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Parnas says AG Bill Barr 'had to have known everything'

01/16/20 10:00AM

When the White House released a call summary of Donald Trump's July 25 conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, it was striking to see the Republican make multiple references to Attorney General Bill Barr.

In fact, immediately after Trump brought up Joe Biden, the American president added, "Whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great.... I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call." Toward the end of the phone meeting, Trump again said, "I will tell Rudy and Attorney General Barr to call."

By some accounts, the top U.S. law enforcement official wasn't altogether pleased that the president had included him in the conversation, and he reportedly wasn't sure why Trump referenced him. But when Rachel sat down yesterday with Lev Parnas, a Rudy Giuliani associate involved with executing the Ukraine scheme, he suggested the references made sense to him.

Parnas said Attorney General William Barr was also likely aware of what was going on. Parnas said that he never spoke with Barr but that "I was involved with lots of conversations" that Giuliani and another person had with Barr in front of him.

"Mr. Barr had to have known everything. I mean, it's impossible," Parnas said. "Attorney General Barr was basically on the team."

In context, that "team" appeared to involve Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova, two Republican attorneys perhaps best known for their frequent Fox News appearances.

Indeed, when Rachel asked Parnas whether Rudy Giuliani had ever spoken to Barr specifically about Ukraine, Parnas didn't hesitate.

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Parnas accuses Devin Nunes of being 'involved' in anti-Biden effort

01/16/20 09:23AM

As Donald Trump's Ukraine scandal has unfolded, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, is among the Republicans who've faced questions about communications with some of the scheme's key players.

It was against this backdrop that Rachel asked Lev Parnas, a Rudy Giuliani associate involved with executing the Ukraine scheme, about his associations with the controversial California congressman.

Parnas also said he met several times with U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., one of Trump's top defenders and ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, which investigated the Ukraine allegations.

Parnas said he was later referred to a Nunes aide, who was aware of what Parnas and Giuliani were doing. Parnas said the referral came because of something to do with an ethics committee, and Nunes "couldn't be in the spotlight." Parnas said he was shocked to see Nunes and the aide during the impeachment hearings....

"I was in shock when I was watching the hearings and when I saw Devin Nunes sitting up there," Parnas said, adding that he was similarly surprised to see Derek Harvey, a Nunes aide he claims to have worked with on the Ukraine scheme, on the dais during the congressional proceedings.

Parnas told Rachel, "I texted my attorney. I said, 'I can't believe this is happening.'"

Asked why he was so surprised, he added, "Because they were involved in getting all this stuff on Biden."

Parnas went on to say, in apparent reference to Nunes, "[I]t's hard to see them lie like that... It's scary because, you know, he was sitting there and making all statements and all that when he knew very well that he knew what was going on. He knew what's happening. He knows who I am."

Though Nunes' office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, the Washington Post noted that the GOP lawmaker appeared on Fox News.

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Parnas suggests VP Pence was 'in the loop' on Ukraine scandal

01/16/20 08:40AM

In early October, the Washington Post reported that Donald Trump "repeatedly involved" Vice President Mike Pence in the Ukraine scheme, including an instance in which the president "instructed Pence not to attend the inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in May -- an event White House officials had pushed to put on the vice president's calendar -- when Ukraine's new leader was seeking recognition and support from Washington."

Yesterday, Rachel explored this in more detail with Lev Parnas, a Rudy Giuliani associate involved with executing the Ukraine scheme, and he said he'd communicated to Ukrainian officials that Pence would not attend Zelensky's inauguration unless he agreed to announce an anti-Biden investigation.

The day after Parnas' meeting with a top Zelensky aide, Pence's trip was scrapped.

Parnas also said Vice President Mike Pence's planned trip to attend Zelenskiy's inauguration in May was canceled because the Ukrainians did not agree to the demand for an investigation of the Bidens. "Oh, I know 100 percent. It was 100 percent," he said.

Asked whether Pence was aware of a "quid pro quo" around the visit, Parnas replied by quoting Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, who said during the House impeachment inquiry: "Everybody was in the loop."

Maddow said her show asked for comment from Pence and had not received a response.

It's of interest that Parnas mentioned Sondland's "in the loop" quote.

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Key figure in Ukraine scandal: Trump 'lied,' knew about scheme

01/16/20 08:00AM

Throughout the scandal that led to his impeachment, Donald Trump has tried to distance himself from the scheme that unfolded in Ukraine. The president's efforts have never been altogether credible: the White House, after all, released a call summary in which Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for a political "favor" in the context of military aid.

But as details continue to come to light, the punctured walls between Trump and the scandal appear to be crumbling.

Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani who has been implicated in an alleged attempt to pressure the Ukrainian government to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, says, "President Trump knew exactly what was going on."

