A close associate of the personal lawyer of the president of the United States, Donald Trump, says he delivered an ultimatum in May to the incoming president of Ukraine that no senior US official would attend his inauguration and that all US aid to the country devastated by the war would be retained if it were investigated in Joe Biden was not announced.
Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani, made several potentially explosive statements in a televised interview Wednesday night with Rachel Maddow of MSNBC. The day after Parnas said he delivered the message, the US State Department. UU. He announced that Vice President Mike Pence would no longer attend the inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskiy.
Parnas alleged that Trump ordered Pence to stay away at the request of Giuliani to send a clear message to the incoming Ukrainian administration that they needed to take seriously the demand for an investigation into Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate seen as a potential threat to Trump. 2020 re-election
Parnas said that every communication he had with Zelenskiy’s team was directed by Giuliani, whom he listened to regularly inform Trump about his progress over the phone.
“President Trump knew exactly what was going on,” said Parnas, a Florida-born businessman from the Soviet Union who faces a series of criminal charges related to campaign financing violations. “I was aware of all my movements. I would do nothing without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the President. “
If true, Parnas’s account undermines a key Republican Trump defense deployed during the ongoing impeachment fight: that Trump’s retention of vital military aid to Ukraine last summer was not a quid pro quo for Biden’s investigations because Zelenskiy did not know that the money was withheld.
Giuliani called Parnas’ statements “sad.”
“I’m sorry for him,” Giuliani said Wednesday in a text message to an AP journalist. “I thought he was an honorable man. I was wrong.”
1:00The role of a political trial manager explained in a minute
When asked directly if Parnas was lying, Trump’s lawyer replied: “I’m still not responding.”
Parnas said he also listened to Giuliani and another Trump-lined defense attorney, Victoria Toensing, by reporting to Attorney General William Barr by telephone about his efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to announce the investigation into the business of Biden and his son Hunter.
Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said Parnas’s claims were “100 percent false.”
The new accusations came when the House Democrats released a treasure trove of documents, text messages and photos of Parnas smartphones that seem to verify parts of their account.
A chairman of the House of Representatives committee said Wednesday that his panel will investigate what he says are “deeply alarming” text messages among recently disclosed materials that have raised questions about the possible surveillance of the former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, before the Trump administration overthrew it last spring. .
The messages show that a Trump donor named Robert F. Hyde belittled Yovanovitch in the messages to Parnas and gave him updates on his location and cell phone use.
Representative Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, said Wednesday that the messages are “deeply alarming” and “suggest a possible risk” to Yovanovitch’s security in Kiev before To be removed from her post.
“These threats occurred at the same time that the two men were also discussing President Trump’s efforts, through Rudy Giuliani, to stain the ambassador’s reputation,” said Engel.
1:16Man with ties to Rudy Giuliani in relation to Ukraine to comply in the political trial investigation
He said the committee staff marked the information for the State Department’s Office of Diplomatic Security and is seeking assurances that adequate measures have been taken to ensure the safety of Yovanovitch and the committee staff. He said he also wanted to know what, if anything, the State Department knew about the situation.
“This unprecedented threat to our diplomats must be thoroughly investigated and, if warranted, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Engel.
Democrats published the archives on Tuesday and Wednesday as they prepared to send articles of political judgment to the Senate for the Trump trial. The documents could increase pressure on the Senate while discussing whether to hear witnesses at the trial.
They show Parnas communicating with Giuliani before the impeachment of Yovanovitch, and that he seemed to be pressing groundless claims that Democrat Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, were somehow involved in corruption in Ukraine. The documents include a handwritten note that mentions that the president of Ukraine is asked to investigate “the Biden case.”
0:25Lev Parnas says “I put my faith in God” after pleading not guilty to the campaign finance charge
Among the documents is a screenshot of a previously undisclosed letter from Giuliani to Zelenskiy dated May 10, 2019, which was shortly after Zelenskiy was elected, but before taking office. In the letter, Giuliani requests a meeting with Zelenskiy “as personal advisor to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent.”
