WASHINGTON – A Ukraine-born associate of President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said Wednesday night that “President Trump knew exactly what was going on” in Ukraine during the White House’s alleged pressure campaign at the center of Trump’s impeachment.
Lev Parnas, who has become one of the central figures in the Trump impeachment investigation, said Trump and Giuliani were routinely informed on the behind-the-scenes developments in Ukraine.
“He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the president. I have no intent, I have no reason to speak to any of these officials,” Parnas told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in an interview.
House Democrats impeached Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for withholding military aid and a White House visit in order to pressure Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden. That included Trump’s personal request to Zelensky for an investigation, made in a July 25 call.
The “main objective” was to get the government of Ukraine to announce the investigations into Biden, Parnas said.
Parnas and another associate of Giuliani, Igor Fruman, are facing unrelated campaign finance charges and evidence in the case includes $325,000 allegedly contributed under a false donor name to a super political action committee for Trump.
Previously, Trump denied knowing the two Ukrainian-born business partners when asked, dismissing a photograph that showed him with one of the men at the White House. Trump has also denied he did anything wrong in regards to Ukraine and has dismissed the impeachment investigation as a “witch hunt”.
“I don’t know those gentlemen,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn in October.
Parnas called that denial “lie” to Maddow.
The interview with Parnas comes after House Democrats released new records and evidence from him, including a photograph of a previously-undisclosed letter from Giuliani to Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky on May 10.
“In my capacity as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent, I request a meeting with you on this upcoming Monday, May 13th, or Tuesday, May 14th,” Giuliani wrote.
Parnas continued in the interview, “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,” he declared, later saying Giuliani told officials in Ukraine that Parnas was a representative of Trump and acting on his behalf.
Parnas said that he would put Giuliani on speakerphone so the president’s personal lawyer would confirm Parnas was representing Trump.
Parnas also mentioned that Former National Security Advisor John Bolton, who has said he will testify if subpoenaed by the Senate, United States Attorney General William Barr and Rep. Devin Nunes were involved or aware of what was happening.
Nunes is the ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee and one of Trump’s most outspoken supporters in Congress.
“Everybody was in the loop,” Parnas stated.
Parnas stated Wednesday that the desired investigations into Biden “was never about corruption” as the Trump administration and his allies on Capitol Hill have claimed.
“It was strictly about Burisma which included Hunter Biden and Joe Biden,” he said.
Parnas and Maddow also discussed screenshots of WhatsApp messages with Republican candidate for Congress Robert Hyde which were released by House Democrats.
The two appear to discuss surveillance of former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was ousted by the Trump administration, while she was in Ukraine.
Parnas claimed that “there was no other motivation” to remove Yovanovitch except to get her out of the way of pressure campaign into the announcement of investigations.
He also stated he met Hyde at a Trump Hotel where Hyde was often “at the bar” intoxicated.
Contributing: Bart Jansen, Nicholas Wu, Kevin McCoy, Jeanine Santucci USA TODAY
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