White House pushes back on Parnas allegations

The White House on Thursday dismissed allegations from Lev Parnas that President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders says he wouldn't 'drop dead' if Trump decided on universal healthcare Overnight Health Care: Trump officials lay groundwork for May reopening | Democrats ramp up talks with Mnuchin on next relief deal | Fauci says death toll could be around 60,000 Hillicon Valley: State officials push for more election funds | Coronavirus surveillance concerns ramp up pressure for privacy bill | Senators warned not to use Zoom | Agencies ask FCC to revoke China Telecom's license MORE was aware of a scheme to get Ukraine to announce investigations into his political rivals as a media blitz from the indicted businessman threatened to shake up impeachment proceedings.

Parnas, a Soviet-born businessman and former associate of the president's personal attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump: Tough times but progress being made Giuliani touts experimental coronavirus treatment in private conversations with Trump Trump team picks fight with Twitter, TV networks over political speech MORE, turned over evidence to House investigators that detailed the pressure campaign against Ukraine and alleged in an interview late Wednesday that Trump was fully aware of the efforts.

In response, multiple White House officials attacked Parnas's credibility, accused him of seeking attention on anti-Trump media outlets and pointed to Trump's denials that he knows the businessman despite the two appearing in photos together.


"This is a man who’s under indictment and who’s actually out on bail," press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Americans with COVID-19 immunity may lead US back to work Trump shakes up White House communications team The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Debruyne Says Global Response Platform Needed; Navarro Saw It Coming MORE said Thursday morning on Fox News. "This is a man who owns a company called Fraud Inc., so I think that’s something that people should be thinking about. We’re not too concerned about it."

"It’s unfortunate that he’s now making a media tour with a lot of the outlets that are, you know, against the president," she added. "I think that shows exactly what he’s doing."

White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayGeorge Conway group rejects Trump claim of impeachment distraction in coronavirus response The Hill's Campaign Report: Sanders exits, clearing Biden's path to nomination George Conway group endorses Joe Biden MORE described Parnas as "desperate" and accused the media of giving him outsized attention.

"He's desperate, and it looks like he's facing some serious criminal charges," Conway told reporters at the White House.

The trove of documents and text messages provided by Parnas offers additional, corroborating details over issues at the heart of Trump’s impeachment, including efforts to remove U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie YovanovitchMarie YovanovitchAmerica's diplomats deserve our respect House panel says key witness isn't cooperating in probe into Yovanovitch surveillance President Trump's assault on checks and balances: Five acts in four weeks MORE and create conditions to push for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSteyer endorses Biden for president Sanders 2020 press secretary: Democratic leadership interested in 'corporate status quo' or 'they're planning to replace Joe' Biden joins calls to release racial breakdowns of coronavirus cases, deaths MORE and his son Hunter Biden to benefit Trump’s reelection prospects.


The documents say that Giuliani was acting with Trump’s “knowledge and consent” to pursue a shadow foreign policy, with a letter signed by Giuliani asking for a meeting with Zelensky and with the approval of Trump.

Grisham downplayed the reliability of Parnas's notes and text message exchanges with Giuliani, who multiple former administration officials testified led a shadow foreign policy campaign in Ukraine to secure investigations and oust Yovanovitch.

"I’ve got to say, just to say Rudy told me these things doesn’t mean that it has anything to do with the president, and it certainly doesn’t mean the president was directing him to do anything," Grisham said.

"We stand by exactly what we’ve been saying," she added. "The president did nothing wrong."

Trump has not publicly commented on the Parnas allegations, but he has previously said he does not know the businessman. Parnas has posted photos of the two together.


The documents from Parnas were made public on Tuesday night, one day before the House voted to send two articles of impeachment against Trump over to the Senate ahead of a trial.

Parnas, who was indicted in October on charges of violating campaign finance laws, appeared late Wednesday on Rachel MaddowRachel Anne MaddowOvernight Health Care: Trump steps up attack on WHO | Fauci says deaths could be lower than first projected | House panel warns federal stockpile of medical supplies depleted | Mnuchin, Schumer in talks over relief deal States battle each other for equipment in supply chain crunch Pelosi: Next round of coronavirus relief will top trillion MORE's show on MSNBC, where he alleged Trump "knew exactly what was going on" in Ukraine. He further claimed that Vice President Pence and Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrOvernight Health Care: Trump officials lay groundwork for May reopening | Democrats ramp up talks with Mnuchin on next relief deal | Fauci says death toll could be around 60,000 COVID-19 is no excuse for Attorney General Barr to skirt the rule of law Trump officials lay groundwork for May reopening MORE were likely aware of the scheme. 

Pence's chief of staff and a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice have denied Parnas's claims.

Democrats have argued Parnas's allegations strengthen their case against the president, which they will present beginning next week in the Senate trial. 

But Republicans have initially expressed skepticism about allowing Parnas's new information to factor into the trial and questioned why it was only coming to light now. 

Rebecca Klar contributed. Updated at 11:51 a.m.