The Associated Press reported in October that Zelenskiy had curled up three days earlier, on May 7, with a small group of key advisors in Kiev to seek advice on how to avoid Trump and Giuliani’s insistence for an investigation into the Bidens. He expressed concern about becoming entangled in the US elections, according to three people familiar with the details of the three-hour meeting. They spoke on condition of anonymity due to the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue, which has affected relations between the United States and Ukraine.
One of the documents published by the Democrats is a handwritten note at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel stationery in Vienna that says “take Zalensky to Annonce to investigate the Biden case.” Trump asked Zelenskiy in a July 25 call to investigate the Bidens. Hunter Biden was a board member of a gas company based in Ukraine.
Democrats said Parnas’s lawyer confirmed that Parnas wrote the notes.
The documents, including telephone records, texts and flash units delivered by Parnas, were sent to the Judicial Committee of the Chamber by three other panels of the Chamber “to be included as part of the official record that will be transmitted to the Senate along with the Articles of Indictment “, according to a statement. Some of the materials were made public, while others were marked as sensitive.
Parnas and his business partner, Igor Fruman, both American citizens who emigrated from the former Soviet Union, were charged last year on charges of conspiracy, false statements and falsification of records. Prosecutors allege they made large campaign donations to Republican causes after receiving millions of dollars from Russia. Men have pleaded not guilty.
In several of the documents, Parnas communicated with Giuliani about the elimination of Yovanovich. The expulsion of the ambassador, ordered by Trump, was the center of the political trial investigation of the Democrats. Yovanovitch testified at the political trial hearings that he was the victim of a “smear campaign.”
Trump in the July call told Zelenskiy that Yovanovitch “was going to go through some things.” She had been removed from her diplomatic post approximately three months earlier.
On April 23, just before Yovanovich received instructions to return to the United States, Giuliani sent a text message to Parnas: “He fired her again.” Parnas replied: “I pray that it will happen this time, I will call you tomorrow, my brother.”
1:29Giuliani boasts of his role in eliminating the former Ukrainian ambassador
Parnas also received messages from Hyde, who referred to Yovanovitch as a “bitch.” Hyde is now running for a position in the United States House of Representatives in Connecticut.
After sending text messages about the ambassador, Hyde gave Parnas detailed updates that suggested he was looking at her. In one text, Hyde wrote: “She has spoken with three people. Her phone is off. Her computer is off.” He said he was under strong security and “we have a person inside.”
At one point, Hyde sent a text message to Parnas saying that “they are willing to help if we want / want a price” and “I suppose you can do anything in Ukraine with money … that’s what they told me.”
Parnas replied: “hahaha.”
In an interview with The Associated Press, another committee chairman, the chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, said the texts are “deeply disturbing” and the evidence they collected “certainly suggests that people were watching to the ambassador. “
0:37Trump says Giuliani hasn’t said much about the trip to Ukraine, he calls him “the best fighter against crime”
“The most disturbing thing about these texts is that they seem to suggest that there is someone inside the embassy who provides information to Parnas and Hyde about the ambassador’s movement,” Schiff said. “Therefore, it raises a lot of troubling questions,” he said, about how far the president and Giuliani were willing to go.
Lawrence Robbins, Yovanovitch’s lawyer, requested an investigation into the messages.
“It goes without saying that the notion that US citizens and others were monitoring Ambassador Yovanovitch’s movements for unknown purposes is disturbing. We are confident that the corresponding authorities will conduct an investigation to determine what happened.”
On Twitter, Hyde dismissed the claims as “laughable” and seemed to try to distance himself from Parnas. He said he would “welcome” an investigation.
1:51Trump’s accusation: new documents shed light on the retention of Ukrainian aid in the White House
Text messages show that Parnas consulted Giuliani in January 2019 after the United States denied a visa to former Ukrainian Attorney General Viktor Shokin. Giuliani replied: “I can revive it.”
The next day, Giuliani told Parnas: “It will work, I don’t have 1”. Giuliani then predicted “he will get one,” before giving Parnas the phone number of Jay Sekulow, the president’s personal legal team leader. Sekulow is expected to be part of Trump’s legal team during the political trial.
A federal judge earlier this month ruled that Parnas could provide the materials to Congress as part of the political trial procedures.
Democrats voted in December to accuse Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
© 2020 The Canadian Press