Jan 16, 2020

Trump claims he didn't know about Giuliani letter to Zelensky

President Trump denied knowing about a May 2019 letter from his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani requesting a private meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, despite Giuliani claiming that he was reaching out with Trump's "knowledge and consent."

Why it matters: The letter, released by the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday, says that Giuliani was acting at the express direction of the president when carrying out a campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

  • "I don't know anything about the letter, but certainly Rudy is one of the great crimefighters in the history of our country," Trump said. "I didn't know about the specific letter, but if he wrote a letter it wouldn't have been a big deal."

The big picture: Lev Parnas, a Giuliani associate who has been indicted on campaign finance charges, alleged in an explosive MSNBC interview Wednesday that Trump was fully aware of and authorized Giuliani's efforts in Ukraine.

  • Trump told reporters that he does not know Parnas, suggesting he was simply one of the thousands of people with whom he's taken pictures at fundraisers.
  • Parnas claimed on MSNBC that Trump is lying about not knowing him and that while he wouldn't consider them "friends," he and the president interacted on numerous occasions at roundtables and fundraising events.

What to watch: Parnas said Wednesday that not all of the records he intends to hand over to the House Intelligence Committee have been released yet. He has signaled that he wants to testify in the impeachment trial, but it's not clear whether the Senate will vote to call him as a witness — especially given that he is under indictment and may not be a reliable narrator.

Read the letter:

Go deeper ... Lev Parnas: "Trump knew exactly what was going on" in Ukraine

Go deeper

Lev Parnas: "Trump knew exactly what was going on" in Ukraine

Lev Parnas, a close Rudy Giuliani associate and central figure in the pressure campaign on Ukraine, told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow last night: "President Trump knew exactly what was going on. He was aware of all my movements. ... I wouldn't do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president."

Why it matters: If true, the claim presents detailed connective tissue between Parnas' activities in Ukraine and Trump.

Go deeperArrowJan 16, 2020

Sen. Cornyn: There have been a "series of grifters" associated with Trump campaign

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) on CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday dismissed new impeachment evidence obtained from Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, stating that there is "no question that there have been a series of grifters" who have associated themselves with the Trump campaign.

Go deeperArrowJan 19, 2020

Rudy Giuliani ditches Lev Parnas: "I still feel sorry for him"

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Rudy Giuliani went on Fox News' "The Ingraham Angle" on Monday and tried to distance himself from close associate Lev Parnas.

Why it matters: Parnas in recent interviews has claimed that he helped carry out a campaign to pressure Ukraine to announce an investigation into the Bidens with Trump's consent and awareness.

Go deeperArrowJan 21, 2020