Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudolph Giuliani’s, is claiming that he was directed by President Trump’s lawyer to inform Ukraine that it had to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, or the United States would freeze aid to the country.
That’s according to The New York Times, which reported that Parnas “journeyed to Kiev to deliver a warning to the country’s new leadership.”
Parnas, who’s set to testify in the public phase of the Democratic Party’s partisan impeachment inquisition, said he carried out the mission along with Igor Fruman, a business partner.
And while a meeting in Kiev took place, other than Parnas, none of those present say the intention was to present an ultimatum to the Ukrainian leadership, according to the Times.
Fruman said Parnas’s claim was false, according to his lawyers, that the men never raised the issue of aid at the meeting, or Vice President Mike Pence’s attendance at the inauguration — this allegedly being a second bargaining chip to force Ukraine to investigate Biden.
(Pence did not attend Zelensky’s inauguration.)
Attorney John Dowd, who represents Fruman along with attorney Todd Blanche, said their client said the men were only seeking a meeting with Zelensky.
“There was no mention of any terms, military aid or whatever they are talking about it — it’s false,” Dowd told the Times.
And Giuliani denied Parnas’s contention that he was to deliver the warning at his direction.
“Categorically, I did not tell him to say that,” Giuliani told the newspaper.
The third person at the meeting, Serhiy Shefir, is a member of the inner circle of then-Ukrainian president-elect Volodymyr Zelensky.
Shefir also denies that an ultimatum was issued during the May meeting in Kiev.
More from the Times:
In a statement on Friday, Mr. Shefir acknowledged meeting with Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman. But he said they had not raised the issue of military aid. Mr. Shefir said he briefed the incoming president on the meeting. Mr. Shefir was a business partner and longtime friend whom Mr. Zelensky appointed as his chief adviser on the first day of his presidency.
“We did not treat Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman as official representatives, and therefore we did not consider that they could speak on behalf of the U.S. government,” Mr. Shefir said. He added Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman had requested that Mr. Zelensky meet with Mr. Giuliani.
Mr. Shefir said in his statement that he had told Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman “that we could consider meeting with Mr. Giuliani, but only publicly and officially and only after the inauguration of the newly elected president.”
None of which will prevent Democrats from parading Parnas before the cameras to lend his tale of an alleged quid pro quo.
Parnas and Fruman were arrested last month by federal authorities and charged with campaign finance crimes, and while Parnas pleaded not guilty, he would be a crucial witness to the Democratic cause and that could prove to be advantageous to his legal problems.
The men are accused of using a shell company to route $325,000 to a pro-Trump political action committee, according to the indictment, and are linked to an effort to recall the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch.