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Giuliani Associate Directly Implicates Trump in Ukraine Scheme. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired January 16, 2020 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Thursday, January 16. It's 6 a.m. here in New York.
And the breaking news this morning, we're hearing for the first time from a central player in the scheme which ultimately led to the impeachment of President Trump.
An explosive new interview, which we're playing for you for the first time this morning on CNN, with Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani. In the interview with our Anderson Cooper, you will hear Parnas directly implicate President Trump in the months'-long effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
Parnas says he personally told the Ukrainians they would not get military aid, be invited to the White House or get a visit from Vice President Pence if they didn't publicly announce an investigation into the Bidens. And Parnas says said President Trump knew exactly what was going on.
Perhaps most important: he says he is willing to testify. Parnas says that, along with former national security advisor John Bolton, he can, quote, "fill in all the dots" in the impeachment case.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: He goes so much further than we had heard before. And this stunning interview comes at the same time that President Trump's Senate impeachment trial is about to begin in Washington. Now do senators want to hear from witnesses? Now do they want to see all the evidence that's come out since the president was impeached last month?
In just hours, the Senate will formally receive those articles of impeachment. And this afternoon the chief justice of the Supreme Court will administer the oath to senators who will serve as jurors in the trial and swear them in to deliver impartial justice.
Also, on a separate note, we now know exactly what was said during this tense exchange after the CNN Iowa debate between senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
CAMEROTA: That was a knowing "Mm-hmm."
CAMEROTA: We'll bring you the audio of that moment so that you, too, can say, "Mm-hmm."
But let's begin our breaking news coverage with Anderson Cooper's explosive interview with Lev Parnas.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You loved President Trump. You --
LEV PARNAS, BUSINESS ASSOCIATE OF RUDY GIULIANI: Loved him. He -- I mean, when the FBI came to my house to raid, my wife felt embarrassed because they said I had a shrine to him. I mean, I had pictures all over. I mean, I idolized him. I mean, I thought he was the savior.
COOPER: You -- you -- Did you think you were friends?
PARNAS: Absolutely. I mean, again, I went from being a top donor, from being at all the events, where we would just socialize, to becoming a close friend of Rudy Giuliani's, to eventually becoming his ally and his asset on the ground in Ukraine.
COOPER: The president has said -- when you were arrested, the president of the United States said he didn't know you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know those gentlemen. Now, it's possible I have a picture with him, because I have a picture with everybody. I don't know them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PARNAS: The truth is out now, thank God. Yesterday was a big day for us. I thank God every day. I was worried that that day is not going to come. I thought they were going to shut me up, make me look like the scapegoat and try to blame me for stuff that I wasn't [SIC] done. But with God's help and the great legal team that I have besides me, we were able to get the information out. And now it's out there. So I welcome him to say that even more. Every time he says that, I'll show him another picture.
COOPER: He's lying?
PARNAS: He's lying.
COOPER: Your attorney, in a tweet, had said that there were two times in which you gave the message of a quid pro quo to Ukrainian officials. What were those two times?
PARNAS: Well, I think there were probably a little bit more than two times. But there was -- the first quid pro quo, again, was when we met with President Poroshenko. That was --
COOPER: Former president.
PARNAS: Former President Poroshenko. And --
COOPER: So what was your message to Poroshenko?
PARNAS: Poroshenko is that if he would make the announcement, that he -- that he would get the -- Trump would either invite him to the White House or make a statement for him, but basically, would start supporting him for, you know, president.
COOPER: So that was the first quid pro quo. Poroshenko can come to a White House or get a meeting with Trump if he announces an investigation.
COOPER: What was the next one?
PARNAS: You have to understand, because this was a transition time. Zelensky just won. He was president-elect. And he -- the most -- the No. 1 thing on their agenda was not even the transition. It was to get the inauguration, because it was a big thing. He was a young --
COOPER: To show the American backing of the new -- of the new administration.
PARNAS: Of course. Because he had no strength with Russia. I mean --
COOPER: So Giuliani cancels his visit, because there's a lot of bad publicity about it in the United States. He cancels his visit. You go have the meeting with a high-level official in Zelensky's circle. And what's the message you deliver?
PARNAS: I basically told them very strict and very stern that several things. A, that he needed to make an announcement. Zelensky needed to immediately make an announcement, literally that night or tomorrow -- within the next 24 hours, that they were opening up an investigation on Biden.
COOPER: Within 24 hours or so?
PARNAS: I mean, I don't remember 24 hours, that same night, but I mean, literally, because I mean, Rudy was really pissed off that this was going to be a --
COOPER: That this hadn't happened?
