Listen Live

House Panel Makes Public Documents Provided By Giuliani Associate

Jan 16, 2020
Originally published on January 16, 2020 9:34 am
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The House has sent over the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Today Chief Justice John Roberts swears in senators, and the trial in the Senate is set to start Tuesday. In the middle of all this, new evidence related to Rudy Giuliani's effort to use Ukraine to help President Trump win reelection has emerged. Giuliani got help in the pressure campaign against Ukraine from a man named Lev Parnas. In an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow last night, Parnas said his mission in Ukraine was clear.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW")

LEV PARNAS: It was all about Joe Biden and Hunter Biden. And - also, Rudy had a personal thing with the Manafort stuff. The black ledger, you know, was another thing Rudy (ph) - that they were looking into. But it was never about corruption...

MARTIN: NPR's justice correspondent Ryan Lucas is following all this for us this morning and joins us in studio. Hi, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: So explain exactly what this man, Lev Parnas, was doing in Ukraine.

LUCAS: So Parnas was working, really hand-in-hand, with Giuliani to try to gather information in Ukraine that was derogatory about Joe Biden and to try to pressure the Ukrainian government to open an investigation into Biden. And it was Parnas who was really kind of - through text messages and in-person meetings who was pushing Ukraine to do this.

MARTIN: So the last time, though, that we heard this name, Lev Parnas, he was in the headlines because he was being arrested. Right?

LUCAS: Right. He was indicted in October by federal prosecutors in New York on campaign finance charges. Those charges are not directly related to his work with Giuliani. Parnas has pleaded not guilty. But he is under a lot of legal pressure, we have to say. He now says that he wants to get the truth out about what he was doing in Ukraine.

His lawyer has been waging a campaign of his own on social media to try to play up what he says Parnas knows. His lawyer has said that Parnas wants to testify before lawmakers. But his lawyer has floated the idea that Parnas would need immunity in exchange for telling his story. That would be very tricky to pull off. But the important thing for us to remember here is that Parnas does have his own motivations here.

MARTIN: He has an agenda, which is why he's speaking out, doing all these interviews. One of them was with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. What exactly did he say in that conversation?

LUCAS: He had a lot to say in that conversation. But one of the biggest allegations that he makes relates to President Trump and questions about whether the president knew what Giuliani and Parnas were up to in Ukraine. Parnas claims that the president did. Here's what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW")

PARNAS: President Trump knew exactly what was going on. He was aware of all my movements. He - I wouldn't do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president.

LUCAS: Now, Parnas did not say that the president directed his actions personally or that he spoke directly with the president himself about what he and Giuliani were doing in Ukraine, which is certainly something that the president's defenders will jump on - that this allegation is basically based on secondhand information.

MARTIN: So now we've got this - these revelations from Parnas. I mean, despite what we've established as his questionable motives, do we know how all the documents that he's released to Congress - how any of this new evidence might affect the Senate trial for the impeachment and the calls for witnesses?

LUCAS: Right. So Parnas has provided text messages, other materials to House investigators, like you just mentioned. Those have been made public in the past few days, and we've been going through those. Those materials combined with, of course, what he's saying now have spurred Democrats to say that the Senate should consider more evidence, should call witnesses in the impeachment trial. Whether to do so is a political question, though. And there's no indication at this point that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is interested in doing that. McConnell says the trial of the president will begin on Tuesday. We'll see how this all plays out.

MARTIN: All right - NPR's Ryan Lucas. Thank you.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.