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Parnas used access to Trump’s world to help push shadow Ukraine effort, new documents show

In this Dec. 2, 2019,  photo, Lev Parnas arrives at court in New York. Parnas, a close associate of President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has provided a trove of text messages and photos to the House committee leading the impeachment inquiry. (Seth Wenig / Associated Press)
In this Dec. 2, 2019, photo, Lev Parnas arrives at court in New York. Parnas, a close associate of President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has provided a trove of text messages and photos to the House committee leading the impeachment inquiry. (Seth Wenig / Associated Press)
By Colby Itkowitz, Paul Sonne and Tom Hamburger Washington Post

Documents and text messages released Wednesday evening by House Democrats show how Lev Parnas, the former associate of Rudy Giuliani, used the extensive entree he had to President Donald Trump’s world to help put in motion Giuliani’s shadow Ukraine campaign.

Hundreds of pages of photos, messages and calendar entries show Parnas enlisting a top official at the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action to help promote media coverage he helped arrange and attending functions with Republican congressmen and Trump family members. A calendar entry released as part of the cache shows he had a scheduled breakfast with Trump in New York on Sept. 26 – after the public revelation of a whistleblower complaint about a call the president had with his Ukrainian counterpart.

The new materials made public by the House Intelligence Committee follow an initial trove released Tuesday night that showed Parnas directly involved with efforts to get the Ukrainian president to announce investigations related to former vice president Joe Biden.

The latest cache of documents comes as the Senate prepares to begin its impeachment trial of Trump Thursday.

In an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Wednesday, Parnas said the president knew about his activities.

“President Trump knew exactly what was going on,” he said. “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.”

The new material indicates that Parnas played a central role in arranging an interview with a Ukrainian prosecutor who claimed there was a plot in his country to help Hillary Clinton – and then urging a senior contact at the pro-Trump super PAC America First to get Trump’s eldest son Donald Jr. to tweet it.

Links to stories about Ukraine that Parnas sent to finance director John Ahearn were tweeted by both the president and Donald Jr., the material shows.

Peter Chavkin, a lawyer for Ahearn, said it was not surprising that his client would be interacting with Parnas, a donor to the super PAC.

“It’s apparent that Mr. Ahearn, who worked at America First, was occasionally corresponding with an individual who had interactions with the organization,” Chavkin said in a text message. “Nothing in the communications seems out of the ordinary or sparks any concern.”

A lawyer for Donald Trump Jr., Alan Futerfas, declined to comment on the newly released documents, as did Kelly Sadler, a spokeswoman for the super PAC. An attorney for Parnas declined to comment.

The materials also shed light on a far-reaching effort to dislodge then-U. S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch from her post.

The documents include a May 9, 2018, letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from then-Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, calling for Yovanovitch to be removed. “I have received notice of concrete evidence from close companions that Ambassador Yovanovitch has spoken privately and repeatedly about her disdain for the current administration,” Sessions wrote.

In February 2019, lawyer Victoria Toensing, a longtime Giuliani ally involved in his Ukraine efforts, asked the former New York mayor in a message, “Is there absolute commitment for HER to be gone this week?”

Giuliani responded, “Yes, not sure how absolute. Will get a reading in morning and call you. Pompeii (sic) is now aware of it. Talked to him on Friday.”

Toensing declined to comment. Giuliani did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In May message to Ahearn, Parnas wrote, “It’s more important than ever to get a good ambassador that’s loyal to our president in there please make sure you pass on the message every ear more important than ever.”

The new materials released by House Democrats also include months of messages between Parnas and then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko, in which the Ukrainian official provides Giuliani’s team with interviews and information in exchange for a pledge that Yovanovitch will be removed from her post.

The messages show Parnas helping arrange a video interview for Lutsenko with a conservative columnist at The Hill newspaper, John Solomon. On March 12, Parnas sent a letter from Solomon to Lutsenko requesting the interview and included a list of questions to be addressed. “I sent you the questions and the invitation from the journalist, call me when you wake up,” Parnas writes after sending the letter to Lutsenko.

After the interview posted online, Parnas texted it to Ahearn and wrote, “Have jr retweet it.”

“Sent,” Ahearn responded.

Parnas then urged Ahearn to “Watch Hannity.”

Later that night, Trump himself tweeted coverage by Fox News’ Sean Hannity of the story.

Several days later, Parnas sent Ahearn an article about calls to push out Yovanovitch, to which Ahearn responded, “That’s a good article.”

That same day, Trump Jr. tweeted the article and wrote the U.S. needed “less of these jokes as ambassadors,” referring to Yovanovitch, a career diplomat.

The relationship between Parnas and Lutsenko turned hot and cold over the months of text messages in Russian. At one point last March, Lutsenko appeared to have grown impatient that he was holding up his end of the bargain – but Parnas was failing to come through with the ambassador’s removal and other requests that would benefit him or his boss, then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

“I’m … sick of all this,” Lutsenko wrote on March 13. I haven’t received a visit. My boss hasn’t received jack all. I’m prepared to thrash your opponent. But you want more and more. We’re over.”

Another batch of messages show Parnas and Giuliani in February 2019 discussing possibly signing a “retainer” with the Ukraine Justice Ministry, appearing to reinforce reporting that the president’s personal lawyer was in advanced discussions to represent that government.

The Washington Post reported last year that Giuliani had negotiated to represent Ukraine’s top prosecutor for at least $200,000 as he was hunting for damaging material about Biden from Ukrainian sources. At the time, Giuliani wrote on Twitter that he “did NOT pursue a business opportunity in Ukraine” and that he was “paid ZERO.”

In the newly release messages, Parnas writes to Giuliani: “This is who the retainer should be me out to: ministry of justice of Ukraine Att: minster Pavlo Petrenko.”

“How much?” Giuliani responds. Giuliani says he will follow-up with a call, and the messages suggest he sends an agreement to Parnas, who agrees to “print it out and deliver it.”

Later, Parnas asks Giuliani to send wire instructions and asks for a copy signed by Giuliani AND? “Victoria and joe” so the contract can be executed – an apparent reference to Toensing and her husband Joe DiGenova.

“Can do that tomorrow,” Giuliani replies.

The next day, Parnas writes, “I received signed retainer.”

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