Lev Parnas is now at the center of the Trump impeachment. So why does the president keep saying he doesn’t know the guy even though there is a lot of evidence that he does? He threw new bombshells into the impeachment saga with a series of television interviews on 15 January 2020 implicating the president in pressuring Ukraine to investigate a Democratic rival to help his re-election campaign—against U.S. interests.
The efforts were “all about 2020,” Parnas told CNN, referring to Trump pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, including withholding U.S. military aid from the country. “President Trump knew exactly what was going on,” he told MSNBC in another interview.
Is Parnas a reliable witness? That’s a top question for lawmakers as the next phase of Trump’s impeachment begins. Parnas’s checkered past casts doubt on his reliability, something that Republicans will likely play up. “These allegations are being made by a man who is currently out on bail for federal crimes and is desperate to reduce his exposure to prison,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a Thursday statement.
Parnas and another Giuliani associate, Igor Fruman, were charged by federal prosecutors with making $325,000 in illegal donations to a super PAC for Trump. Parnas previously ran an insurance company called Fraud Guarantee (no joke) that didn’t appear to have any clients, but paid Giuliani $500,000 in advising fees. Since his arrest, Parnas has reversed his support for Trump.
The State Department is silent. The Democrat-controlled House released documents this week that included cryptic text messages between Parnas and a Republican congressional candidate, Robert Hyde, that appeared to indicate that former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch —who was ousted from her job after a smear campaign by Giuliani—was being surveilled. Democratic lawmakers are demanding answers from the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Parnas dismissed those claims as the ramblings of a “drunk.” It’s difficult to assess whether they are outlandish:
The State Department has refused to comment on whether the Yovanovitch was being followed. Its silence on the matter, along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s refusal to publicly defend Yovanovitch or other department employees dragged into the impeachment fight, have left some current and former diplomats fuming.
Ukraine opens an investigation. But not into the Bidens, as Trump had hoped. Ukraine’s interior ministry announced Thursday it is opening an investigation into whether Yovanovitch was being surveilled by Giuliani associates, BuzzFeed News reports.
The Soviet-born businessman at the center of Rudy Giuliani’s dirt-digging crusade in Ukraine tells The Daily Beast he’s determined to speak out despite backlash.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Lev Parnas—an ex-associate of Rudy Giuliani’s who’s at the heart of the impeachment scandal—said he is determined to keep speaking out about his work in Trumpworld on Ukraine despite the backlash.
Parnas sat with Rachel Maddow for an MSNBC interview that aired Wednesday, and then with CNN’s Anderson Cooper for one early Thursday. In his conversation with Maddow, he said President Donald Trump knew all about his efforts to pressure Kyiv to give him political favors. And he said Giuliani told Ukrainian leaders that Parnas specifically spoke on the president’s behalf. The comments drew attention from Capitol Hill, and Democratic congressional investigators have pointed to them as good reason for the Senate to call witnesses in its impeachment trial of Trump.
In another portion of the interview with Maddow that aired, Parnas likened Trump to a “cult leader” and said he was “more scared of our own Justice Department” than criminals.
He went on to claim that he’d “fired” lawyers connected to Trump after getting the feeling that they “tried to keep me quiet.”
Parnas told The Daily Beast that his former friends’ reaction to his arrest has strengthened his resolve to speak out. Parnas said that after he and his associate Igor Fruman were arrested at Dulles Airport on 9 October and charged with campaign-finance violations, he was disappointed with Giuliani’s silence. He said Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing—a Trump-friendly husband-and-wife legal team with deep and longstanding ties in Washington’s conservative legal world—also kept mum about their relationship with him. That silence, he said, left him feeling betrayed. “I felt like my family left me,” he said.
He noted that the trio rarely shy away from defending controversial clients and allies on TV. But in his case, Parnas said, they were silent. “Knowing everything about me, knowing that this was probably a hit job, they all just clammed up,” he said.
He noted that the president also disavowed knowing him, despite pictures of them together at multiple events. And he said he’d hoped to cooperate with congressional investigators as soon as they asked for his help. Toensing, diGenova, and Giuliani did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Trump said that he does not know Parnas and does not “know what he’s about.” Earlier this week, Giuliani—who was shown to be in close contact with Parnas in text messages released by House Democrats this week—dismissed Parnas as a “proven liar,” claiming his decision to provide documents to congressional Democrats was a bid for attention. While Parnas has provided a trove of documents detailing his and Giuliani’s dealings with Ukrainian officials, he also has come under scrutiny for a past that is checkered with legal and financial troubles.
Who is Lev Parnas? A Soviet-born operator thrust into Trump impeachment scandal.
The Giuliani associate insisted the president ‘knew exactly what was going on’ in Ukraine – but is he just trying to save his skin? Has he delivered the most devastating blow yet to Donald Trump’s defence? Or is he merely a desperate man trying to save his skin? Lev Parnas is the latest obscure figure to find himself thrust centre stage by the impeachment of the US president.
A close associate of Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, Parnas added to evidence that Trump personally directed an effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate one of his political rivals.
“President Trump knew exactly what was going on,” he said in a televised interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. “He was aware of all my movements … I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president.” The interview took place even as the House of Representatives transferred articles of impeachment to the Senate ahead of Trump’s trial. But who is he – and can he be trusted?
