President Donald Trump’s impeachment may all boil down to the crazed ambitions of one man.
But it’s not necessarily those of the President himself, nor those of his attorney Rudy Giuliani.
Rather, texts from Giuliani henchman Lev Parnas suggest, the demiurge manipulating the Trump administration for the past year may be Ukraine’s former Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko.
Congress released the WhatsApp messages in excerpted form, curated in part to show moments relevant to the House’s impeachment inquiry. Because of that, it’s unclear what the full context of the messages are in some cases, or whether Parnas replied.
One section lists dozens of texts from Lutsenko to Parnas, in which he complains about U.S. Ambassador Maria Yovanovitch criticizing him and his associates over allegations of corruption.
“The ambassador openly called for the firing of the head of the Special Anti-corruption Prosecutor,” Lutsenko wrote in one March 5 text message. He appears to have been referring to a speech Yovanovitch gave the same day criticizing Lutsenko and Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Nazar Kholodnytsky for failing to fight corruption and calling for Kholodnytsky’s removal.
But the question is less what sparked Lutsenko’s rage at Yovanovitch as where it took him.
The texts reveal that Lutsenko engaged in a very specific quid pro quo with Parnas: in exchange for Lutsenko making negative statements about the Bidens, Yovanovitch would be removed.
In one March 22 text from Lutsenko, for example, the Ukrainian politician tells Parnas “it’s just that if you don’t make a decision about Madam [Yovanovitch], you’re placing into doubt all of my statements. Including about B.”
Lutsenko wrote that message two days after Solomon published his first interviews with Lutsenko, who had told Solomon that he would open an investigation into whether Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election by trying to hurt Trump, and that Yovanovitch had given him a do-not-prosecute list.
All the while, Parnas was in the background, playing a key role in linking Lutsenko with Solomon.
ProPublica reported in October, after Parnas’s indictment on campaign finance charges, that Solomon worked with Parnas to set up the interview with Lutsenko and receive information.
That story quoted a March 2019 email that Solomon wrote saying “just got word from Lev that the prosecutor general has agreed to do an interview tomorrow,” apparently referring to Lutsenko.
There is further evidence in the texts released by the House to suggest that Lutsenko negotiated with Parnas over what Solomon was to receive.
Some of the conditions attached to Lutsenko providing information – like Yovanovitch’s removal – would not have been within Parnas’ power to fulfill. Rather, someone like Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who successfully lobbied for Yovanovitch’s ouster in April 2019, would have had to have been involved.
Giuliani has declined to comply with House demands for relevant text messages and other communications.
The information that Lutsenko and Parnas discuss providing mirror that which appeared in articles published by Solomon.
In one March 28 exchange, for example, Parnas wrote to Lutsenko that “I was asked to personally convey to you that America supports you and will not let you be harmed no matter how it looks now, everything will soon turn around and will be on the right track.”
Lutsenko replied to Parnas that he had “a copy of payments from Burisma to Seneca,” an apparent reference to a company Hunter Biden co-founded called Rosemont Seneca Bohai, which has featured at the center of Trumpworld narratives of Biden corruption.
Three days after the exchange, on April 1, Solomon published an article referencing payments from Burisma to Seneca accompanied by another interview with Lutsenko.
At the same time, the messages show, Lutsenko was getting upset that Parnas was not fulfilling his end of the apparent bargain: Yovanovitch had not yet been fired, even after Solomon began to publish Lutsenko’s allegations.
“My Zlochevsky case is moving along successfully. There’s evidence about transfers to B,” Lutsenko wrote in one March 26 message to Parnas, apparently referring to Burisma CEO Mykola Zlochevsky and the Bidens. “And yet you can’t even get rid of one fool.”
“She’s not a simple fool,” Parnas replied.