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

"President Trump knew exactly what was going on," Lev Parnas told Rachel. "He was aware of all my movements."
US President Donald J. Trump after a group photo on the second day of the G7 Summit at the Hotel San Domenico in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, 27 May 2017.

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."

It seems likely that Trump and his allies will question Parnas' credibility, pointing to the fact that he's already been charged with making illegal campaign contributions. That said, it's also worth emphasizing that Parnas and his attorney have provided investigators with extensive documentary evidence, including texts and handwritten notes, intended to help substantiate his claims.

For his part, Giuliani, during last night's broadcast, reached out to the show and denied having told Ukrainian officials that Parnas spoke on behalf of Trump.

"Never," Giuliani responded when asked whether Parnas was speaking for Trump.

Despite his own credibility issues, the president's lawyer added, "All I can say is the truth." Referring to Parnas, Giuliani went on to say, "He's a very sad situation."

Watch this space.