In a photo that Parnassus posts on social media, he and Fruman are seen smiling along with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer.
At one point during the party that evening, Parnassus and Fruman escaped from a large reception room, packed with hundreds of Trump donors, to have a private meeting with the President and Giuliani, according to two acquaintances whom Parnassus confided in shortly after the meeting.
After all, according to what Parnassus said to his confidants. , the topic turned to Ukraine that evening. According to these two confidants, Parnassus said that the "big man," as he sometimes used to call the president, talks about his tasks and Fruman described what Parnassus described as a "secret mission" to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
James Bond Mission
In the days immediately following the meeting, Parnassus insinuated the two, who confided that he clearly believed that he had received a special assignment from the President; like some "James Bond mission," according to one of the people.
For Parnassus, the chain of command was clear: Giuliani would issue directives to the president, while Parnass, who speaks fluent Russian, would be the investigator in the field, along with Fruman, who has numerous business contacts in Ukraine.
"Parnassus views the assignment as a great crusade," says one of the people Parnassus trusted. "He believed he was doing the right thing for Trump."
The White House did not respond to repeated requests for comment on a series of questions about Trump's meeting with Parnassus and Fruman.
Giuliani, through his lawyer Robert Costello, denies that there was a private meeting at the White House in the evening, saying it was just a handshake and a photo opportunity. Costello also rejects Parnassus's allegations that he was put on a James Bond-style mission, saying that Parnassus "is not Sean Connery" and that he suffers from "delusions of grandeur."
Joseph A. Bondi, Parnassus's lawyer, told CNN, "Mr. Parnassus at any time believed he was acting only on behalf of the President, as directed by his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and never on behalf of Ukrainian employees. "
Fruman's lawyer declined to comment on this article.
Ken McCallion, a former federal prosecutor with numerous high-level clients in Ukraine, including former and current government officials, told CNN that he had heard a similar story about the party meeting in Hanukkah. Parnassus told some of McCallion's clients and contacts in Ukraine about the meeting. "Parnassus told everyone in Ukraine about the White House meeting. He was adamant that he was 'their man' – that they had chosen him as their ambassador to Ukraine," says McCallion.
A year later in May 2019, Jovanovic was recalled from his post.
Another Close Date
A separate meeting – also undisclosed earlier – between Parnassus and the President may provide further evidence that Parnassus and Trump know each other. In August 2018, months before the White House party in Hanukkah, Trump traveled to New York State to attend a fundraiser for then-Republican Congresswoman Claudia Shadow.
Among the handful of wealthy donors who attended was Parnassus. Photos taken by CNN, provided by two of those present, show that Parnassus mixes with people and takes his picture taken with Trump. Both attendees said they were left with the impression that Trump and Parnassus knew each other. During a Q&A session, Trump called Parnassus with his first name, although there were nameplates in front of them.
One source said that Parnassus seems quite proud of his involvement with Trump.
Parnassus, a popular social media user, was inclined to publicize these meetings with Trump. The photo of Trump and Parnassus together at the White House in December is the last meeting Parnassus has posted for himself with the president.
The two sources Parnassus trusted during the White House meeting at Hanukkah tell CNN that he has been with Parnassus frequently for the past eighteen months and that he "bowed" to the president.
Parnassus is disappointed with Trump
In the weeks following his arrest, Parnassus was excited about Trump, according to these sources. He even signaled that he was ready to assist with the Congressional impeachment investigation. Parnass Bondi's lawyer said his client would comply with a plea in Congress for documents and testimony as part of the impeachment investigation in a way that would allow him to defend his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
Both Parnassus and Fruman have pleaded guilty and are currently under bail and Florida home pending trial. Both men also have a history of being accused of misconduct in civil court cases, although no criminal offenses have ever been filed. One of the 2008 charges against Parnassus involves a man who says he was threatened by Parnassus after the man accused him of kneeling in his condo in Sunny Beach. Parnassus denied addressing the threat and told police he had rented the apartment without a lease based on an oral agreement with the man.
Fruman's estranged wife, Elizabeth Naumova, accused him during their divorce proceedings of beating her and possessing large quantities of cocaine and other drugs, which he allegedly charged and distributed as a party service.
Last December, the day before the Hanukkah meeting at the White House, Giuliani brought Parnassus as his former funeral guest President George H.V. Bush.
Giuliani and Parnassus snip at each other through their lawyers.
Unlike Fruman, Parnassus is no longer represented by one of President John Dowd's former attorneys. "Igor has a lot more money than Parnassus and can afford a strong defensive team," says one of their confidants, trying to explain the split.
Meanwhile, Parnassus is trapped without his phones (government-owned) at his home in Boca Raton, Florida. His former friends don't connect, they don't want to get involved in the many investigations that attack him.
"In a strange way, I regret for Leo, the mess he is in now," says one of his confidants. "He never thought he'd done anything wrong; he works for a president he really believes in. He was a fast-paced, but nice person who gave people nice gifts. I would think it was all deeply upsetting for him."