Lev – the name means “lion” in Russian – Parnas was born in February 1972 in Odessa, Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union. His family moved to America when he was three, first to Detroit, then to New York. When Parnas was 23, he settled in Florida. He co-founded a company called Global Energy Producers and, in 2013, another named Fraud Guarantee – reportedly so he could bury Google search results about a history of debts and court judgments against him.
Parnas had little interest in politics until Trump ran for president. Parnas attended his campaign rallies and became a donor.
“Parnas told me that he ‘bumped into’ Trump ‘plenty of times’ at events in New York over the years, but that they didn’t get to know each other until the 2016 campaign,” Adam Entous of the New Yorker reported.
After Trump’s shock win, Parnas became closer to Giuliani and worked on his behalf to collect dirt on Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in Ukraine – which became the core of the impeachment inquiry that could lead to Trump’s removal from office.
Parnas told the New Yorker: “Because of my Ukrainian background and my contacts there, I became like Rudy’s assistant, his investigator. I don’t do anything on my own. I don’t lobby people. I go get information. I set up a meeting. I make sure that the call went right. I make sure the translation is done right.”
Documents released this week suggest that Parnas was also involved in monitoring the movements of Marie Yovanovitch, who was ambassador to Ukraine until Trump abruptly recalled her last May. Ukraine said it has launched an investigation into alleged illegal surveillance of Yovanovitch.
Yuri Lutsenko, the former Ukrainian prosecutor general, said in an October interview that he and Parnas met for the first time with Giuliani in New York, and then later in Warsaw. Parnas became his main contact for the group, and they regularly exchanged SMS messages with articles from Ukrainian and US media.
“It seemed to me that they were close to Giuliani and they really tried to help him with finding information about issues Mr Giuliani is interested in,” Lutsenko said of Parnas and his business partner Igor Fruman. Lutsenko claimed he was not the one who set Parnas and Fruman and Giuliani against Yovanovitch. “Giuliani and especially these two guys [Parnas and Fruman] told me they are against [Yovanovitch] as an ambassador long before our meeting,” he said. “I never asked for any activity against her … I never asked for any deal on this point.”
“I find this story very funny. How could two American businessmen dismiss the ambassador?” he said in the October interview. “How could Mr Giuliani dismiss an ambassador?” After their meeting, he said, Parnas began asking for help organising other top-level meetings in Ukraine.
“He asked me after our presidential elections to help with meeting the newly elected president [Zelenskiy], but I told him that it’s impossible for me to help,” said Lutsenko. “We exchanged some newspaper and mass media articles, but nothing else. I never shared legal materials with them. We never spoke about their business, I don’t even know what business they’re in.”
Last October Parnas and Fruman were arrested as they tried to flee the US. They were indicted on charges of conspiracy, making false statements and falsification of records and ordered to turn over key documents to congressional investigators. Prosecutors allege they made outsize campaign donations to Republican causes after receiving millions of dollars originating from Russia. Parnas and Fruman have pleaded not guilty.
Trump said last year: “I don’t know those gentlemen. I don’t know what they do. Maybe you will have to ask Rudy.” But numerous photos show Trump and Parnas together. Photos released from Parnas’s phone this week show him not only with Trump but his son Donald Jr, daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner.
Parnas told Maddow: “I mean, we’re not friends. Me and him didn’t watch football games together. We didn’t eat hot dogs. But he knew exactly who we were. He knew exactly who I was, especially because I interacted with him at a lot of events.”
Lev Parnas, the Soviet-born businessman whose work in Ukraine with President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, described two occasions on which he delivered messages to Ukrainians that amounted to quid pro quos, demanding the announcement of an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter Biden in exchange for benefits from the White House.
Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani who stands at the center of the impeachment inquiry, implicated the President in the Ukraine pressure campaign in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper
Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, says President Trump is lying when he says he doesn’t know him. Parnas has turned over texts that imply an effort by Trump backers to spy on U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in Ukraine. All this unfolded as the Senate prepares for the impeachment trial. CBS News chief congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes and producer Rebecca Kaplan have the latest from Capitol Hill.
Lev Parnas: Trump Knows Who I Am
Pelosi said as she signed the documents, using multiple pens to hand out and mark the moment. “This president will be held accountable.” Moments later the prosecutors walked solemnly through the stately hall, filing into the Senate back row as the Clerk of the House announced the arrival: “The House has passed House Resolution 798, a resolution appointing and authorizing managers of the impeachment trail of Donald John Trump, President of United States.”
(Pelosi) – “America’s president Trump and impeachment”
The Trump administration has released the much-anticipated transcript summary of President Trump’s phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, after Mr. Trump authorized publishing the transcript. A memo summarizing the call shows that the president urged Zelensky to probe Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company.
America – Ukraine -Biden
Democrats aren’t committing to a firm timeline for the investigation of President Donald Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday left open the possibility that Democrats’ impeachment inquiry will continue into next year, saying she had “no idea” if it would be finished by the end of December, the strongest indication yet that their probe into President Donald Trump could interfere with the 2020 presidential race.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi – “Trump investigation”