- Lev Parnas, a Ukrainian associate of Rudy Giuliani, gave MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.
- He told Maddow that President Donald Trump “knew exactly what was going on” when Parnas was carrying out his orders in a pressure campaign against Ukraine’s new president.
- Parnas, who pleaded not guilty to charges of campaign-finance violations last year, said he “wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the president.”
- “Why would [Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s] inner circle … or [former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko] meet with me? Who am I? They were told to meet with me,” Parnas added. “And that’s the secret that they’re trying to keep. I was on the ground doing their work.”
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Lev Parnas, a Ukrainian associate of President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, in an exclusive interview airing Wednesday, that the president was aware of and involved with his actions connected to a pressure campaign in Ukraine at every step of the way.
Specifically, Parnas and Giuliani were instrumental in Trump’s efforts to strong-arm Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into publicly committing to investigations that would be beneficial to Trump’s reelection campaign.
Parnas and one of Giuliani’s other associates, Igor Fruman, were arrested and charged last year with violating campaign-finance laws connected to their work for Giuliani. They pleaded not guilty to the charges against them, and Parnas has since embarked on a media campaign to cooperate with the ongoing impeachment proceedings against the president.
The House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released a trove of explosive documents that Parnas turned over, which showed the extent to which he, Giuliani, and their other Ukrainian and American contacts went to track the movements of Marie Yovanovitch, the US’s former ambassador to Ukraine, while she was serving in Kyiv.
Yovanovitch was a thorn in the side for Giuliani because she refused to help him coerce the Ukrainian government into digging up or manufacturing dirt against the Bidens. She was also sharply critical of Yuriy Lutsenko and Viktor Shokin, two of Ukraine’s former prosecutor generals, both of whom have been accused of corruption and are close to Giuliani.
The documents also included handwritten notes from Parnas, one of which described his responsibilities, which included getting Zelensky “to announce that the Biden case will be investigated.”
Parnas told Maddow during his interview with her that Trump “knew exactly what was going on” and “was aware of all my movements” the entire time.
“I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the president,” Parnas said. “I mean they have no reason to speak to me. Why would President Zelenskiy’s inner circle, or Minister Avakov, or all these people, or President Poroshenko meet with me? Who am I? They were told to meet with me. And that’s the secret that they’re trying to keep. I was on the ground doing their work.”
One particularly damning document Parnas turned over to Congress was a letter from Giuliani to Zelensky dated May 10, 2019. In it, the former New York mayor told Zelensky, then Ukraine’s president-elect, that he wanted to meet in person on May 13 and May 14.
“Just to be precise, I represent him as a private citizen, not as President of the United States,” Giuliani wrote. “This is quite common under American law because the duties and privileges of a President and a private citizen are not the same.”
One day before Giuliani wrote the letter, The New York Times reported that he wanted to meet with Ukrainian officials to discuss former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Specifically, he wanted the Ukrainian government to investigate Hunter Biden’s involvement as a board member of the Ukrainian natural-gas company Burisma Holdings.
“We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do,” Giuliani told The Times when asked whether by going to Ukraine and pressing for the inquiry, he was inviting foreign interference in the 2020 election.
Trump and Giuliani’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into delivering dirt on the Bidens and Burisma make up the center of Congress’ impeachment proceedings against Trump, which charged him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The president has said that his request for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens was linked to an interest in rooting out corruption, which is in the US’s national interest.
But Giuliani’s newly revealed letter directly undercuts that as it specifies that he was acting in his capacity as Trump’s private attorney; in other words, he was representing the president’s personal political interests, and not the country’s interests.