PARNAS: Well, he said some very strong words. I mean, he -- on TV also. I mean, everybody in Ukraine was flipping out at that time, because here Rudy Giuliani had come out and say that this president -- that Zelensky, the president-elect, that all of a sudden he's surrounded by enemies, and he named the names of the people.
COOPER: That could be -- that could destroy the new regime. PARNAS: It was -- Well, it was very near -- I mean, it was some crazy
times in Ukraine at that time. Because it became a power struggle. You know?
COOPER: So Rudy is pissed off, in your words. You go in, your message is announce the Biden investigation.
PARNAS: Announce the Biden investigation, get rid of certain individuals in -- that are the enemies of the president in your -- in his administration.
COOPER: At that point, was there any mention of withholding of aid?
PARNAS: Yes. It was -- Well, if they didn't make the announcement, basically, there would be no relationship. Not just -- It was no specific military. There was no aid that was going to be assisted. There was going to be no inauguration. Pence wouldn't be at the inauguration. And there would be no visit to the White House. There would be basically, they would have no communication.
COOPER: So how -- you told the top official in the Zelensky inner circle that, if they did not announce an investigation of the Bidens immediately, and get rid of some folks around Zelensky who they believed were opposed to President Trump, that there wouldn't be any aid and Vice President Pence would not even come to the inauguration?
COOPER: And what happened? What did they say?
PARNAS: I called Rudy, told him I don't think there's going to -- there's going to be an announcement. And he said, OK. They'll see.
COOPER: They'll see.
PARNAS: They'll see.
COOPER: And what happened the next day?
PARNAS: I got a call that said that they got a call from them. So basically they found out that Pence is not going to be there. They got -- he got canceled. They said that there was a scheduling problem or something.
COOPER: The day after you delivered that message?
COOPER: The quid pro quo.
PARNAS: Right. On the -- It was Monday the 13th. And then after that, like, I think on the 16th or the 15th -- I don't remember the exact dates. Because they were flipping out what to do. They didn't want to be embarrassed. They didn't know if anybody at all is going to show up. You know, but they knew Pence wasn't coming. Trump wasn't coming.
COOPER: How did you have the authority to say the vice president of the United States will not attend the inauguration if you don't do what I say?
PARNAS: I mean, that's what I was told to do.
COOPER: Who told you to do that?
PARNAS: Rudy Giuliani.
CAMEROTA: But wait. There's more.
BERMAN: Much more.
CAMEROTA: President Trump is not the only person that Lev Parnas directly implicates. We'll bring you what he says about Vice President Pence and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton. Next.
CAMEROTA: We had some breaking news overnight. And if you are just waking up, we have a stunning new interview with indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas to show you.
For the first time, Parnas publicly talks about directly implicating President Trump and his top deputies in this campaign to pressure Ukraine to announce an investigation into the Bidens. Here is more of this interview.
COOPER: President Trump has said he did not direct Rudy Giuliani when asked about this. He said he didn't direct Giuliani to do anything in Ukraine. He said, "No, I didn't direct him. But he is a warrior. He is a warrior."
PARNAS: Again, President Trump says a lot of things. It's your -- it's the public's decision to see if that's true or not. I mean --
COOPER: This letter that you gave to the House, the first line in it, which is a letter from Rudy Giuliani to President-elect Zelensky, says, "I am private counsel to Donald J. Trump. Just to be precise, I represent him as a citizen, not as president of the United States. This is quite common under American law. Duties and privileges of a president and private citizen are not the same."
So he -- he is making a very clear point that he's not representing the interests of the United States, writ large for American national security. He's representing the interests of Donald J. Trump.
PARNAS: That was always the point.
COOPER: That was? That was always --
PARNAS: He always made it clear. He always made it clear that he doesn't represent -- wherever we went, he said, I don't represent the government. I represent the president of the United States.
COOPER: So anything Rudy Giuliani wanted the government of Ukraine to do, that wasn't official U.S. policy? That was a personal benefit to the president of the United States?
PARNAS: Well, you know, when I was doing it, I thought it was all in the same. But obviously, now I can see, with the situation the way it is, I mean, it was strictly for him. But again, I thought he was the -- our leader. He's the chief. He's the president. And it was all about 2020 to make sure he had another four years. And that is --
COOPER: But that's not how you personally viewed it, that this was about 2020 to help him get the next four years.
PARNAS: That was the way everybody viewed it. I mean, there was -- that was the most important thing, is for him to stay on for another four years and keep the fight going. I mean, there was no other reason for doing it.
COOPER: The administration says, and Jim Jordan in Congress and all -- a lot of the president's defenders in Congress say the president was deeply concerned about corruption in Ukraine.
