Photos on the private Instagram account of indicted Ukrainian-American businessman Lev Parnas shows close ties to Donald Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
The account of Parnas, who is accused of campaign finance violations for funnelling foreign funds into US elections, portray a close relationship with Mr Trump and his family as far back as 2015. The photos were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
It includes multiple photos of Parnas posing with Mr Trump, including one from October 2015 captioned: “Next president and future president!!!!”. Parnas later shared the photo of a letter signed by the president and first lady Melania Trump, thanking Parnas for his “friendship and dedication”.
Other photos show Parnas during frequent visits to Trump properties in New York, Washington, and Florida, and jet-setting across the world with Mr Giuliani. He also shared photos with various members of the Trump family as well as a private dinner with Trump’s legal team.
Parnas' lawyer told the Wall Street Journal that the photos reflect how he was a major political donor and was helping Mr Giuliani represent Trump.
Parnas and his partner Igor Fruman, two Soviet-born businessmen, were arrested earlier this month on federal charges. They were arrested at Washington’s Dulles airport. Both had one-way tickets for an international flight.
The South Florida businessmen facilitated a $325,000 donation to President Trump’s official super PAC America First Action. After their arrest, Mr Trump quickly distanced himself from the two men, claiming he doesn’t know them. Both men have now been subpoenaed in the impeachment inquiry at the US House of Representatives. Prosecutors say Parnas and Fruman also used money from an unnamed foreign national to donate to US political campaigns.
The two businessmen, who are notable donors to the Republican party, used their connections to Mr Giuliani to try to appoint a friendlier management team to Ukraine's state gas company. They were then planning to bring large contracts to companies of Trump’s close allies, the Associated Press reported. Their dealings happened as Mr Giuliani was also pushing Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political rival, former vice president Joe Biden and his son.
The close relationships raise questions on whether those with ties to Trump have been using politics for financial gains, while the president is pushing to investigate Mr Biden’s son for serving on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.