Rachel Maddow’s Bombshell Interview With Lev Parnas: Donald Trump Was In The Loop, And So Were Many Others

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  • Rachel Maddow
    Rachel Maddow
    American television news host and political commentator
  • Donald Trump
    Donald Trump
    45th President of the United States
  • Rudy Giuliani
    Rudy Giuliani
    American attorney, businessman and politician, former mayor of New York City

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UPDATED, 7:27 PM: Rachel Maddow’s interview with Lev Parnas, the former associate of Rudy Giuliani, basically confirmed what House Democrats have been saying all along as they pursued impeachment against Donald Trump: He was very much in the loop.

In Parnas’s words, “President Trump knew exactly what was going on. He knew all of my movements.”

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Given that Parnas described a scheme to shakedown the new Ukrainian government until they announced an investigation of Joe Biden, that means a lot, as he described in detail a pressure campaign that was placed on Ukrainian officials.

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An early episode came last spring, when Parnas said that he was enlisted to warn an aide to incoming president Volodymyr Zelensky that if an investigation was not announced, Vice President Mike Pence’s visit for Zelensky’s inauguration would be cancelled. The aide refused, and Pence’s visit was canceled.

“I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president,” Parnas said to Maddow.

He also confirmed other claims made during the impeachment inquiry, including the serious charge that aid to Ukraine was withheld as government officials continued to hold off on announcing a Biden investigation. “It wasn’t just military aid; it was all aid” that was under threat of being withheld, Parnas said.

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But Trump’s team is likely to spend the next few days trying to discredit Parnas, who, along with another associate, Igor Furman, was arrested in October on campaign finance charges. As Maddow was playing her interview with Parnas, her Fox News rival Sean Hannity was calling MSNBC the “state run, MSNBC conspiracy channel media.”

“People trying to stay out of jail, in my humble opinion, they will say anything,” Hannity said.

Parnas is one of this moment’s big interview “gets,” and most intriguing is why he chose Maddow for the interview, rather than a host of other shows that were certainly chasing after him for the exclusive. At the top of the interview, Maddow thanked Parnas and his lawyer, Joseph Bondy. “I know it was a leap of trust,” she said.

She also broke her interview up into segments, allowing her to introduce portions by providing context and explanation. That helped even those who have been following impeachment closely, as the inquiry seems to have an ever-expanding cast of characters.

Democrats are looking to Parnas’s revelations to help them make the case that witnesses should be called in the upcoming impeachment trial before the Republican-controlled Senate. Among other things, Parnas also referred to former National Security Adviser John Bolton as a “key witness” and someone who has “a lot to say.” Bolton already has said that he will testify if subpoenaed.

One of Parnas’s claims from the Maddow interview already is being challenged, that Attorney General William Barr “had to have known everything” about the Ukraine scheme, including the “quid pro quo.” A Justice Department spokeswoman told Maddow that Parnas’s claim was “100% false.”

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And strangely enough, Parnas seemed to dismiss another bombshell story: That Marie Yovanovich, who Trump ousted as the US ambassador to Ukraine last spring, was being surveilled by members of Giuliani’s team. In the trove of information he provided to the House Intelligence Committee, Parnas included texts between he and Robert Hyde, a congressional candidate, in which Hyde seemed to suggest that he was tracking Yovanovich’s movements.

But in his Maddow interview, Parnas said that he didn’t take Hyde seriously, describing him as “weird” and someone who hung out at the Trump hotel in Washington to ingratiate himself with top Republicans. “He was either drunk or trying to make himself bigger than he really was,” Parnas said.

PREVIOUSLY, 3:50 PM PT: Rachel Maddow has landed an interview with Lev Parnas, the former associate of Rudy Giuliani who provided information to the House Intelligence Committee investigating President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

Parnas and his lawyer, Joseph A. Bondy, taped an interview with Maddow on Wednesday afternoon, to air on her MSNBC show at 9 p.m. ET. His attorney also signalled that Parnas will be a guest on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 later in the evening.

On Tuesday, House Democrats released a trove of information that Parnas provided to their committees. Among them were messages that suggested that there was some effort to track Marie Yovanovich, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was removed from her post last spring. Yovanovich was among the witnesses who testified in the impeachment inquiry in November. Democrats say that the new information makes it critical that the Senate allow witnesses and additional documents as they conduct an impeachment trial, now scheduled to start on Tuesday.

The document dump contained evidence that showed that Parnas and Igor Fruman, his business associate, were working with a Republican congressional candidate, Robert Hyde, to track Yovanovitch’s movements. Hyde is scheduled to appear on Eric Bolling’s show on Sinclair Media Group on Wednesday as well.

Parnas and Fruman were arrested in October on charges of violating campaign finance law.

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