Lev Parnas, an indicted ex-associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, accused President Donald Trump of lying about their relationship Wednesday night. And he said Giuliani told Ukrainian officials that Parnas spoke on behalf of the president.
In an interview with Rachel Maddow for her MSNBC show, Parnas said that when he met with Ukrainian government officials, he would call Giuliani and put him on speaker. Giuliani would then tell the officials that Parnas was there on Trump’s behalf, he said.
“It was never about corruption,” Parnas said. “It was strictly about Burisma, which includes Hunter Biden and Joe Biden.”
The Justice Department charged Parnas last year with a number of election-related crimes. He has maintained his innocence and is in the process of sharing materials with congressional investigators about Trumpworld’s efforts to secure political favors from Kyiv.
Parnas detailed a conversation with Serhiy Shefir, an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Parnas said Vice President Mike Pence would cancel a planned trip for Zelensky’s inauguration unless the incoming Ukrainian government announced it would investigate the Bidens. Parnas said that when he learned the Ukrainians were not going to announce a Biden probe, he told Giuliani.
“I remember Rudy going, ‘OK, they’ll see,’” Parnas said.
Pence’s trip was canceled the next day.
Parnas also said that he saw Attorney General Bill Barr—who met with associates of Giuliani about indicted oligarch Dmytro Firtash—as a fellow traveler in the scheme. “Attorney General Barr was basically on the team,” Parnas said. A Justice Department spokesperson, meanwhile, told Maddow the claim was “100 percent false.”
Parnas also said he set up Skype interviews with Ukrainian officials for Derek Harvey, a senior aide to Rep. Devin Nunes. Parnas said Nunes and his team were helping with their scrutiny of the Bidens—claims Nunes has denied.
“It’s hard to see them lie like that, when you know it’s like that,” Parnas said. “It’s scary.”
“He knows who I am,” Parnas added of Nunes.
Asked for comment as Parnas was speaking on MSNBC on Wednesday evening, Giuliani responded at first, “Are you kidding?” When asked for further elaboration, the Trump attorney messaged: “Very sad situation,” and: “He’s desperate and badly represented.” When pressed if Parnas was lying regarding recent allegations and documents turned over to the House Intelligence Committee, Giuliani only responded, “I’m not paying attention to him.”
The Parnas comments came on the heels of another big TV interview. In a much-bleeped conversation with Trump ally Eric Bolling, the newest figure in the Trump impeachment saga tried to defend his ominous-sounding texts with Lev Parnas.
That person, Republican congressional candidate Robert Hyde, went on Bolling’s Sinclair show to answer questions about texts in which he claimed to know the physical location of American’s then-ambassador to Ukraine and to have information about her cellphone use. But he didn’t offer much of an explanation. (On Thursday, Ukraine government officials announced a criminal investigation into possible illegal surveillance of Yovanovitch.)
“We sent some colorful texts,” he said. “You know, it’s kind of unfortunate that the left had to get their panties in a bunch.”
Then Bolling asked if Hyde “had eyes on Marie Yovanovitch,” the former ambassador.
“Absolutely not,” he replied. “Are you kidding me? I’m a little nasty [BLEEP], excuse my language. Come on, you know me, Eric.”
Bolling expressed incredulity about the texts, triggering a rant from Hyde about “the left,” saying they were more offended by his texts than by the opioid crisis.
He also made odd comments intimating that people warned him against talking to Parnas.
“Listen, I was told a long time ago who Lev was by a lot of people down in communities throughout this country who would pull me aside, have meetings with me, and tell me to stay away from the guy,” he said. “Honestly, I was never a close associate with Lev Parnas. Did I like his character and did we have laughs and joke a bit? Of course. But to try to throw me under a bus somehow for joking around on WhatsApp? I’d love to see Adam Schiff’s texts on WhatsApp.”
The texts in question, between Hyde and ex-Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, indicated he was surveilling Yovanovitch.
“They know she’s a political puppet,” Hyde wrote to Parnas in the newly released texts. “They will let me know when she’s on the move… They are willing to help if you/we would like a price.”
“Guess you can do anything in Ukraine with money,” Hyde added.
Meanwhile, in his Maddow interview, Parnas said he did not take apparent threats to Yovanovitch’s security seriously because he assumed Hyde was either making himself seem bigger than he was—or drunk when he was sending the WhatsApp messages.
“When he sent me those, I got disturbed. I was like ‘Whoa, this is crazy’ and is this guy off the wall?” Parnas said, adding that his contact at the America First PAC said Hyde shouldn’t be taken seriously.
Maddow pointed out the messages came over the course of an entire week—surely Hyde couldn’t have been intoxicated the whole time?
“He’s drunk all of the time,’” Parnas said, laughing. “He wakes up and he’s drunk—he starts at 6... I’ve never seen him not drunk.”
Parnas said that was the reason he did not believe the ambassador was truly under surveillance.
“You didn’t worry that she was in physical danger?” Maddow asked.
“Because you didn’t believe Mr. Hyde?”
“No,” Parnas said laughing. “I definitely didn’t believe Mr. Hyde.”
—With reporting from Asawin Suebsaeng