Lev Parnas implicated just about everyone on Team Trump in a massive pressure campaign to get Ukraine to help Donald Trump win in 2020. In Wednesday interviews with a series of media outlets, Parnas said of Trump that “I am betting my whole life that Trump knew exactly everything that was going on that Rudy Giuliani was doing in Ukraine,” of Attorney General William Barr that he “was basically on the team,” of Mike Pence that “He couldn’t have not known,” and of the entire effort that it was “all about 2020.”
Parnas also increased the pressure on the Senate to call former national security adviser John Bolton as a witness in the impeachment trial, saying Bolton “could fit in all the dots, I think, because I was on the ground there, and he was over here.” And what Parnas says he was doing “over there” in Ukraine was delivering explicit extortion demands: “I told them, very strict and stern, that several things: A. That he needed—Zelensky needed to immediately make an announcement literally that night or within the next 24 hours that they were opening an investigation on Biden.”
Team Trump is already running its usual “nobody knows that guy” routine, previously run for multiple campaign advisers and former campaign chair Paul Manafort. But in addition to all of Parnas’ known ties to Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and all of Parnas’ documented contact with members of the Trump family, Trump’s other personal lawyer Jay Sekulow wrote to former Trump personal lawyer John Dowd saying that “I have discussed the issue of representation with the President” and “The President consents to allowing your representation of Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman.” Dowd subsequently wrote to Congress saying that Parnas and Igor Fruman “assisted Mr. Giuliani in connection with his representation of President Trump.” That meant they’d be covered by attorney-client privilege—how convenient.
Parnas obviously can’t be trusted anywhere near 100%—we don’t know all of his motives, but bailing himself out of trouble by incriminating others is likely one of them. Journalist Marcy Wheeler cautioned that “until we understand why Parnas is doing what he’s doing—why he inserted himself into the right wing echo chamber in the first place, and why he’s so insistent on telling us what we want to hear now—we would do well to exercise caution about the stories he’s telling.” But he definitely ramped up the pressure on wobbly Republican senators to vote for a real impeachment trial with witnesses and document subpoenas.