"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," Parnas, who faces campaign finance charges, told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow in an interview that aired Wednesday night.

He added that top Ukrainian officials "were told to meet" with him because he was "on the ground doing [Team Trump's] work.

The message he was directed to deliver was that military aid was on the line, but so was "all aid" from the United States, including diplomatic elements, unless Zelensky and his team announced a Biden investigation.

When Rachel asked about the president's insistence that he didn't know Parnas or his associate, Igor Fruman, Parnas was unequivocal in reference Trump. "He lied," Parnas said.

After conceding that the two aren't close personal friends, he added, "[Trump] knew exactly who we were. He knew exactly who I was, especially.... I had a lot of one-on-one conversations with him at gatherings."

As for the White House's assertions that military aid to Ukraine was delayed out of concerns over corruption, Parnas said the efforts in Kyiv were actually "all about" the Bidens. He added, "[I]t was never about corruption."

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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 1.15.20

01/15/20 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Today's vote was 228 to 193: "The House voted on Wednesday to send the impeachment articles against President Donald Trump to the Senate, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the seven House Democrats who will serve as the 'managers' in the trial, which is set to start next week."

* I'll have more on this tomorrow: "President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He signed phase one of a hard-fought trade deal Wednesday, capping a bitter 18-month battle between the world's two largest economies that has roiled markets and slowed economic growth worldwide."

* An important court order: "A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked a Trump administration order that allowed state and local governments to refuse the resettling of refugees, finding the policy likely 'unlawful.'"

* Shake-up in Moscow: "Russia's prime minister and its entire government resigned Wednesday as part of sweeping constitutional changes that could see President Vladimir Putin extend his hold on power."

* Hmm: "The State Department abruptly canceled two classified congressional briefings Wednesday that were supposed to focus on embassy security and the U.S. relationship with Iran, Capitol Hill aides said, infuriating lawmakers and staffers seeking answers on the fallout from President Donald Trump's decision to kill a senior Iranian general."

* Puerto Rico: "The Department of Housing and Urban Development will allow Puerto Rico to access more than $8 billion in blocked disaster aid funding, ending a months-long hold by the Trump administration, according to people familiar with the matter."

* New evidence for Trump to ignore: "The past decade was the hottest ever recorded on the planet, driven by an acceleration of temperature increases in the past five years, according to data released Wednesday. The findings, released jointly by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, detail a troubling trajectory: 2019 was the second-hottest year on record, trailing only 2016. The past five years each rank among the five hottest since record-keeping began. And 19 of the hottest 20 years have occurred during the past two decades."

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On impeachment, head-in-the-sand stance now even harder to defend

01/15/20 01:00PM

On the eve of the House sending articles of presidential impeachment to the Senate for a trial, the House Intelligence Committee unveiled additional evidence, including materials the panel received from one of Rudy Giuliani's controversial associates, Lev Parnas.

As Politico noted, "The material released on Tuesday contains several handwritten notes, emails, encrypted messages, and other documents that underscore the close relationship between Parnas and Giuliani, who was actively pursuing an effort last year to push the Ukrainian government to announce investigations targeting Trump's political rivals."

That's true, though it's not all the materials underscore.

It's a little tough to summarize all of the revelations, but by any fair measure, they paint an extraordinary picture, with details that we not only didn't know, but also might have found difficult to even imagine. Former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, for example, was apparently under some kind of surveillance, and might have even faced unspecified harm.

There's also a document in which Giuliani assured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that the Republican lawyer was operating in Kyiv with the "knowledge and consent" of Donald Trump, reinforcing suspicions about the American president's role in the Ukrainian scheme, and doing fresh harm to White House talking points.

There's plenty more. The latest evidence also suggests, for example, that Ukraine's top prosecutor was prepared to offer Giuliani anti-Biden dirt if Giuliani's White House friends recalled Yovanovitch, an ambassador who fiercely fought against corruption.

In theory, all of this evidence would be welcomed by senators who are eager to come to terms with the facts, get the whole story, and understand the degree to which the sitting American president may be corrupt and/or guilty. In practice, it's not quite working out that way. Consider Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) arguments on the Senate floor yesterday:

"We've arrived at a simple contradiction. Two things cannot be both true: House Democrats' case cannot simultaneously be so robust that it was enough to impeach in the first place, but also so weak that the Senate needs to go fishing.

"If the existing case is strong, there's no need for the judge and the jury to re-open the investigation. if the existing case is weak, House Democrats should not have impeached in the first place."

I'm not sure which is worse: the idea that McConnell was sincere in presenting this argument or the idea that he knew his pitch was absurd, and he presented it anyway.

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