A Soviet-born businessman and a key figure in the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump says the U.S. president “knew exactly” what was happening with an alleged campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival.
Lev Parnas, a close associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, said in January 15 interviews with MSNBC and CNN that he worked closely with Giuliani, and with Trump’s full knowledge, to get Ukrainian officials to investigate Joe Biden, one of the front-runners to be the Democratic Party’s nominee in this year’s presidential election.
“President Trump knew exactly what was going on,” Parnas told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in an interview that aired late on January 15.
“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,” he added.
Parnas then doubled down on his claim later in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who asked him about Trump’s claim he had no association with Parnas.
“He’s lying,” Parnas said.
In a statement to MSNBC during the airing of the interview, Giuliani denied that he told Ukrainian officials that Parnas spoke on behalf of Trump.
Trump has vehemently denied all allegations that he was behind a campaign to force Ukrainian officials to investigate the business dealings of former Biden, a former U.S. vice president, and his son, part of the impeachment inquiry that will formally read out charges facing the president in the U.S. Senate later on January 16.
Even though the House of Representatives voted on December 18 to impeach Trump, Democrats released new evidence on January 14 they claim shows how deep the campaign to obtain information on Biden ran.
The documents also show Connecticut congressional candidate Robert Hyde disparaged former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch in messages to Parnas and gave him updates on her location and mobile phone use, raising concerns about possible surveillance.
Parnas, who has pleaded not guilty to federal campaign-finance violations in a separate criminal case after being arrested on October 9, 2019, has urged the U.S. Congress to allow him to testify in the impeachment inquiry.
He told CNN on January 16 that he and Trump’s former national-security adviser John Bolton “could fill in all the dots, I think, because I was on the ground there, and [Bolton] was over here.”
Parnas said the efforts were aimed solely at getting Trump reelected in 2020 and not at curbing corruption in Ukraine in general.
“That was the way everyone viewed it,” Parnas told CNN.
“That was the most important thing…for him to stay on for four years and keep the fight going. I mean, there was no other reason for doing it,” he added.
The Democrat-led House of Representatives in December charged Trump with abusing the power of his office for personal gain and obstruction of Congress.
Trump, the third U.S. president to be formally charged for high crimes and misdemeanors as prescribed in the constitution, denies the charges and has called the impeachment proceedings a “witch hunt.”
The legislative chamber voted on January 15 to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate for a trial and named the impeachment managers.
The managers from the House will act as prosecutors in the impeachment trial while the role of senators, the majority of whom are Republicans, is that of a jury.
The presiding judge will be Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who could have to rule on whether the new materials are admissible if they appear in the trial.
However, 51 senators could vote to overturn a chief justice’s decision, senators have said.