“President Trump knew exactly what was going on,” said Parnas, a Soviet-born Florida businessman facing a raft of criminal charges related to campaign finance violations. “He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the President.”
If true, Parnas’ account under cuts a key Republican defence of Trump deployed during the ongoing impeachment fight – that Trump’s withholding of vital military aid to Ukraine last summer wasn’t a quid pro quo for Biden investigations because Zelensky didn’t know the money was being held up.
In response to the allegations, Giuliani called Parnas’ statements “sad.”
“I feel sorry for him,” Giuliani said Wednesday in a text message to an AP reporter. “I thought he was an honourable man. I was wrong.”
Asked directly if Parnas was lying, Trump’s lawyer replied, “I’m not responding yet.”
Parnas said he also heard Giuliani and another Trump-aligned defence lawyer, Victoria Toensing, briefing Attorney-General William Barr by phone about their efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to announce the investigation into Biden and his son Hunter’s business dealings.
“Barr was basically on the team,” Parnas said.
The Justice Department said in September that Trump had not spoken to Barr about having Ukraine investigate the Bidens and that the Attorney-General had not discussed Ukraine with Giuliani. Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said Wednesday that Parnas’ claims were “100 per cent false.”
The new accusations came as House Democrats made public a trove of documents, text messages and photos from Parnas’ smartphones that appear to verify parts of his account.
A federal judge earlier this month ruled that Parnas could provide the materials to Congress as part of the impeachment proceedings. Democrats voted in December to impeach Trump for abuse of power and for obstruction of Congress.
A House committee chairman said Wednesday his panel will investigate what he says are “profoundly alarming” text messages among the newly disclosed materials that have raised questions about the possible surveillance of former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch before she was ousted by the Trump administration.
The messages show that a Robert F. Hyde, a GOP candidate for Congress from Connecticut, disparaged Yovanovitch in messages to Parnas and gave him updates on her location and mobile phone use.
In a Twitter post Tuesday, Hyde called Parnas a “dweeb” and suggested the messages about surveilling the ambassador were a joke.
Parnas, in turn, also said on Wednesday that Hyde’s texts shouldn’t be taken seriously.
Democrats released the files on Tuesday and Wednesday, local time, as they prepared to send articles of impeachment to the Senate for Trump’s trial. The documents could add pressure on the Senate as it debates whether to hear witnesses in the trial.
The text and phone records show Parnas communicating with Giuliani multiple times a day before Yovanovitch’s removal, as well as a handwritten note that mentions asking Ukraine’s President to investigate “the Biden case.”
One of the documents released by Democrats is a handwritten note on stationery from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Vienna that says “get Zalensky (sic) to Annonce (sic) that the Biden case will be Investigated.”
Parnas told Maddow he took the notes as he was speaking by phone to Giuliani, receiving precise instructions about the demands Trump wanted to convey to Zelensky’s team.
He also received messages from Hyde, who referred to Yovanovitch as a “bitch.” Hyde is now running for a US House seat in Connecticut.
After texting about the ambassador, Hyde gave Parnas detailed updates that suggested he was watching her. In one text, Hyde wrote: “She’s talked to three people. Her phone is off. Her computer is off.” He said she was under heavy security and “we have a person inside.”
Hyde at one point texted Parnas that “they are willing to help if we/you would like a price,” and “guess you can do anything in Ukraine with money … is what I was told.”
Parnas texted back: “lol.”
On Twitter, Hyde dismissed the claims as “laughable” and appeared to try to distance himself from Parnas. He said he would “welcome” an investigation.
The text messages show that Parnas consulted Giuliani in January 2019 after the US denied a visa to former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. Giuliani replied: “I can revive it.”
The following day, Giuliani told Parnas, “It’s going to work I have no 1 in it.” Giuliani then predicted “he will get one,” before giving Parnas the phone number for Jay Sekulow, the leader of the president’s personal legal team. Sekulow is expected to be part of Trump’s legal team during the impeachment trial.
Trump has repeatedly denied knowing Parnas and Fruman, despite numerous photos that have emerged of the men together. Among the materials released from Parnas’ phone this week were more photos of him with Trump, as well as the President’s son Donald Trump jnr, first daughter Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner.
Asked by Maddow about Trump’s denials of knowing him, Parnas said he had spoken one-on-one with the president numerous times.
“He lied,” Parnas said of the President. “I mean, we’re not friends. Me and him didn’t watch football games together, we didn’t eat hot dogs. But he knew exactly who we were, who I was especially.”