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Lev Parnas: Trump tried to fire Yovanovitch multiple times

Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, is alleging that Trump tried multiple times to fire the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and is offering more details into the back-and-forth campaign to push Ukraine into launching an investigation to damage the president’s political rival.

In an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, the second part of which aired on Thursday night, Parnas elaborated on remarks that paint a far more involved role for the president in Giuliani’s dealings with Ukraine. Parnas alleged that Trump was fully in the know about efforts to push the Ukrainian government into opening a public investigation into Democratic rival Joe Biden’s family and the fallout that it caused.

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Parnas told Maddow that Trump had tried to fire Ambassador Maria Yovanovitch multiple times, including during a dinner they had together at the Trump hotel near the White House. Trump has repeatedly denied knowing Parnas, though social media posts show them together at social events.

Parnas contended that Trump ordered Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the national security adviser at the time, John Bolton, to fire Yovanovitch but that they did not go through with it. A smear campaign was concocted, he theorized, to create more sympathy for a Yovanovitch purge.

“I mean, that was becoming comical because I couldn’t understand: You’re the president” and no one was firing her, Parnas said. “So that’s where I think the smear campaign started coming about. I think it was like a boost to them to help him if the media started, like, egging him on that there was really something there, he’d just tweet and fire her.”

Parnas said Yovanovitch’s ouster from her post last spring was entirely motivated by her resistance to Trump’s efforts to pressure the Ukrainians into an investigation. Yovanovitch testified in the House impeachment inquiry that she was subject to a smear campaign to get her thrown out of her post.

Parnas also alleged that former Energy Secretary Rick Perry was a direct intermediary in pressuring the Ukrainian government to launch an investigation into the Bidens, at one point even getting the country’s new president, Volodymyr Zelenksy, to agree to launching an anti-corruption probe. Parnas said Trump’s team was unsatisfied, however, that it was not explicitly centered on Biden.

“Every time somebody would meet Zelensky, they would, like, agree and then they would walk it back,” Parnas said. “So they announced something about corruption, that he’s going to get corruption, but Giuliani blew his lid on that, saying that’s not what we discussed. That wasn’t supposed to be a corruption announcement. It has to be about Joe Biden.”

Perry has denied involvement in the Ukraine pressure campaign. The Wall Street Journal reported in October that Perry had reached out to Giuliani at Trump’s behest to smooth a path for a Zelensky-Trump meeting. He denied even knowing about efforts to launch an investigation into the Bidens. Perry resigned in October.

A spokesman for Perry didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment late Thursday.

Parnas also described what he called a “cult”-like atmosphere among Trump’s followers. He said he believed many of the misinformation campaigns against Trump’s adversaries, including that Biden had been corrupt in Ukraine and that Yovanovitch had trash-talked the president. (Parnas said in segments of the interview aired Wednesday that he did not believe Biden had done wrong, and he apologized to Yovanovitch for believing that she had behaved unprofessionally).

He placed a lot of the cult mentality on Attorney General William Barr, who he said acted as Trump’s enforcer.

Trump “became that powerful when he got William Barr,” Parnas said. “People are scared. Am I scared? Yes. And because I think I’m more scared of our own Justice Department than of these criminals right now. Because, you know, the scariest part is getting locked in some room and being treated as an animal when you did nothing wrong. … And that’s the tool that they’re using.”

Parnas was indicted on charges of campaign finance violations, though he has pleaded not guilty. Parnas initially resisted helping investigations into the president, but began cooperating after Trump denied knowing him.

The Justice Department has denied Parnas’ allegations that Barr was working to advance Trump’s agenda in Ukraine.

A department spokesperson declined to comment late Thursday.

Parnas’ comments come as the Senate on Thursday began its trial into Trump’s impeachment. The president was impeached on two counts related to the Ukraine scandal and the ensuing House inquiry: abusing power and obstructing Congress.


Source: Politics, Policy, Political News Top Stories

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