WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Federal prosecutors are examining whether U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani stood to profit from a Ukrainian natural gas business pushed by two associates who aided his efforts to launch investigations that could help the president, the Wall Street Journal said on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter.
The associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, pitched their company, and plans for a Poland-to-Ukraine pipeline carrying U.S. natural gas, to Ukrainian officials and energy executives this year, and said the project had White House support, the newspaper said, citing people briefed on the meetings.
Parnas and Fruman also told Ukrainian officials that Giuliani was a partner in the pipeline venture, a project of their company Global Energy Producers, the newspaper said, citing one of the people.
Giuliani has not been accused of criminal wrongdoing. In a Friday interview with the newspaper, he denied involvement in the energy company and pipeline pitch, and said he had no indication prosecutors were looking into the matter.
“Mr. Giuliani was never a partner in GEP and any reports to the contrary are false and categorically denied,” Robert Costello, a lawyer for Giuliani, told Reuters.
Citing some of the people briefed on the meetings, the Journal also said Parnas and Fruman pushed for help on an investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
The federal prosecutors, in New York, are examining whether Giuliani violated lobbying laws in connection with his Ukraine work, the newspaper said, citing people familiar with the investigation.
Lawyers for Parnas and Fruman did not immediately respond to requests for comment. John Dowd, a lawyer who has represented them in the past, declined to comment. A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan also declined to comment.
Parnas and Fruman were arrested in October on charges of illegally funneling money to U.S. politicians, including to an election committee for Trump. They have pleaded not guilty.
Giuliani is central to a Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives impeachment inquiry into whether Trump, a Republican, abused his office for political gain.
He told the Journal that had Parnas and Fruman sought his legal advice, he would have told them to avoid involvement in any “ownership situation” in Ukraine while working alongside him.
“I am not a part of the ownership, or any other involvement with GEP,” Giuliani said. “I never agreed to be part of it. I’m not even sure I was ever asked to be part of it.”
Bloomberg News, citing three unnamed U.S. officials, on Thursday said federal prosecutors in Manhattan were examining Giuliani’s financial dealings that could include possible campaign finance violations and a failure to register as a foreign agent.
(Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Chris Reese and Marguerita Choy)