PARNAS: Like I said, I'm not going to go into personal attacks on anybody here. But they all know. They have -- they go home at night. They all have a conscience. I've been there when they liked him, when they didn't like him. When they talked behind his back, when they agreed with him and disagreed with him. And to see the things that they're doing now and just blindly just -- I mean, it's a sham. It's a shame. And --
COOPER: They know the real story? You --
PARNAS: Absolutely. They all know. They were all a part -- I mean, they all know.
COOPER: Did the president care about corruption in Ukraine?
PARNAS: You'd have to ask him. But as far as I know, our -- the only thing we cared about, and we were part -- we were the team, was to get Zelensky or Poroshenko or somebody to make the press release and announcement into the Biden investigation.
COOPER: What's so fascinating about what you just said is that it's not to launch an investigation and to investigate, even, the Bidens and Burisma. It's to make an announcement of an investigation. That's what mattered.
PARNAS: Right. Well, because nobody trusted them to do an investigation. COOPER: In terms of who knew about what you were doing in -- in
Ukraine, did Vice President Pence know?
PARNAS: Of course.
COOPER: Because I mean, his office has said he was unaware of -- you know, that he had met with Zelensky after not going to the inauguration, but he wasn't delivering a message of a quid pro quo.
PARNAS: Look, again, like I said, I'm not here to debate. I'm here to get the truth out. I got my records.
COOPER: How do you know that the vice president would have known what Giuliani was up to?
PARNAS: Because we would speak every day. I knew everything that was going on. I mean, after Rudy would speak with the president or come from the White House, I was the first person he briefed. I mean, we had a relationship. We were that close. I mean -- I mean, we were together from morning to night. I mean, he took me -- I mean, every interview he would do, I would be sitting over there while he was doing the interviews. I mean --
COOPER: So Giuliani knew everything you were doing?
COOPER: You're saying Vice President Pence knew?
PARNAS: I'm don't know if quite Vice President knew everything. I'm sure he wasn't --
COOPER: He knew -- he was in the quid pro quo.
PARNAS: Of course. He knew. Everybody knew that -- everybody that was close to Trump knew that -- that this was a thorn in the side. And this was a serious situation.
PARNAS: Mulvaney. Bolton, I don't think, agreed with it. I think there's certain people that agreed with it and didn't agree with it.
COOPER: He called it a drug deal, according to Fiona Hill.
PARNAS: I think Bolton is a very important witness. Because I think, between me and Bolton, we could fill in all the dots. I think, because I was on the ground there, and he was over here.
COOPER: And you'd be willing to testify? PARNAS: I would be very willing to testify.
BERMAN: All right. Everything we just learned there, brand-new. So interesting. Lev Parnas says that President Trump knew exactly what was going on.
Questions this morning. What's the implication of that in the investigation? What does the Senate do with all this?
CAMEROTA: Will he be called to testify in the Senate trial?
BERMAN: Brand-new information that they're hearing as they get ready for trial. And another key question. Should Lev Parnas be believed? Why should anyone believe Lev Parnas? All of this coming up.
BERMAN: All right. Breaking news. This explosive new interview. Anderson Cooper talked to indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, who says he personally told Ukrainian officials they would get no aid, no nothing unless they announced an investigation into the Bidens. And most importantly, Parnas says that the president knew exactly what was going on. Let's break this down.
Joining us now, "EARLY START" anchor Laura Jarrett, who covered the Justice Department for CNN and CNN legal analyst Elie Honig.
There is a lot to dive into, Elie, but let's start with the biggest of big pictures here. Lev Parnas says, I told the Ukrainians they'd get nothing unless they investigated the Bidens. And the president knew exactly what was going on. Why does that matter?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So I think this is the death nail of two of the main defenses we've seen. First of all, that this was actually about rooting out corruption or promoting the best interest of the United States. I mean, so long to that. It was already highly in doubt, and I think Lev Parnas just put an end to that. He was as clear as could be. He almost laughed when he was asked about that. He said, this had nothing to do with corruption. This was all about getting the announcement.
And the second one is Ukraine didn't know. Right? This is one of Jim Jordan's four facts that will never change, facts that never can change. You know, he does that whole shtick. Ukraine didn't know. Lev Parnas just laid out all the different times he communicated that clearly to members of Zelensky's inner circle.
CAMEROTA: And by the way, they knew much earlier than we previously knew. We didn't know that they had been trying to make this same ultimatum with President Poroshenko.
So then Poroshenko loses the election. Then Zelensky comes in. And from day one, before the inauguration, they are giving him all of these ultimatums that he's going to have to do. And the ultimatums are worse than we knew. No relationship with the U.S. Not just no military aid, no White House visit. No relationship. Giuliani begins trashing the people around Zelensky. It's so much more intense, what the -- the pressure the Ukrainians were under than we knew.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: And no Pence visit. That's the other key piece of this, is that, like, at least according to Parnas, he directly makes that connection.
