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Lev Parnas, Rudy Giuliani's associate: Donald Trump had knowledge of Ukraine pressure

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Lev Parnas, Rudy Giuliani’s affiliate: Donald Trump had knowledge of Ukraine pressure

WASHINGTON (AP) — A detailed affiliate of President Donald Trump’s private lawyer says he delivered an ultimatum in May to the incoming president of Ukraine that no senior U.S. officers would attend his inauguration and all American help to the war-torn nation could be withheld if an investigation into Joe Biden wasn’t introduced.

Lev Parnas, an affiliate of Rudy Giuliani, made a number of probably explosive claims in a televised interview Wednesday evening with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. The day after Parnas mentioned he delivered the message, the U.S. State Department introduced that Vice President Mike Pence would now not be attending the inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky.

Parnas alleged that Trump ordered Pence to remain away on the behest of Giuliani to ship a transparent message to the incoming Ukrainian administration that they wanted to take critically the demand for an investigation into Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate seen as a possible menace to Trump’s 2020 reelection.

Parnas mentioned each communication he had with Zelensky’s group was on the path of Giuliani, whom he usually overheard briefing Trump about their progress by cellphone.

“President Trump knew exactly what was going on,” mentioned Parnas, a Soviet-born Florida businessman going through a raft of legal expenses associated to marketing campaign finance violations. “He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the President.”

If true, Parnas‘ account undercuts a key Republican defense of Trump deployed during the ongoing impeachment fight — that Trump’s withholding of important navy help to Ukraine final summer time wasn’t a quid professional quo for Biden investigations as a result of Zelensky didn’t know the cash was being held up.
Giuliani referred to as Parnas‘ statements “sad.”

“I feel sorry for him,” Giuliani mentioned Wednesday in a textual content message to an AP reporter. “I thought he was an honorable man. I was wrong.”
Asked instantly if Parnas was mendacity, Trump’s lawyer replied, “I’m not responding yet.”

Parnas mentioned he additionally heard Giuliani and one other Trump-aligned protection lawyer, Victoria Toensing, briefing Attorney General William Barr by cellphone about their efforts to pressure the Ukrainian authorities to announce the investigation into Biden and his son Hunter’s enterprise dealings.

“Barr was basically on the team,” Parnas mentioned.

The Justice Department mentioned in September that Trump had not spoken to Barr about having Ukraine examine the Bidens and that the legal professional basic had not mentioned Ukraine with Giuliani. Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec mentioned Wednesday that Parnas‘ claims have been “100% false.”

The new accusations got here as House Democrats made public a trove of paperwork, textual content messages and images from Parnas’ smartphones that seem to confirm elements of his account.

A federal choose earlier this month dominated that Parnas might present the supplies to Congress as half of the impeachment proceedings. Democrats voted in December to question Trump for abuse of energy and for obstruction of Congress.

A House committee chairman mentioned Wednesday his panel will examine what he says are “profoundly alarming” textual content messages among the many newly disclosed supplies which have raised questions concerning the doable surveillance of former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch earlier than she was ousted by the Trump administration final spring.

The messages present {that a} Robert F. Hyde, a Republican candidate for Congress from Connecticut, disparaged Yovanovitch in messages to Parnas and gave him updates on her location and cellphone use.

Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, mentioned Wednesday that the messages are “profoundly alarming” and “suggest a possible risk” to Yovanovitch’s safety in Kyiv earlier than she was recalled from her put up.

“These threats occurred at the same time that the two men were also discussing President Trump’s efforts, through Rudy Giuliani, to smear the ambassador’s reputation,” Engel mentioned.

He mentioned the committee employees flagged the data for the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security and is searching for assurances that correct steps have been taken to make sure the safety of Yovanovitch and committee employees. He mentioned he additionally needed to know what, if something, the State Department knew concerning the state of affairs.

“This unprecedented threat to our diplomats must be thoroughly investigated and, if warranted, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Engel mentioned.

Democrats launched the recordsdata Tuesday and Wednesday as they ready to ship articles of impeachment to the Senate for Trump’s trial. The paperwork might add pressure on the Senate because it debates whether or not to listen to witnesses within the trial.
The textual content and cellphone information present Parnas speaking with Giuliani a number of instances a day earlier than Yovanovitch’s elimination, in addition to a handwritten notice that mentions asking Ukraine’s president to analyze “the Biden case.”

