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Parnas Attended Giuliani’s Madrid Meeting With Zelensky Aide

Parnas was at the table for a meeting where Giuliani pressured a senior Ukrainian official to investigate a company linked to the Bidens, the official told The Daily Beast.

Betsy SwanNov. 21, 2019 8:30 PM ET

When Rudy Giuliani met with a senior Ukrainian official in Madrid earlier this year and urged him to investigate the Bidens, Lev Parnas was at the table, according to Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian official. 

Parnas’ presence at the meeting, which has not been previously reported, indicates that he may have significant visibility into Giuliani’s efforts to pressure Kyiv to investigate a company linked to one of President Donald Trump’s political rivals. That pressure campaign is a central focus of congressional Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. Parnas was charged with campaign finance violations last month.

“Giuliani introduced him as his associate/colleague, and probably said his name, but I didn’t remember it, and remembered again when I saw Lev Parnas’ face on TV and thought that this face looks familiar,” Yermak said in a statement provided to The Daily Beast. “But we didn’t have a conversation, I spoke only to Giuliani.”

Joseph Bondy, Parnas’ New York-based criminal defense attorney, confirmed that his client attended the meeting. 

“Mr. Parnas travelled to Madrid to meet Rudolph Giuliani, where he attended Rudolph’s meeting with Zelensky aide Andriy Yermak, and witnessed Rudolph pressuring Yermak on behalf of President Trump to compel Zelensky to announce that his administration was launching a corruption investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden and alleged Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election,” he said in a statement. 

Giuliani and his attorney did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

Last month, Parnas and his associate Igor Fruman were arrested and charged with violating campaign finance laws by allegedly secretly funneling money from a foreign government official into American political campaigns. Parnas and Fruman maintain their innocence. Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York are handling the case. 

Both men worked with Giuliani as he sought and then secured the firing of Marie Yovanovitch, who was the American ambassador to Ukraine. The trio have appeared in scores of pictures together, and their relationship was no secret. They also helped Giuliani dig for dirt on the Bidens, as BuzzFeed and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project detailed in July

Giuliani’s meeting in Madrid came at a key moment in the Trump administration’s efforts to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into announcing probes of Ukraine’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and of Burisma Holdings, an energy company on whose board Hunter Biden served. George Kent, a senior State Department official, told congressional investigators that he raised concerns about the situation, as Burisma had a troubled reputation and then-Vice President Joe Biden was helming the United States’ Ukraine policy. Trump’s former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, testified that he believed any insinuations that Hunter Biden’s board membership influenced the vice president’s policy choices were meritless. 

As for allegations that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election, former White House official Fiona Hill told Congress the claims are baseless and are being pushed by the Russian security services

Giuliani and Trump, meanwhile, were dead set on having Ukraine’s president announce an investigation into the two issues. On a now-infamous July 25 phone call, Trump asked Zelensky to work with Giuliani to investigate Burisma and to scrutinize a debunked conspiracy theory about the hack of a Democratic National Committee server. 

“Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man,” Trump said, according to a White House memo on the call. “He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the attorney general. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great.” 

About a week later, Giuliani traveled to Madrid. On the trip he and Parnas met with Yermak, the Zelensky aide. Giuliani told Yermak that the Ukrainian government needed to investigate Burisma and the allegations about 2016.

“I talked to him about the whole package,” Giuliani told The Washington Post in September. 

The meeting got results—sort of. Afterward, Yermak began working on a statement Zelensky could release saying the government was investigating corruption. Giuliani said the statement needed to specifically mention Burisma and 2016, according to Volker. And he made it clear that Ukraine’s president would not be welcome at the White House until such a statement was released, Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, said in his testimony to the House Intelligence Committee this week. 

“Mr. Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky,” Sondland said

After some back and forth with American diplomats about what exactly the statement should say, the Ukrainians shelved the idea of releasing one. Instead, they discussed having Zelensky break the news in a CNN interview. But the interview never happened. On Aug. 12, a U.S. intelligence community whistleblower filed a complaint saying Trump appeared to be withholding military aid until Zelensky announced such a probe—essentially extorting Ukraine. In mid-September, the House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed that report. That string of events kicked off the impeachment inquiry. 

Parnas’ presence at a key meeting indicates how deeply he was entrenched in the efforts to influence U.S. policy in Ukraine. 

His connections extended beyond the executive branch. In late 2018, Parnas  helped set up meetings in Europe for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the top Republican on the committee handling impeachment, and his staff, according to Parnas’ lawyer

—Additional reporting by Asawin Suebsaeng