Federal prosecutors on Wednesday revealed that Lev Parnas, who is connected to Donald Trump through Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, received a secret payment of $1 million from a Russian bank account in September, about one month before he and business partner Igor Fruman were arrested, according to an NBC News report.
Parnas not only worked with Giuliani in an attempt to pressure Ukraine into performing political favors for Trump, but he says that he met personally with Trump at the White House in December 2018. Parnas said that at that meeting Trump personally dispatched him on a “mission” to pressure the Ukrainian government to stage a sham “investigation” that would discredit Democrat Joe Biden. Even at that time, four months before declaring his candidacy, Biden was considered the favorite in the race against Trump in the 2020 election.
Giuliani has said that he provides his legal services to Trump on a pro bono basis — that is, free of charge. But he was paid $500,000 by a company called Fraud Guarantee, which was owned by Parnas.
“If Parnas himself was being paid by Russian sources, this means the Russians were essentially subsidizing Trump,” wrote New York Magazine columnist Jonathan Chait today. “Trump’s Ukraine plot appears to have been financed by Russia.”
The Wall Street Journal has published a video explaining the financial relationship between Giuliani and Parnas’s Fraud Guarantee company.
Parnas and Fruman were arrested in October and charged with funneling hundreds of thousands in cash from an unnamed Russian businessman to a pro-Trump SuperPac, as well as to other Republican candidates, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Trump has denied knowing Parnas and Fruman, who are based in Florida but were born in Ukraine during a period when the country was under the domination of the Soviet Union. However, the pair have been photographed at the White House with Trump, Giuliani and Vice President Mike Pence. They have also dined there with Trump.
From left to right:
Rudy Giuliani pic.twitter.com/Ly7LXY0pjT
— Cornelia (@PaladinCornelia) October 10, 2019
The revelation that Russian cash may also have been behind Trump and Giuliani’s effort to force Ukraine into announcing an “investigation” of Biden would be significant, because experts — as well as Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — say that the true beneficiary of the Ukraine scheme would be Russia, according to a Brookings Institute report.
“‘The Russians love it’ could be the title of a movie about President Trump’s foreign policy,” wrote Brookings Senior Fellow Elaine Kamarck in an analysis last month, adding that the Ukraine scheme is only the “latest episode” in Trump’s “drama” in which, “as the speaker said, ‘All roads lead to Putin.'”