Now, he says it's not clear what exactly Pence knew about that, but the timing here is interesting in that it does deepen the timeline. It goes much further back. It also is interesting to me how it just underscores that this was the tentacles reached so many people.
The documents compounded with this interview. It shows the Trump super PACs, all his conversation with how they're going to use the media throughout the entire timeline that you're speaking to. I mean, they say what do you want me to tweet? And then, it magically appears on Don Jr.'s Twitter feed.
BERMAN: And then Sean Hannity magically does a soliloquy on it at night, which people are telling each other to watch.
All right. Laura said a key phrase there, though. According to Parnas. Now reliable is this guy? What kind of a witness is he? Not just legally speaking but I think publicly now.
HONIG: I'm having flashbacks. Because this reminds me of when I used to do organized crime, mafia RICO cases. And you get someone in who is sort of -- Parnas is the bag man to the bag man. Right? Rudy is the primary bag man. Parnas is the secondary bag man. And he knows a lot, because he's in -- He's not in the inner circle, but he's there. He's dealing with a lot of different players, like Laura just laid out.
So the key what you have to do with this guy is you have to corroborate him. You have to back him up. You have to demand specifics. What do the documents tell us? And let's remember. We saw some of the documents that back up certain aspects of the story.
So he needs to be thoroughly examined and cross-examined. Let's get him up there to trial. And people who are going to trash him and say you can't believe him should be eager to cross-examine him. So Republicans, Jay Sekulow, Pat Cipollone, you should want to cross- examine him on the floor of the Senate if you're going to say he shouldn't be believed.
CAMEROTA: But just at first blush, with your experience, does he seem credible to you?
HONIG: He seems credible in some respects. I think the gist of his story, what the objective was, let's try to pressure Ukraine, we need this investigation, seems absolutely credible. It's backed up by a lot of the other evidence we heard.
Some of the other things he said need to be fleshed out. For example, the Mike Pence stuff. I mean, Anderson asked him, well, how do you know? He said, I just kind of know. Because Rudy. I mean, the answer to a lot of it is because Rudy told me. Now, that needs to be fleshed out a bit.
So it looked like he extended quite a bit sometimes, and there's some things he's just not going to have documentation of. Not every call is recorded. Not every conversation is memorialized. So I think he's credible at core. But I think some of the broader assertions he makes need to be tested.
JARRETT: But they now have calendar entries showing at least one meeting on the books with the president after the whistle-blower complaint had come out. Now, of course, the president says, I don't know that guy. He's kind of brushed this all aside. But the documents speak for themselves.
CAMEROTA: We also have the text messages.
JARRETT: We have the text messages with Rudy Giuliani -- with Giuliani suggesting that Pompeo knew about this. So of course, his role is now going to come back to light, as well.
BERMAN: And Rudy Giuliani. His role in all this is only magnified now. Parnas says, basically, they were attached at the hip for months. And you know what? We actually have seen pictures of them. Parnas went to George H.W. Bush's funeral, for God's sake, with Rudy Giuliani. So the idea that they weren't close, that's absurd. I mean, they were very close, clearly. We saw it. What kind of jeopardy -- added jeopardy do you think Giuliani is in now?
JARRETT: Well, we know that he's under investigation in the Southern District of New York. The exact scope of that and how long it's going to go on, I mean, it could be just in the beginning stages.
But we also now know, as Shimon Prokupecz reported yesterday, that the FBI and prosecutors in Manhattan are looking into this congressional candidate, Hyde, who was exchanging text messages about potentially surveilling Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador. And exchanging these text messages with Parnas.
So I mean, I think we're just at this beginning of all of this, which is of course, why it amps up the pressure on Senate Republicans to at least take a look at some of these documents, hear from some of these witnesses first-hand who were privy to all of this.
CAMEROTA: Is there any way the Senate and Leader Mitch McConnell says, No, thank you, after hearing this interview?
HONIG: It's going to be awfully hard politically. I mean, how do you have someone out there who was -- who was in on this, who's willing to come forward, testify, implicate people directly; and then tell the American public, no. We're going to -- we're going to keep him on the side. We're going to sideline him. That is going to be politically really difficult.
BERMAN: All right. Obviously, there's a ton more to discuss with all this. You can watch Anderson's full interview with Lev Parnas tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern on "AC 360."
CAMEROTA: But we'll be playing more of it, as well.
BERMAN: As much as we humanly can.
CAMEROTA: As we can. So stick around.
Lev Parnas says that many of President Trump's biggest defenders in Congress knew that the Ukraine scheme was all about getting President Trump re-elected. And he claims that some of them were even in on the scheme. So we'll break down what that means for the impending impeachment trial.