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Who is Lev Parnas, and how does he tie into Trump's impeachment trial?

Rob Tornoe, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in News & Features

It's been a busy 24 hours for Lev Parnas, an otherwise obscure Ukraine-born businessman who is suddenly at the center of President Donald Trump's impeachment.

Parnas sat down for high-profile interviews on Wednesday with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and CNN host Anderson Cooper. During those interviews, which aired on Wednesday night and will continue Thursday, Parnas said the president knew about a Ukrainian scheme headed by Rudy Giuliani to obtain dirt on potential 2020 political rival Joe Biden.

Here's everything we know about Parnas, highlights of what he told Maddow and Cooper, and how it might impact Trump's upcoming Senate impeachment trial.

Q: Who is Lev Parnas?

A: Parnas is a businessman who was born in Odessa, Ukraine, in 1972 when it was part of the Soviet Union. Parnas emigrated to the United States with his family when he was three years old and is a naturalized U.S. citizen. He reportedly played a key role aiding Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney and the former mayor of New York City, in a scheme to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who sat on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company.

Prior to his work with Giuliani, Parnas was a businessman in Florida, with the Miami Herald reporting he "left a long trail of debts in Florida and beyond." He is currently under indictment, and has pleaded not guilty to largely unrelated campaign finance charges that he funneled money from foreign entities to U.S. political candidates. Parnas is also accused of hiding assets, including $1 million from a Russian oligarch with ties to the president's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.


Q: What was Parnas' role in Ukraine?

A: Parnas and his partner, Igor Furman (who is also under indictment), reportedly helped set up meetings for Giuliani with Ukrainian officials in an attempt to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on 2016 election interference and to dig up dirt on Biden, the Democratic front-runner to challenge Trump's re-election in 2020.

Claiming he worked under Guiliani's direction, Parnas said his goal was to convince Ukraine to announce an investigation into Biden, and claimed part of the pressure campaign was the threat to cut off all aid to Ukraine -- not just the security aid authorized by Congress.

Giuliani told the New York Times Wednesday night that Parnas is "a proven liar," but didn't not specifically dispute any of Parnas' allegations.


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