Among the paperwork is a screenshot of a beforehand undisclosed letter from Giuliani to Zelenskiy dated May 10, 2019, which was shortly after Zelenskiy was elected however earlier than he took workplace. In the letter, Giuliani requests a gathering with Zelenskiy “as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent.”

The Associated Press reported in October that Zelenskiy had huddled three days earlier, on May 7, with a small group of key advisers in Kyiv to hunt recommendation about the best way to navigate the insistence from Trump and Giuliani for a probe into the Bidens. He expressed his unease about changing into entangled within the American elections, in response to three individuals conversant in the small print of the three-hour assembly. They spoke on the situation of anonymity as a result of of the diplomatic sensitivity of the difficulty, which has roiled U.S.-Ukrainian relations.

One of the paperwork launched by Democrats is a handwritten notice on stationery from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Vienna that claims “get Zalensky to Annonce that the Biden case will be Investigated.”

Parnas informed Maddow he took the notes as he was talking by cellphone to Giuliani, receiving exact directions concerning the calls for Trump needed to convey to Zelenskiy’s group.

Trump requested Zelensky in a July 25 name to analyze the Bidens. Hunter Biden served on the board of a gasoline firm primarily based in Ukraine.

The paperwork have been despatched to the House Judiciary Committee by three different House panels “to be included as part of the official record that will be transmitted to the Senate along with the Articles of Impeachment,” in response to a press release. Some of the supplies have been made public whereas others have been blacked out and marked as delicate.

Parnas and his enterprise companion, Igor Fruman, each U.S. residents who emigrated from the previous Soviet Union, have been indicted final 12 months on expenses of conspiracy, making false statements and falsification of information. Prosecutors allege they made outsize marketing campaign donations to Republican causes after receiving tens of millions of {dollars} originating from Russia. The males have pleaded not responsible.

In a number of of the paperwork, Parnas communicated with Giuliani concerning the elimination of Yovanovitch. The ambassador’s ouster, ordered by Trump, was on the middle of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. Yovanovitch testified within the House impeachment hearings that she was the sufferer of a “smear campaign.”
Trump on the July name informed Zelensky that Yovanovitch was “going to go through some things.” She had been recalled from her diplomatic put up roughly three months earlier.

On April 23, simply earlier than Yovanovitch was directed to return to the United States, Giuliani texted Parnas, “He fired her again.” Parnas texted again, “I pray it happens this time I’ll call you tomorrow my brother.”

Parnas additionally obtained messages from Hyde, who referred to Yovanovitch as a “bitch.”

After texting concerning the ambassador, Hyde gave Parnas detailed updates that prompt he was watching her. In one textual content, Hyde wrote: “She’s talked to three people. Her phone is off. Her computer is off.” He mentioned she was underneath heavy safety and “we have a person inside.”

Hyde texted Parnas that ”they’re keen to assist if we/you desire to a worth,” and “guess you can do anything in Ukraine with money … is what I was told.”
Parnas texted again: “lol.”

Lawrence Robbins, an legal professional for Yovanovitch, referred to as for an investigation into the messages.

In a Twitter put up Tuesday, Hyde referred to as Parnas a “dweeb” and prompt the messages about surveilling the ambassador have been a joke. He mentioned he welcomed an investigation.

Parnas, in flip, additionally mentioned Wednesday that Hyde’s texts shouldn’t be taken critically.

The textual content messages present that Parnas consulted Giuliani in January 2019 after the U.S. denied a visa to former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. Giuliani replied: “I can revive it.”

The following day, Giuliani informed Parnas, “It’s going to work I have no 1 in it.” Giuliani then predicted “he will get one,” earlier than giving Parnas the cellphone quantity for Jay Sekulow, the chief of the president’s private authorized group. Sekulow is anticipated to be half of Trump’s authorized group throughout the impeachment trial.

Trump has repeatedly denied realizing Parnas and Fruman, regardless of quite a few images which have emerged of the boys collectively. Among the supplies launched from Parnas’ cellphone this week have been extra images of him with Trump, in addition to the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., first daughter Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner.

Asked by Maddow about Trump’s denials of realizing him, Parnas mentioned he had spoken one-on-one with the president quite a few instances.

“He lied,” Parnas mentioned of the president. “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, who I was especially.”


Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo, Lisa Mascaro and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.

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