Giuliani’s associate Lev Parnas speaks again: 'It was all about 2020' originally appeared on abcnews.go.com
Lev Parnas, Rudy Giuliani’s former business associate, said on CNN Thursday night that his view of his and Giuliani's efforts in Ukraine was that “it was all about 2020, to make sure [Trump] had another four years.”
“That’s the way everybody viewed it,” Parnas said. "There was no other reason for doing it."
The statement came during Parnas’s second night of back-to-back television interviews, during which he implicated President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Rep. Devin Nunes, and the Trump legal team in activities central to the House impeachment investigation and Trump's Senate trial.
In Parnas ' second night appearing on MSNBC’s "The Rachel Maddow Show" Thursday, he alleged that former Energy Secretary Rick Perry also played a direct role in the plan to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy into opening an investigation into former Vice President and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Parnas said that Perry called Giuliani when Perry was on his way to Zelenskiy 's inauguration "to ask him what to discuss, and Rudy told him to make sure to give [Zelenskiy] the message" that Zelenskiy should announce the opening of an investigation into Biden.
Perry then called Giuliani after the inauguration to confirm "that he spoke to Zelenskiy, and Zelenskiy's going to do it,” Parnas alleged.
The effort did lead Zelesnkiy to make a general announcement about investigating corruption -- but when it didn't mention Biden, "Giuliani blew his lid," Parnas said.
It “wasn't supposed to be a corruption announcement," Parnas said. "It had to be about Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and Burisma.”
Parnas said that this happened on several occasions. "Every time somebody would meet Zelenskiy" to press him to announce a Biden investigation, Parnas said, Zelenskiy would "agree -- and then [he] would walk it back."
Perry, who has been described by colleagues as one of the "three amigos" in the Trump administration's policy on Ukraine, has insisted that he's "extremely comfortable" that there was no quid pro quo, saying he had only been focused on addressing corruption in Ukraine and encouraging American companies to do business there.
He said that, at the time, he encouraged the president to call Zelenskiy "multiple times" during a press conference in Lithuania, but said that he never encouraged Trump to talk about the Biden family.
"Not once, as God as my witness, not once was a Biden name -- not the former vice president, not his son -- ever mentioned," Perry said in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network in October.
Parnas, during Thursday's CNN interview, also stressed that he would be “very willing” to testify at the Senate impeachment trial and that he would be the “best witness.”
"I should be their No. 1 witness, because I'm the one that got all the dirt," Parnas said. "Why do they need Biden? Call me."
When asked why he hasn't been asked to testify, Parnas said, "I think they're afraid of me."
During both the CNN and MSNBC interviews, Parnas detailed a specific conversation he said he had with the president about then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
Parnas said he recalled sitting with Trump at a super PAC dinner and saying something negative about Yovanovitch to Trump, saying that prompted Trump to immediately turn to an adviser and say, "fire her.”
Parnas said Pompeo and then-National Security Adviser John Bolton refused to fire Yovanovitch despite being repeatedly pushed by the president. Parnas said he thought it was becoming “comical.”
In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt Friday morning, Pompeo said he hadn't heard about a purported surveillance of Yovanovitch that came to public attention after a series of messages released by House committees showed Parnas and his associate Robert Hyde discussing security details of the former ambassador.
"Until this story broke, I had, to the best of my recollection, had never heard of this at all," Pompeo said asked if he was aware of the surveillance. Also asked if he knew Parnas, Pompeo said, "Never met him."
In another interview with radio host Tony Katz, Pompeo said the State Department will look into the alleged surveillance on Yovanovitch.
"We will do everything we need to do to evaluate whether there was something that took place there," Pompeo said. "I suspect that much of what’s been reported will ultimately prove wrong, but our obligation, my obligation as Secretary of State, is to make sure that we evaluate, investigate."
Parnas’ interview appearances have touched off a new round of debate among lawmakers over the need for witnesses at the impeachment trial. Democrats argue that Parnas' first-hand account would be important testimony, while Republicans have remained largely unmoved.
During his first appearance with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, Parnas said he believes "President Trump knew exactly what was going on" with Parnas' activities in Ukraine, including his efforts to have Yovanovich removed from her post as the top U.S. diplomat in Kyiv.
"[President Trump] was aware of all of my movements," Parnas said. "I wouldn’t do anything without the help of Rudy Giuliani or the president."
Pressed on the president’s insistence that he does not know him, Parnas said, "He lied."
Reactions to Parnas’ claims differed sharply.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, in a statement Thursday morning, attacked Parnas' credibility and dismissed his claims by insisting the president did nothing wrong.
"These allegations are being made by a man who is currently out on bail for federal crimes and is desperate to reduce his exposure to prison," Grisham said in the statement. "The facts haven’t changed -- the President did nothing wrong and this impeachment, which was manufactured and carried out by the Democrats, has been a sham from the start."
Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer, however, said that Parnas’ claims raised “lots of serious questions,” and Sen. Chris Murphy said Parnas’ statements “fit neatly into what we’ve already heard.”
Separate from the House impeachment probe, Parnas last year was charged in the Southern District of New York with circumventing campaign finance laws to channel foreign money into Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. He has pleaded not guilty.