• Trump denies knowing Lev Parnas despite claims Parnas was carrying out the president's orders
  • Trump acknowledged he may have taken a picture with Parnas at a fundraiser but "I take thousands and thousands of pictures with people every year."
  • The denial came as the Senate dispatched with procedural matters in Trump's impeachment trial, which gets underway in earnest Tuesday

On the same day the U.S. Senate took care of procedural matters ahead of the President Trump’s impeachment trial, the president on Thursday repeatedly denied knowing an associate of Rudy Giuliani who said Trump “knew exactly what was going on” in Ukraine.

Lev Parnas, who is facing federal charges stemming from illegal campaign donations, said on MSNBC Wednesday the president and Giuliani asked him to get Ukrainian officials to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“He was aware of all of my movements,” Parnas said. “I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president.” He added the president “knew exactly what was going on.”

Parnas' comments are the strongest so far tying Trump to the Ukraine pressure campaign.

During a photo op at the White House, Trump denied knowing Parnas or knowing anything about him.

“I can only tell you this thing is a big hoax,” he said in reference to the impeachment process, adding Democrats have been out to get him since before he announced his presidential campaign in 2015.

He said it doesn’t matter what Parnas is claiming

“I don’t even know who this man is, other than I guess he attended fundraisers. I guess I took a picture with him. … I take thousands and thousands of pictures with people every year.”

Trump said he didn’t think he ever had a conversation with Parnas, who was indicted in October on charges of conspiracy and lying to the Federal Election Commission.

The denial came as the Senate heard the articles of impeachment read, and U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and members of the Senate were sworn in for Trump’s trial, which gets underway in earnest on Tuesday.

Trump is accused of attempting to pressure Ukraine into investigating Biden in exchange for $391 million in military aid and then preventing Congress from investigating his actions. He is accused of abuse of power and obstructing Congress.

Earlier Thursday, the Government Accountability Office issued a legal opinion finding the administration violated federal law by delaying release of the aid.

Parnas said on MSNBC he was doing the groundwork for Giuliani and Trump and that Ukrainian officials would not have met with him had not Trump and Giuliani paved the way.