To hear Lev Parnas tell it, as he did in interviews this week with Rachel Maddow and Anderson Cooper, his laser-like focus on getting rid of the American ambassador to Ukraine was purely in service of President Trump and Rudy Giuliani.
In his interviews, which aired Wednesday and Thursday, Parnas apologized for his role in forcing Marie Yovanovitch’s removal from Kyiv. He said he no longer believes some of the allegations he spread about the diplomat, who Trump recalled from her post on April 24, 2019.
But Parnas left key details about his interest in Yavanovitch out of his interviews, which were the first he had conducted since being indicted on campaign finance charges in New York.
According to an indictment unsealed on Oct. 10, the Soviet-born Parnas made illegal campaign contributions, known as “straw” donations, to several lawmakers and political committees. Prosecutors allege that Parnas acted at the behest of at least one Ukrainian government official — not Trump or Giuliani — to force Yovanovitch from office.
“PARNAS’s efforts to remove the Ambassador were conducted, at least in part, at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials,” the government alleges.
One recipient of Parnas’s contributions was then-Texas Rep. Pete Sessions. Parnas allegedly made straw donations in June 2018 to Sessions’ campaign.
Sessions wrote a letter to Sec. of State Mike Pompeo on May 9, 2018, requesting a review of Yovanovitch.
“I kindly ask you to consider terminating her ambassadorship and find a replacement as soon as possible,” Sessions wrote to Pompeo.
Yovanovitch was on Parnas’s mind a week before his meeting with Sessions.
Parnas told both Maddow and Cooper that he told Trump at a private fundraising event on April 30, 2018, that Yovanovitch had made derogatory statements about him.
“I don’t know how the conversation came up, but I do remember me telling the president that the ambassador was bad-mouthing him, and saying he would be impeached. Something to that effect,” Parnas told Maddow.
The information appeared to be news to Trump, according to Parnas’s telling. He said that Trump turned to an aide and instructed him to fire Yovanovitch.
Yovanovitch was not fired at the time. She remained the ambassador for nearly a year longer. Trump ultimately recalled her following a series of reports in conservative media portraying Yovanovitch as being corrupt and anti-Trump.
Parnas and Giuliani worked closely with John Solomon, a reporter then with The Hill, to set up interviews and gather documents used in the anti-Yovanovitch campaign.
In his interview with Cooper, Parnas attributed his interest in Yovanovitch to a sort of peer pressure from the “Trump crowd,” never mentioning that the indictment against him said that he was working for the benefit of an unnamed Ukrainian official.
Neither Maddow nor Cooper pressed Parnas on what motivated him to bring up Yovanovitch, or which Ukrainian official he was allegedly helping.
“Did you want Yovanovitch removed?” Cooper asked Parnas.
“Me personally? I didn’t have no personal motives,” he said.
“You didn’t have an opinion at all?” Cooper asked.
“My opinion came from the crowd I was in,” said Parnas, referring to Team Trump. “Over the time it grew more and more and more and more and more and eventually I felt like I hated her because you know everybody hated her.”
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