Washington, DC – A partner of President Donald Trump's personal lawyer said that he himself delivered an ultimatum to the elected president of Ukraine in May, threatening him with the warning that no senior US official would attend his oath and that economic aid would be withheld unless that an investigation be announced to Joe Biden.
Lev Parnas, partner of Rudy Giuliani, made several statements to the MSNBC TV channel on Wednesday night. The day after Parnas, according to himself, delivered the message, the State Department announced that Vice President Mike Pence would not attend the swearing in of Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskiy.
Parnas said Trump ordered Pence not to attend, at Giuliani's request, to send a clear message to the incoming Ukrainian government that he should take seriously the request to investigate Biden, a candidate for the Democratic presidential candidacy and considered a threat for the re-election of Trump in 2020.RELATED
Parnas said that all communication he had with Zelenskiy's collaborators was at the direction of Giuliani, whom he usually heard informing Trump by telephone.
"President Trump knew exactly what was happening," said Parnas, a Soviet-born Florida businessman who faces several criminal charges arising from violations of the campaign finance law. "I was aware of all my movements. I would do nothing without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president."
Trump's press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, rejected Parnas's version on Thursday.
"Simply saying, 'Rudy told me such a thing' does not mean it has something to do with the president," he told the "Fox & Friends" program. "And by the way it does not mean that the president gave him orders about what he should do. We ratify what we have been saying: the president did not commit any fault."
If true, Parnas's version undermines one of the keys to Trump's Republican defense in the fight over political trial: that the retention of military aid to Ukraine was not a quid pro quo for the investigation of Biden.
Giuliani said Parnas' statements caused him "sadness."
"I feel sorry for him," Giuliani said Wednesday in a text message to an AP journalist. "I thought he was an honorable man. I was wrong."
When asked if Parnas was lying, Trump's lawyer replied: "I will not answer for now."
Parnas added that he heard Giuliani and another Trump ally lawyer, Victoria Toensing, report by telephone to the secretary of Justice, William Barr, about his efforts before the Ukrainian government to announce the investigation to Biden and the business of his son Hunter.
"In the background Barr was a member of the team," Parnas said.
The Justice Department said in September that Trump did not speak with Barr about the pressure on Ukraine to investigate the Biden and that Barr did not speak with Giuliani about the same scheme. The department's spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec, said Wednesday that Parnas's claims were "100% false."