WASHINGTON — Lev Parnas, a key associate to Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer working for President Donald Trump who ran the Ukrainian backchannel campaign at the center of his impeachment, told MSNBC on Wednesday that "President Trump knew exactly what was going on."
"He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn't do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president," Parnas, who was indicted on campaign finance charges, told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. "Why would [Ukrainian] 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."
The interview aired after House Democrats released hundreds of pages of new documents related to the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, including texts and notes turned over by Parnas.
Three House committees sent the evidence to the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday “to be included as part of the official record that will be transmitted to the Senate along with the Articles of Impeachment.” The House sent the articles to the Senate on Wednesday evening.
In a statement to MSNBC as the interview aired, Giuliani said Parnas had "never" spoken on behalf of Trump in his meetings.
He added that Parnas is "a very sad situation."
The evidence sent by the Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs committees included documents provided recently by Parnas, who helped Giuliani dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden, in response to a subpoena he received from the House in October. The committees said the evidence also included call records, which they did not make public due to their sensitivity.
“All of this new evidence confirms what we already know: the President and his associates pressured Ukrainian officials to announce investigations that would benefit the President politically,” the chairs of all four committees said in a statement.
The committees said Parnas “continues to provide material responsive to the subpoena on a rolling basis.”
Here are some highlights from the documents the committees made public:
Parnas’s handwritten notes show plans to get the Ukrainians to investigate Joe Biden
The notes, written on stationery from the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Vienna appear to be a to-do list related to Parnas’s efforts to find incriminating information on Biden, one of the president’s top Democratic rivals. The former vice president’s son Hunter worked for a Ukrainian gas company that faced corruption allegations. Parnas may have written the notes last July, as he notes in texts to Giuliani on July 2 that he was headed to Vienna. “[T]rying to get us mr Z,” Parnas told Giuliani at the time, appearing to reference a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
One bullet in the notes reads, “get Zalensky to Annonce that the Biden case will Be Investigated.” In another, Parnas says to “start commun[icating] with” Zelensky without involving two Ukrainian oligarchs — Victor Pinchuk and Igor Kolomoisky. Parnas and his business partner Igor Fruman previously sought to use Kolomoisky to set up a meeting with Zelensky.
“Put together a package,” reads the next point, and “go to DC with package.” The following bullet says Parnas should do his “magic” and “cut deal.” (Deal is underlined twice.) Two Trumpworld lawyers — Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova — are mentioned as having been “retained” at $100,000 per month.
The notes also say to hire one of two well-connected lobbyists in Trump’s Washington: Brian Ballard and Robert Stryk. Parnas cashed two checks totaling $45,000 from Ballard’s firm in 2018 for work that it has said is unrelated to Ukraine.
Giuliani tells the Ukrainian president he has Trump’s “knowledge and consent” to seek a meeting
In a letter dated May 10, 2019, Giuliani introduced himself to Zelensky as Trump’s personal lawyer and congratulated Zelensky on his “truly impressive victory” in the Ukrainian presidential election.
“Along with many others, I am very hopeful that your election is a real turning point and allows the Ukraine to prosper and overcome some or the long-standing problems of the past,” Giuliani wrote. “Anything I can do to help you or your country would be a great honor.
“However, I have a more specific request,” he continued. “In my capacity as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent, I request a meeting with you on this upcoming Monday, May 13th or Tuesday, May 14th. I will need no more than a half-hour of your time and I will be accompanied by my colleague Victoria Toensing, a distinguished American attorney who is very familiar with this matter.”
Trump would speak with Zelensky by phone two months later after placing a hold on millions in foreign aid to Ukraine. Trump has sought to distance himself from Giuliani’s efforts to find incriminating evidence on Biden in Ukraine.
Trump “consents” to having his former lawyer represent Parnas
Parnas and Fruman were originally represented in the impeachment inquiry by John Dowd, who once served as the president’s lead lawyer in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
“I have discussed the issue of representation with the President,” Jay Sekulow, the president’s current lawyer, wrote to Dowd on Oct. 2. “The President consents to allowing your representation of Mr. Parnas and Mr. Furman.”
Parnas and Fruman were later arrested on campaign finance charges as they prepared to leave the country, and both have new lawyers representing them in the criminal investigation.
Texts to Parnas suggest the US ambassador to Ukraine — whom Trump removed — was being closely monitored in Kyiv
Text messages turned over by Parnas show his efforts to have then–US ambassador Marie Yovanovitch — a prominent anti-corruption advocate — recalled from her post in Ukraine.
Parnas was working with Yuriy Lutsenko, the former prosecutor general of Ukraine, to dig up dirt on the Bidens — and text messages between the pair reveal why removing the ambassador was important to them.
“It’s just that if you don’t make a decision about Madam—you are bringing into question all my allegations. Including about B,” Lutsenko told Parnas last March, according to a translation by the Intelligence Committee.
Texts between Parnas and Robert F. Hyde, a Republican who’s running for Congress in Connecticut this year, suggest Yovanovitch was under surveillance in Kyiv before she was abruptly recalled to Washington. Yovanovitch had previously said she was told by a Trump administration officials that her recall was related to her “security,” but that it was unclear what that meant.
“Can’t believe Trumo hasn’t fired this bitch. I’ll get right in that,” Hyde texted Parnas in March 2019, after Parnashe sent him press coverage about Yovanovitch. “She under heavy protection outside Kiev,” Hyde wrote later that day.
“I know crazy shit,” Parnas responded.
“My guy thinks maybe FSB..?” Hyde said, apparently referring to the Russian spy agency.
The men continued messaging each other on WhatsApp. Two days later, Hyde sent Parnas a series of texts about Yovanovitch’s supposed movements. “The guys over they asked me what I would like to do and what is in it for them,” Hyde said.
“They will let me know when she’s on the move,” he later said.
“Perfect,” Parnas replied.
“They are willing to help if we/you would like a price. Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money... what I was told,” Hyde said.
“Lol,” Parnas responded.
In a statement Tuesday night, an attorney for Yovanovitch called the idea that she was being surveilled "disturbing" and called for an investigation by the "appropriate authorities."
Hyde’s campaign did not immediately return BuzzFeed News' requests for comment but on Twitter said he was "never in Kiev" and called House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff a "turd."
Christopher Miller and Hayes Brown contributed to this story.
This post has been updated with a comment from an attorney for Yovanovitch and a tweet from Hyde's campaign.
This post has been updated with Lev Parnas's interview with MSNBC.