country.

A woman who identified herself as Syrian American from New Jersey lavishes praise on Trump telling him, “Syrian Americans love you.”

In response, Trump attacks the Obama administration’s policy on Syria.

“Obama, he didn’t go over the red line,” Trump said. “That was a disaster. You know, Obama gave Syria up two or three years ago.”

Another attendee complained to Trump about a section of an upcoming financial services bill that he said would undercut the success of a lending program that benefits veterans.

Sessions, former chair of the House Rules Committee, told Trump that he was unaware of the legislative provision.

“I see every piece of legislation through the Rules Committee and I was unaware of it,” he said. “I told Bill, ‘You have to talk to the president about this.’”

Tom Hamburger, Paul Sonne and Michelle Ye Hee Lee contributed to this report.

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