parnas talks
January 17, 2020

Lev Parnas has changed his mind about former Vice President Joe Biden, he told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow during an interview that aired Thursday night.

There is a debunked conspiracy theory that has been pushed by conservatives that Biden had a nefarious reason for joining other world leaders in pushing Ukraine to oust its top prosecutor. There were calls to remove the prosecutor because he was not fighting corruption, but the conspiracy peddlers say Biden only wanted him out because he was going to investigate the Ukrainian gas company Burisma. Biden's son, Hunter, was once a member of Burisma's board.

"After analyzing all the evidence and sitting back and really understanding what's going on, I don't think Vice President Biden did anything wrong," Parnas, an indicted associated of Rudy Giuliani, said. "I think he was protecting our country and getting rid of, probably, a crooked attorney general." Giuliani went to Ukraine to try to find incriminating evidence on the Bidens, and Parnas said people were willing to say they had dirt on them because "rich people in Ukraine have their own agenda." Catherine Garcia

January 16, 2020

Lev Parnas has spent the last two days implicating just about everyone in President Trump's orbit — from Trump himself to his lawyer Rudy Giuliani to his kids, not to mention several Cabinet secretaries, the attorney general, and the vice president — in a corrupt scheme to boost Trump's electoral prospects by procuring dirt on his leading Democratic rival. In mob parlance, he has been singing. The Late Show ran with that to kick of Thursday's show, borrowing from the Harry Belfonte song "Jump in the Line."

Despite the trio at the end, Trump and his aides claim they don't believe Parnas. Peter Weber

January 16, 2020

President Trump's personal White House lawyer Jay Sekulow knew about Rudy Giuliani's efforts to get Ukraine to announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, but "didn't agree with what Rudy was doing," Lev Parnas told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.

In an interview that aired Thursday night, Parnas, an associate of Giuliani, said Sekulow was "in the loop" but "didn't want to be involved in the Ukraine stuff." He said he heard Sekulow and Giuliani talk about the matter, and Sekulow "didn't agree with what Rudy was doing, but he knew what he was doing."

Parnas and his business partner Igor Fruman were arrested in October and charged with campaign finance violations. John Dowd, Trump's former attorney, was briefly Parnas' lawyer, and Parnas told Maddow that during a visit to the jail, Dowd told him to "be a good boy." Maddow asked if Dowd was "telling you to sacrifice yourself to protect Trump," and Parnas responded, "Yes ... they tried to keep me quiet." Parnas said soon after, he fired Dowd.

New evidence Parnas submitted to House impeachment investigators was released this week, including an email from Sekulow dated Oct. 2, 2019. It states, "The president consents to allowing your representation of Mr. Parnas and Mr. Furman [sic]." Trump has claimed multiple times that he does not know Parnas; Parnas has promised to release photos of the two together every time he makes a denial. Catherine Garcia

January 16, 2020

Before former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was recalled from Kyiv last May, President Trump "fired her probably ... at least four, five times," Lev Parnas told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow in an interview that aired Thursday.

Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, said on one occasion, he told Trump that Yovanovitch was "badmouthing him, and saying he was going to get impeached. Something to that effect. And at that point, he turned around to John DeStefano, who was his aide at the time, and said, 'Fire her.' And we all, there was silence in the room."

DeStefano allegedly told Trump that Yovaonvitch couldn't be removed because Mike Pompeo had not yet been confirmed as secretary of state. "I don't know how many times at that dinner, once or twice, three times, but he fired her several times at that dinner," Parnas said. At one point, Parnas claims, Trump "had a breakdown" and screamed, "Fire her!" at another assistant. Every time he directed the State Department to fire Yovanovitch, Parnas said, the order was refused.

Yovanovitch testified before lawmakers last fall that Giuliani was behind a smear campaign against her, and Giuliani admitted in December that Yovanovitch was standing in the way of Ukraine announcing investigations Trump wanted into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. The articles of impeachment against Trump accuse him of withholding military aid to Ukraine in order to get the country to announce the investigations, and on Thursday, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said it found that the Trump administration broke the law by freezing the aid. Catherine Garcia

January 16, 2020

Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow in an interview that aired Thursday night that former Energy Secretary Rick Perry was directed by Rudy Giuliani to tell Ukraine its U.S. aid was contingent on the country announcing investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Parnas alleges that after Giuliani made the request, Perry called him back and said he had been in touch with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and conveyed the message.

