Rudy Giuliani’s associate Lev Parnas told a Ukrainian official in May that unless the country announced an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden, Vice President Mike Pence would not attend the incoming Ukrainian president’s inauguration and the United States would freeze aid funds to Ukraine, Parnas’ lawyer claimed.
The New York Times reported the claim on Sunday, though others involved in the meeting deny key details of Parnas’ story. Pence ultimately did not attend the inauguration and the congressionally approved aid to Ukraine was only released months later, in September.
Indicted last month with a campaign finance conspiracy, Parnas and his partner Igor Fruman first made headlines as associates of Giuliani’s, helping him dig up dirt beneficial to Trump’s reelection campaign.
The extent to which U.S. government officials took part in that effort is now the subject of the House’s impeachment inquiry.
Democratic investigators have sought details about $400 million in aid to Ukraine that the White House held up for months, according to some witnesses over an insistence that Ukraine announce investigations helpful to Trump.
If Parnas spelled out such an exchange before the May inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, as his lawyer claims, it would mark the earliest instance that such an offer was spelled out to the Ukrainians.
However, others deny key aspects of Parnas’ claim.
A lawyer for Fruman denied to the Times that the pair brought up aid money or Pence’s attendance at Zelensky’s inauguration.
And while Parnas’ lawyer Joseph Bondy said the message came at Giuliani’s direction, Giuliani, who did not attend the meeting, told the Times he “never authorized such a conversation” and that “categorically, I did not tell him to say that.”
The only other attendee at the meeting, Zelensky adviser Serhiy Shefir, told the Times that Parnas and Fruman did not raise the issue of aid money.
Parnas recently indicated he could cooperate with the House’s impeachment inquiry.
On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Parnas and Fruman offered a state visit to then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in exchange for announcing investigations of the Bidens and the 2016 U.S. elections.
A month after the inauguration of Poroshenko’s successor, Zelesnky, Trump pressured the new Ukrainian leader for similar investigations.
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