Who is Lev Parnas? Here’s what both sides are saying

The Flag Staff Contributor
Who is Lev Parnas? Here’s what both sides are saying
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Tag This: Last week an American businessman and associate of Rudy Giuliani was featured prominently on TV screens across America. His name was Lev Parnas, who along with Igor Fruman, has been swept into the spotlight and placed right in the middle of the Trump–Ukraine scandal. On January 15 and 16, 2020 MSNBC aired segments of an interview with Parnas conducted by Rachel Maddow, which cemented his status as an extremely polarizing figure in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

The interview above led to a barrage of reactions from both right and left-leaning outlets and columnists, some of which we’ve highlighted below, along with a general overview of each side’s sentiments towards Parnas.

In general, Democrats and left-leaning outlets view Parnas’ interview as further proof that President Donald Trump deliberately withheld aid from Ukraine for personal political reasons, which is the issue at the heart of the impeachment trial.In general, Republicans and right-leaning outlets categorize Parnas as attention-seeking, spiteful, and most importantly untrustworthy given the fact he is facing federal campaign finance charges in Manhattan.
Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post writes that despite Parnas’ alleged campaign finance violations, “it is enough to believe the written documents, including letters, notes and texts, he delivered to the House Democrats [which] includes a letter from Giuliani seeking a meeting with Ukraine’s president with Trump’s knowledge and consent, a note that an announcement to investigate Biden was the price of releasing any aid, and texts concerning the effort to fire then-Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.”Appearing on “America’s Newsroom” with hosts Bill Hemmer and Sandra Smith former Rep. Trey Gowdy said that “he would encourage viewers to listen to Parnas and Igor Fruman’s full interview with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and “not just the snippets.” Gowdy continued to say: “Remember, Parnas was upset because he expected Giuliani and Trump to come to his defense… This is a guy charged with falsifying records, making a false statement, [and] conspiracy to defraud the FEC.”
Kenneth P. Vogel and Ben Protess of the New York Times write that Parnas and his allegations “seem to expand the circle of people around Mr. Trump who were aware in real time of the pressure campaign” on Ukraine. Vogel and Protess continue: “Taken together, the comments on Wednesday capped a stunning turnabout for a man who was a Trump donor and once considered himself a close friend of Mr. Giuliani, who is a godfather to his son.”Ed Morrissey of Hot Air questions Parnas’ statement to Rachel Maddow “that his efforts to get Marie Yovanovitch removed as US ambassador to Ukraine in 2019 had everything to do with Joe Biden and Donald Trump.” Specifically, Morrissey questions the timeframe citing Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller (more below) who says, “Lev Parnas claims the effort to get rid of Yovanovitch was solely to get her out of the way so investigations of Biden could be opened. Except Parnas was pushing for Yovanovitch’s removal way back in May 2018, and his indictment says he did it at direction of Ukrainian official” Bottom line, Morrissey writes: “It’s very curious that Maddow didn’t ask about this indictment or Parnas’ own previous account when Parnas claimed that the Biden probe was the ‘only motivation.’”
Kyle Cheney, Andrew Desiderio and Burgess Everett of POLITICO write that “the new developments underscore the peril facing GOP senators as the trial begins and whether to heed Democrats’ urgent demands to call witnesses like former national security adviser John Bolton and senior White House officials who have firsthand knowledge of Trump’s actions in the Ukraine saga. In the article Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) is quoted: “What Parnas’ statement underscores is the importance of getting relevant witnesses and documents. He had a lot to say.”Eddy Scarry of the Washington Examiner headlines a piece titled: “Lev Parnas isn’t a ‘bombshell’ in the impeachment case. He’s stalling on his way to prison.” In it Scarry notes that “Parnas is doing exactly what Trump’s former personal lawyer Cohen did when he was also trying to avoid prison. Cohen repeatedly embarrassed himself last year by going on TV, accusing Trump of all the same things liberals accuse Trump of, and then going in front of Congress to apologize for ever having been associated with the president.”
David A. Graham a staff writer at The Atlantic says “We Can’t Afford to Ignore Lev Parnas’s Explosive Claims” and in subtext notes that “We can’t afford to accept them at face value either.” The crux of the matter, however, is that “Parnas is like Cohen in another way: Each was once a part of the Trump circle, and the president and his defenders now dismiss him as a liar and scoundrel. And as with Cohen, the defense is troubling even if true. If Cohen and Parnas are such obvious villains, how is it that they came to be close to the president, putatively working as part of his legal teams? The same question applies to any number of other criminals, con men, and charlatans we’ve come to know over the past four years as Trump associates. The fact that he is surrounded by such people says a great deal about either his judgment or his probity. (Probably both.)”Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller argues that Parnas’ comments conflict with a CNN report about a ‘Secret Mission’ for Trump: “Lev Parnas’s comments to The New York Times on Wednesday appear to conflict with what CNN reported about the Soviet-born businessman back in November. Parnas told the Times that he did not speak directly with President Donald Trump about his Ukraine-related efforts. Instead, Parnas worked closely with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. CNN reported on Nov. 16 that associates of Parnas’s said that he claimed that he spoke privately with Trump in late-2018 about Ukraine, and that the president tasked him with a ‘secret mission.'”

Bottom line: Fallout over Parnas’ allegations will likely continue to make headlines throughout the impeachment trial. According to The Hill, “President Trump on Wednesday vehemently denounced Lev Parnas saying he didn’t know Parnas and that the figure is “sort of like a groupie” who shows up at fundraisers.” The President continued to call him a “conman” and pointed to his alleged campaign finance violations. Additionally, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff is in the spotlight for allegedly mischaracterizing text messages between Lev Parnas and Rudy Giuliani. According to POLITICO, “Schiff claims that Parnas ‘continued to try to arrange a meeting with President Zelensky,’ citing a specific text message exchange where Parnas tells Giuliani: ‘trying to get us mr Z.’ The remainder of the exchange — which was attached to Schiff’s letter — was redacted. But an unredacted version of the exchange shows that several days later, Parnas sent Giuliani a word document that appears to show notes from an interview with Mykola Zlochevsky, the founder of Burisma, followed by a text message to Giuliani that states: “mr Z answers my brother.” That suggests Parnas was referring to Zlochevsky not Zelensky.” Both sides will continue to try to figure out Parnas’ place as each one points fingres at the other.