Perry left the Trump administration last fall, shortly after reports came out that Perry, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, and former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker — dubbed the "three amigos" — were put in charge of Ukraine policy. He later announced he would not comply with a subpoena for the House impeachment inquiry. Catherine Garcia

January 16, 2020

Lev Parnas torched his bridges Wednesday. He told The New York Times he's eager to cooperate with federal prosecutors investigating his former associate Rudy Giuliani, and on MSNBC he implicated President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General William Barr, and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) in the Giuliani-led effort to dig up dirt on Joe Biden in Ukraine. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Energy Secretary Rick Perry are apparently on the menu in the upcoming second part of Parnas' interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.

But Parnas also released a trove of documents through the House Intelligence Committee, and Donald Trump Jr. made a small appearance in a text message exchange between Parnas and Joseph Ahearn, a GOP fundraiser then affiliated with the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action.

At the time, in early 2019, Parnas and Giuliani were working on a stealth campaign to oust U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Parnas first texted Tom Hicks Jr., a Trump family friend then chairman of America First Action, that he "should retweet" a Sean Hannity link critical of Yovanovitch. Hicks replied: "I should probably keep my hands clean on that!"

Later that day, Ahearn asked Parnas over text message: "What should I send Don to tweet?" Parnas sent him back articles critical of Yovanovitch, saying, "Have jr. retweet it." Ahearn replied: "Sent." It's "unclear" if Ahearn actually sent the request to Don Jr., the Times notes, but Don Jr. did retweet a GOP strategist slamming Yovanovitch and, a few days later, posted his own criticism of Yovanovitch.

Parnas sent an image of Don Jr.'s tweet to Ahearn. Ivanka Trump also merited a mention in the Parnas texts.

Maybe Eric Trump will make a cameo in the next batch. Peter Weber

January 16, 2020

Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, is trying to distance himself from Robert Hyde, a Republican candidate for Congress in Connecticut and "weird character."

"He's a weird individual," Parnas reiterated to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow during an interview Wednesday. On Tuesday, new evidence Parnas had turned over to House impeachment investigators was made public, including text messages between Parnas and Hyde. They appeared to show the men were tracking former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch's movements in Kyiv, noting when she was at her computer and the status of her security situation.

A former federal prosecutor on Tuesday tweeted it sounded like they were plotting "a mob hit" against Yovanovitch, but Parnas scoffed at the idea that Yovanovitch was under surveillance. He claimed he never worried she was "in danger," because Hyde was "drunk all the time." Parnas met Hyde at a Trump hotel bar, where he was "a fixture," and he said he "didn't take him seriously. I didn't even respond to him most of the time."

Parnas was part of the smear campaign to get Yovanovitch removed from her post, and he told Maddow he badmouthed her to Trump, claiming she was saying nasty things about him. "I don't believe it, and that's why I want to apologize for it," he said. Parnas also alleged the only reason why he and Giuliani wanted Yovanovitch fired was because she opposed the effort to get Ukraine to announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. "That was the only motivation," he said. "There was no other motivation." Catherine Garcia

January 16, 2020

Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani in his Ukraine endeavors, "completed his break with the White House on Wednesday, asserting for the first time in public that the president was fully aware of the efforts to dig up damaging information on his behalf," The New York Times reported late Wednesday. And Parnas said through his lawyer that he's now eager to cooperate with federal prosecutors in Manhattan who are investigating Giuliani, President Trump's personal lawyer, and Giuliani's Ukraine dealings now at the center of Trump's impeachment.

Parnas was arrested in October on tangentially related campaign finance charges, and federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York have both his case and the so-far-unannounced Giuliani investigation. "We very much want to be heard in the Southern District," Parnas' lawyer Joseph Bondy told the Times. "We very much want to provide substantial assistance to the government." Parnas has provided evidence already to federal prosecutors and House impeachment investigators, and he spoke with both the Times and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Wednesday.

Parnas told Maddow that "Trump knew exactly what was going on." He told the Times that while he met with the president several times, he knows Trump was aware of the Ukraine efforts mostly because Giuliani showed him so. He provided some evidence to back that up. "I am betting my whole life that Trump knew exactly everything that was going on that Rudy Giuliani was doing in Ukraine," Parnas said.

Parnas also said he regrets his involvement in the Ukraine affair and "trusting so much" in Giuliani, who is a godfather to his son. "I thought I was being a patriot and helping the president," he told the Times, and he "thought by listening to the president and his attorney that I couldn't possibly get in trouble or do anything wrong." Giuliani texted the Times that Parnas is "a proven liar," suggested he's turning over evidence for "attention," and claimed it's "sad to watch how the Trump haters are using" him. Peter Weber

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