Lev Parnas (L) and his wife Svetlana Parnas depart federal court following an arraignment hearing on October 23, 2019 in New York City. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, along with Andrey Kukushkin and David Correia, are associates of Rudy Giuliani who have been arrested for allegedly conspiring to circumvent federal campaign finance laws in schemes to funnel foreign money to U.S. candidates running for office at the federal and state levels. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Bombshell new Lev Parnas documents contradict Trump's defense days ahead of Senate trial

Giuliani wrote to Ukraine's president saying that he acted in his "capacity as personal counsel to President Trump"


Igor Derysh
January 15, 2020 1:35PM (UTC)

New documents turned over to Congress by indicted former Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas contradict the claims of President Donald Trump and his legal team about a campaign to pressure Ukraine into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden.

Documents turned over by Parnas to House committees investigating the president explicitly show that Parnas plotted to get Ukraine to investigate "the Biden case" and suggest that he may have had former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch surveilled. The documents also included a letter from Giuliani to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asking for a meeting as the "private counsel to President Donald J. Trump."

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Parnas, who was arrested alongside associate Igor Fruman last year, is charged with funneling foreign money to Republicans. Both men, who played a key role in Giuliani's hunt for damaging information on Biden in Ukraine, pleaded not guilty. His attorney turned in the documents, which were seized by federal investigators in the arrest, over the weekend.

"Despite unprecedented obstruction by the president, the committee continues to receive and review potentially relevant evidence," House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., wrote in an accompanying letter to Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.

Giuliani's letter states that he was explicitly working in his capacity as Trump's personal attorney, undercutting the president's claim that the effort was in the country's interest because it was aimed at rooting out corruption. It also contradicts Trump's claim that Giuliani may have been working for other clients or for himself in Ukraine.

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"In my capacity as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent, I request a meeting with you," Giuliani wrote to Zelensky in a letter dated May 10, 2019.

The letter came one day after Giuliani told The New York Times that he planned to travel to Ukraine to find damaging information on Biden, which could help Trump's re-election campaign.

"We're not meddling in an election," Giuliani told The Times in May. "We're meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do."

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The documents also included a text message exchange in which a former Ukrainian prosecutor offered Giuliani damaging information related to Biden in exchange for his help in ousting Yovanovitch, who criticized his office.

An email from Trump attorney Jay Sekulow to former Trump attorney John Dowd also contradicts Trump's claim that he did not know Parnas and Fruman.

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"I have discussed the issue of representation with the president," Sekulow wrote to Dowd in an email dated October 2, 2019. "The president consents to allowing your representation of Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman."

Dowd represented both men before Parnas fired him and agreed to cooperate with impeachment investigators after Trump claimed that he did not know him despite appearing in numerous photos with him.

The documents included a handwritten note by Parnas on Ritz-Carlton stationery, which suggest that he was directly involved in the Ukraine scheme.

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"Get Zalensky [sic] to Annonce [sic] that the Biden case will Be Investigated," Parnas wrote.

Parnas also exchanged text messages with Republican congressional candidate Robert Hyde about surveilling and removing Yovanovitch.

"In response to some articles, tweets, and videos accusing the Ambassador of being disloyal to President Trump, Mr. Hyde wrote 'Wow. Can't believe Trumo [sic] hasn't fired this bitch. I'll get right in that. Mr. Hyde then sent a series of text messages suggesting that he had Ambassador Yovanovitch under physical surveillance in Kyiv and that 'They are willing to help if we/you would like a price,'" Schiff said in the letter to Nadler.

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Parnas also communicated with Ukrainian officials, which Schiff said showed "that Mr. Parnas served as a direct channel between President Trump's agent, Mr. Giuliani, and individuals close to President Volodymyr Zelensky."

Former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal and former Department of Justice official Joshua Geltzer said in a Washington Post op-ed that the new evidence "demolished" Trump's defense ahead of his Senate trial.

"The new documents released Tuesday evening by the House Intelligence Committee were devastating to Trump's continuing — if shifting — defense of his Ukraine extortion scandal, just days before his impeachment trial is likely to begin in the Senate. These new documents demolish at least three key defenses to which Trump and his allies have been clinging," they wrote. "The documents released Tuesday now show what Trump has been so afraid of."


Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is a staff writer at Salon. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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