Before federal authorities arrested Rudy Giuliani’s business partners Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman at Dulles Airport with one-way tickets out of the country, the two Floridian-Ukrainian businessmen received President Donald Trump’s blessing on the hiring of attorney John Dowd. Dowd formerly represented the president during the Mueller investigation.
In the wake of their arrest for allegedly violating federal campaign finance laws, President Trump repeatedly said he did not know either Parnas or Fruman. Despite there being no apparent conflict of interest regarding their legal counsel, however, it appears that Dowd only began representing the two recently indicted GOP mega-donors after President Trump personally okayed the hiring, according to the New York Times.
In an Oct. 2 email to Dowd, Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow confirmed the president’s personal approval of the attorney-client relationship.
“I have discussed the issue of representation with the president. The president consents to allowing your representation of Mr. Parnas and Mr. Furman,” Sekulow wrote. Dowd told the Times that Trump was asked “simply as a courtesy to the president,” considering Dowd’s past representation of him.
The next day, the Trump-approved Dowd began stonewalling congressional impeachment investigators, writing a letter to the panel calling their requests for documents and information “overly broad and unduly burdensome,” and referring to the subject matter as being “well beyond the scope of your inquiry.”
Despite personally approving their attorney just a week prior, on Oct. 10 Trump was adamant that he didn’t know anything about the men.
“I don’t know those gentlemen. Now, it’s possible I have a picture with them, because I have a picture with everybody,” Trump told reporters from the White House lawn. “I don’t know them, I don’t know about them, I don’t know what they do… I don’t know, maybe they were clients of Rudy. You’d have to ask Rudy. I just don’t know.”
Notably, these comments were made after Fruman and Parnas were arrested.
But Trump’s tactics may have backfired. Reportedly angered by the president’s denials about knowing him, Parnas hired a new attorney last week and is now planning on cooperating with the House impeachment inquiry.
“We are willing to comply with the subpoena to the extent that it does not violate any appropriate privilege that Mr. Parnas may properly invoke,” wrote attorney Joseph A. Bondy. “Mr. Parnas was very upset by President Trump’s plainly false statements that he did not know him.”
“Imagine just the lay of the land: you give a bunch of money, you’re sitting with him at apparently intimate dinners, you’re seen waving at him at fundraisers and him waving back, you’re somehow recruited by Rudy Giuliani and after all that — spending a heck of a lot of money on Rudy Giuliani traveling or whatever — you’re sitting in a prison cell waiting to be bailed out and you learn the president has completely distanced himself from you. Of course, you’d be upset,” Bondy said.
Before being spurned, Parnas worked closely with Giuliani to dig up dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. He could potentially offer investigators a treasure trove of information regarding efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to open an investigation into the Biden family.
Dowd said he still represents Fruman.
[image via Mark Wilson_Getty Images]