WASHINGTON — Documents and text messages released by House Democrats on Wednesday evening show how Lev Parnas, a former associate of Rudy Giuliani, used the extensive entrée he had to President Donald Trump’s world to help put in motion Giuliani’s shadow Ukraine campaign.
Hundreds of pages of photos, messages and calendar entries show Parnas enlisting a top official at the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action to assist in promoting media coverage he helped arrange and attending functions with Republican congressmen and Trump family members. A calendar entry released as part of the cache shows Parnas had a scheduled breakfast with Trump in New York on Sept. 26 — after the public revelation of a whistle-blower complaint about a call the president had with his Ukrainian counterpart.
The new materials made public by the House Intelligence Committee follow an initial trove released Tuesday night that showed Parnas directly involved with efforts to get the Ukrainian president to announce investigations related to former vice president Joe Biden.
The latest cache of documents comes as the Senate prepares to begin its impeachment trial of Trump on Thursday.
In an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Wednesday, Parnas said the president knew about his activities.
“President Trump knew exactly what was going on,” he said. “He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the president. I have no intent, I have no reason to speak to any of these officials.”
In text messages to The Washington Post, Giuliani suggested that Parnas was not being truthful, declining to offer specifics.
"Who cares? Believe him at your peril," he said, adding: "We all make mistakes. I feel sorry for him and his family."
The new material indicates that Parnas played a central role in arranging an interview with a Ukrainian prosecutor who claimed there was a plot in his country to help Hillary Clinton — and then urging a senior contact at the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action to get Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., to tweet it.
Links to stories about Ukraine that Parnas sent to America First Action finance director Joseph Ahearn were tweeted by both the president and Trump Jr., the material shows.
Peter Chavkin, a lawyer for Ahearn, said it was not surprising that his client would be interacting with Parnas, a donor to the super PAC.
"It's apparent that Mr. Ahearn, who worked at America First, was occasionally corresponding with an individual who had interactions with the organization," Chavkin said in a text message. "Nothing in the communications seems out of the ordinary or sparks any concern."
A lawyer for Trump Jr., Alan Futerfas, declined to comment on the newly released documents, as did Kelly Sadler, a spokeswoman for the super PAC. An attorney for Parnas declined to comment. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The materials also shed light on a far-reaching effort to dislodge then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch from her post.
The documents include a May 9, 2018, letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from then-Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, calling for Yovanovitch to be removed. “I have received notice of concrete evidence from close companions that Ambassador Yovanovitch has spoken privately and repeatedly about her disdain for the current administration,” Sessions wrote.
In February 2019, lawyer Victoria Toensing, a longtime Giuliani ally involved in his Ukraine efforts, asked the former New York mayor in a message, "Is there absolute commitment for HER to be gone this week?"
Giuliani responded, “Yes, not sure how absolute. Will get a reading in morning and call you. Pompeii [sic] is now aware of it. Talked to him on Friday.”
Toensing declined to comment. Giuliani did not respond to a request for comment about the exchange.
In a May message to Ahearn, Parnas wrote, "It's more important than ever to get a good ambassador that's loyal to our president in there please make sure you pass on the message every ear more important than ever."
In his MSNBC interview Wednesday, Parnas apologized to Yovanovitch, saying he now believes he was wrong about her.
The new materials released by House Democrats also include months of messages between Parnas and then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko in which the Ukrainian official provided Giuliani's team with interviews and information in exchange for a pledge that Yovanovitch would be removed from her post.
The messages show Parnas helping arrange a video interview for Lutsenko with John Solomon, a conservative columnist at the Hill newspaper. On March 12, Parnas sent a letter from Solomon to Lutsenko requesting the interview and included a list of questions to be addressed. "I sent you the questions and the invitation from the journalist, call me when you wake up," Parnas writes after sending the letter to Lutsenko.
After the interview posted online, Parnas texted it to Ahearn and wrote, "Have jr retweet it."
"Sent," Ahearn responded.
Parnas then urged Ahearn to "Watch Hannity."
Later that night, Trump himself tweeted coverage of the story by Fox News' Sean Hannity.
Several days later, Parnas sent Ahearn an article about calls to push out Yovanovitch, to which Ahearn responded, "That's a good article."
That same day, Trump Jr. tweeted out the article and wrote that the United States needed "less of these jokes as ambassadors," referring to Yovanovitch, a career diplomat.
The relationship between Parnas and Lutsenko turned hot and cold over the months of text messages in Russian. At one point in March, Lutsenko appeared to have grown impatient that he was holding up his end of the bargain — while Parnas was failing to come through with the ambassador's removal and other requests that would benefit Lutsenko or his boss, then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
"I'm sorry, but this is all simply b------t," Lutsenko wrote on March 13. "I'm f-----g sick of all this. I haven't received a visit. My [boss] hasn't received jack all. I'm prepared to [thrash] your opponent. But you want more and more. We're over."
Another batch of messages show Parnas and Giuliani in February 2019 discussing possibly signing a "retainer" with the Ukrainian Justice Ministry, appearing to reinforce reporting that Trump's personal lawyer was in advanced discussions to represent that government.
The Post reported last year that Giuliani had negotiated to represent Ukraine's top prosecutor for at least $200,000 as he was hunting for damaging material about Biden from Ukrainian sources. At the time, Giuliani wrote on Twitter that he "did NOT pursue a business opportunity in Ukraine" and that he was "paid ZERO."
In the newly released messages, Parnas wrote to Giuliani: "This is who the retainer should be me out to: ministry of justice of Ukraine Att: minster Pavlo Petrenko."
"How much?" Giuliani responded. Giuliani said he would follow up with a call, and the messages suggest he sent an agreement to Parnas, who agreed to "print it out and deliver it."
Later, Parnas asked Giuliani to send wire instructions and requested a copy signed by Giuliani and "Victoria and joe" so the contract can be executed — an apparent reference to Toensing and her husband, Joe diGenova.
"Can do that tomorrow," Giuliani replied.
The next day, Parnas wrote, "I received signed retainer."