'It Was Never About Corruption': Giuliani Associate Says Trump Was Involved in Ukraine Scandal
He also implicated Vice President Mike Pence and Rep. Devin Nunes.
An associate of Rudy Giuliani said this week that "President Trump knew exactly what was going on" in reference to a secret campaign to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to announce investigations into Trump's political rivals.
In a Wednesday evening interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, Lev Parnas, who was born in Ukraine and is now a naturalized U.S. citizen, disputed the idea that Trump was unaware of his and Giuliani's efforts to compromise Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden. Parnas said that the "main lie" he can correct is that "Trump didn't know" about their actions in Ukraine. Both Parnas and Giuliani, who is Trump's personal lawyer, are implicated in efforts to have Zelenskiy publicly announce probes into former Vice President Joe Biden and his family. In December, the House of Representatives impeached Trump for the scandal.
"It was never about corruption," said Parnas.
Parnas is currently under indictment for multiple campaign finance violations, which include allegedly making hundreds of thousands of illegal straw donations to a super PAC that supported Trump.
"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 Maddow. "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."
His statements coincide with documents released by House Democrats on Tuesday, which provide additional evidence that Trump was aware of Giuliani's actions. The records include a letter from Giuliani to Zelenskiy in which Trump's lawyer requests a meeting and says the president has "knowledge and consent" of his efforts. Also among the documents was a handwritten note from Parnas that says, "get Zalensky to Annouce that the Biden case will Be Investigated."
Democrats are likely to highlight evidence of that suggests Trump knew about the efforts to persuade Zelenskiy, particularly since Republicans have repeatedly claimed in congressional hearings that the president could have been unaware and therefore not directly involved with the effort.
Parnas told Maddow that Vice President Mike Pence was also aware of the situation and that he canceled his trip to attend Zelenskiy's inauguration because the Ukrainian leader had not yet agreed to publicly announce the probes into the Bidens. Parnas further said that he worked with Rep. Devin Nunes (R–Calif.) and one of his close aides to secure the investigations; he noted that he was surprised to see Nunes front-and-center at the House impeachment hearings because he was "involved in getting all this stuff." Nunes admitted Wednesday that he spoke with Parnas, but characterized him as a "person who doesn't tell the truth."
And while he says he never communicated directly with Attorney General Bill Barr, Parnas claimed that he was privy to "lots of conversations" between Giuliani and Barr that the two had in front of Parnas. "Mr. Barr had to have known everything. I mean, it's impossible," Parnas told Maddow. "Attorney General Barr was basically on the team."
The articles of impeachment accuse Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. His Senate trial is likely to start next week, where he is expected to be acquitted.