The businessman Lev Parnas becomes an important figure in the Ukraine affair, the basis for the impeachment proceedings against the US president Donald Trump is. The president said he didn't know the businessman who was born in the former Soviet Union. New material from the US Democrats raises considerable doubts about this.
A letter from committee chair Adam Schiff last night said the Democrats had released additional documents that businessman Lev Parnas had given to the Intelligence Committee. Schiff is the House’s leading prosecutor in the impeachment case against Trump, which formally began on Thursday in the Senate.
The Democrats had already released incriminating Parnas material earlier this week. Parnas is a business partner of Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Parnas is said to have played a central role in Giuliani's efforts to find incriminating material about Trump's rival Joe Biden in Ukraine. "President Trump knew exactly what was going on," Parnas said on Wednesday. "I wouldn't have done anything without the approval of Rudy Giuliani or the President." Trump then said he didn't know Parnas.
Greeting card to a stranger
However, among the materials now published are photos that are supposed to refute this. A picture shows a table on which a seat card with Parna's name is next to a President Trump seat card – so they would have sat next to each other at an event. However, there are no people in the picture. There is also a greeting card, signed by the President and First Lady Melania Trump, in which the two Parnas thank him for his friendship.
Another photo shows Trump and Parnas together, Parnas stretching the thumb of his left hand up. Trump said on Thursday that there were a number of such pictures of him with other people.
Parnas shows several other photos together with Giuliani. The materials also contain numerous text messages between Parnas and Derek Harvey, an employee of Devin Nunes, the highest-ranking Republican on the House Secret Service committee. Accordingly, Parnas and Harvey were in close contact between February and May last year and made several appointments to meet or talk.
With the "knowledge and consent"
The Democrats had released Parnas materials on Tuesday. Among them was Giuliani's letter to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj, who was designated at the time, last May. In it, Giuliani Selenskyj asked for a meeting with Trump's "knowledge and consent". Among the materials were also messages suggesting that the US Ambassador at the time was illegally monitored Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, indicated. Parnas and Giuliani had tried to recall Yovanovitch. Trump ultimately ordered her back to Washington.
The Democrats accuse Trump of using Selensky to investigate his political rival Joe Biden to have pushed to influence the 2020 US presidential election in his favor. They see it as proven that Trump made a meeting with Selenskyj in the White House and the release of military aid for Ukraine dependent on the announcement of such investigations. In the impeachment proceedings, they accuse him of abuse of power and hindrance to the House of Representatives' investigations. The impeachment proceedings are conducted in the Senate.