Why it's so hard to believe Trump's denials about Lev Parnas

The question Senate Republicans might want to consider is why, exactly, the president would repeatedly make a claim that seems literally unbelievable.
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By Steve Benen

At a White House event yesterday on school prayer, of all things, Donald Trump said in reference to the Ukraine scandal, "You had a fake whistleblower that wrote a report that bore no relationship to what was said. Everything was false." That wasn't true, and the whistleblower report has held up quite nicely.

The president added that he released a call summary of his July phone meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky after Democrats "had done these fraudulent acts." That was wrong, too.

But at the same event, the Republican took some time to comment on his knowledge of Lev Parnas, a Rudy Giuliani associate involved with executing the Ukraine scheme.

"Well, I don't know him. I don't know Parnas, other than I guess I had pictures taken, which I do with thousands of people, including people today that I didn't meet. But -- just met them. I don't know him at all. Don't know what he's about. Don't know where he comes from. Know nothing about him. [...]

"It doesn't matter what he says. He's trying to probably make a deal for himself. I don't even know who this man is, other than I guess he attended fundraisers, so I take a picture with him.... No, I don't know him. Perhaps he's a fine man; perhaps he's not. I know nothing about him.... I don't know him. I don't believe I've ever spoken with him. I don't believe I've ever spoken to him.... But I don't know him. I had never had a conversation that I remember with him."

The phrase "doth protest too much" kept coming to mind.

The latest Trump denial came on the heels of Rachel asking Parnas this week about the president previously claiming he didn't know him. Parnas was unequivocal in reference Trump, insisting, "He lied."

After conceding that the two aren't close personal friends, he added, "[Trump] knew exactly who we were. He knew exactly who I was, especially.... I had a lot of one-on-one conversations with him at gatherings."

The trouble for Trump is, his denials about Parnas are hard to believe.

It's not just because the president has an unfortunate track record of lying about a wide of range of issues, though that certainly doesn't help. It's also problematic that Trump has a long record of pretending not to know his associates the moment they become politically inconvenient.

In this case, however, the photographic evidence is especially unhelpful to the president's case. There's video, too: Parnas' lawyer used social media to promote a clip of Trump and Parnas together at Mar-a-Lago.

Complicating matters further, MSNBC's Chris Hayes noted yesterday that one of the president's personal attorneys "wrote an email telling Parnas' attorney that the president personally consented to Parnas' lawyer saying Parnas was part of the president's legal team."

Or put another way, we're well past the point at which Trump can credibly claim he "doesn't know" Parnas and knows "nothing about him." The question Senate Republicans might want to consider is why, exactly, the president would repeatedly make a claim that seems literally unbelievable.

MORE: Today's Maddowblog