WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump denied knowing two Ukrainian-born business partners indicted Thursday in connection with alleged schemes to funnel foreign money to U.S. political campaigns, dismissing a photograph that showed him with one of the men at the White House.
“I don’t know those gentlemen,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn on his way to a campaign rally in Minneapolis.
Prosecutors say Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman helped Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani meet a Ukrainian prosecutor as the former New York mayor pressed for an investigation into Trump's political rival, Joe Biden. Federal officials said Parnas and Fruman were arrested Wednesday evening at Dulles International Airport near Washington as they prepared to board an international flight with one-way tickets.
Trump brushed aside several photographs of the men with Trump or members of his family. On May 21, 2018, Parnas posted a picture on Facebook of himself with Fruman and Donald Trump Jr. at a breakfast at the Beverly Hills Polo Lounge in California. "Power Breakfast!!!" the caption said. Parnas had previously posted a picture of himself with Trump at the White House on May 1, describing an “incredible dinner and even better conversation.”
“Now it's possible I have a picture with them because I have a picture with everybody,” Trump said. "Somebody said there may be a picture or something at a fundraiser, or somewhere, but I have pictures with everybody.
"I don't know them," Trump continued. "I don't know about them, I don't know what they do...Maybe they were clients of Rudy. You'd have to ask Rudy. I just don't know."
Trump’s defense came as his campaign has been drawing attention to a photograph of Biden, his son Hunter and a Ukrainian oligarch to question the former vice president’s assertion that he never discussed his son’s business in Ukraine with him.
House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry to look into whether Trump improperly used the power of his office to further his own political aims by pushing Ukraine to investigate Biden. During a phone call on July 25 phone call, Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to look into Biden but he has insisted there was nothing improper about the call.
Contributing: Kevin Johnson
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Donald Trump denies knowing Giuliani associates Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman