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Indicted Rudy Giuliani Associate Lev Parnas Gives Interview about Quid Pro Quo Offer to Ukrainian Government to Help Trump Administration; Lev Parnas Claims Members of Trump Administration Including Vice President Pence Knew of Quid Pro Quo Offer; Giuliani Associate Directly Implicates Trump in Ukraine Scheme. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired January 16, 2020 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: For our U.S. viewers, this explosive interview with a central figure in the scandal that ultimately led to the impeachment of President Trump, with new implications on the Senate trial. NEW DAY continues now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
BERMAN: Good morning, and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Thursday, January 16th. It is 8:00 in the east. And the breaking news, we are hearing for the first time from a central player in the scheme which ultimately led to the impeachment of President Trump. This exclusive new interview with Anderson Cooper, Lev Parnas, indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, directly implicates 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 aid, be invited to the White House, or get a visit from Vice President Mike Pence if they didn't publicly announce an investigation into the Bidens. And Parnas says President Trump knew exactly what was going on.
Also, very important, Parnas says he is willing to testify and says that along with former National Security Adviser John Bolton, he can, quote, fill in all the dots in the impeachment case.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And this stunning interview comes at the very same time that President Trump's Senate impeachment trial is about to begin in Washington. So now do senators want to hear from witnesses? Now do they want to see all of the new evidence that's come to light since the president was impeached last month? Well, in just hours, the Senate will formally receive those articles of impeachment. This afternoon the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will administer the oath to senators who will serve as jurors. He will swear them to deliver impartial justice.
And we also have breaking news that we've just reported. Moments ago, Ukraine has just announced opening a criminal investigation into claims that former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was being spied on by a U.S. congressional candidate and Trump supporter. Ukraine is asking for the FBI's help in this. CNN has just reached out to the State Department about whether they will give that help, whether they'll open their own investigation. We will let you know as soon as they respond.
There's so much news this morning. Let's begin with Anderson Cooper's explosive interview with Lev Parnas.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You loved President Trump?
LEV PARNAS, INDICTED RUDY GIULIANI ASSOCIATE: Loved him? I mean -- when the FBI came to my house, my wife felt embarrassed because they said I had a shrine to him. I had pictures all over. I idolized him. I thought he was the savior.
COOPER: Do you think you were friends?
PARNAS: Absolutely. 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.
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know those gentlemen. It's possible I have a picture with them because I have a picture with everybody. I don't know them.
PARNAS: The truth is out now, thank God. Yesterday was a big day for us. I thank God every day. I was worried that day is not going to come. I thought they were going to shut me out and make me look like the scapegoat and try to blame me for stuff that I wasn't doing. But with God's help and the great legal team I have beside 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 them 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: I think they were probably a little more than two times, but there were -- the first quid pro quo was when we met with President Poroshenko.
COOPER: The former president.
PARNAS: Former President Poroshenko.
COOPER: So what was your message to Poroshenko? PARNAS: To Poroshenko, that if he would make the announcement that he
would get Trump with -- either invite him to the White House or make a statement for him, but basically would start supporting him for president.
COOPER: So that was the first quid pro quo, Poroshenko can come to the 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 number one thing on their agenda was not even the transition. It was to get the inauguration because it was a big thing.
COOPER: To show the American backing of the new administration?
PARNAS: Of course, because he had no strength.
COOPER: 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 him very strict and very stern that several things, a, that he needed to make -- Zelensky needed to immediately make an announcement, literally that night or tomorrow, that within the next 24 hours that they were opening up an investigation on Biden.
COOPER: Within 24 hours?
PARNAS: I don't remember 24 hours that same night, but literally because Rudy was really pissed off that this was going to be --
COOPER: That this hadn't happened?
PARNAS: He said some very strong words. On TV also, everybody knew Ukraine was flipping out at that time because to hear Rudy Giuliani come out and say that Zelensky, the president-elect, that all of a sudden he is surrounded by enemies and he named the names of the people.
COOPER: That can be -- that can destroy the new regime.
PARNAS: Well, it was very -- it was some crazy times in Ukraine at that time because it became a power struggle.
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 that are enemies of the president 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 -- there was no specific military aid. 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 that I don't think 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 called and said that they got a call from them. Basically, they found out that Pence is not going to be there. He got canceled. They said that there was a scheduling problem or something.
COOPER: The day after you delivered that message?
COOPER: About the quid pro quo?
PARNAS: Right, it was Monday, the 13th. And then after that, I think on the 16th or the 15th, I don't remember the exact dates, they had -- because they were flipping out what to do. They didn't want to be embarrassed. They didn't know if anybody at all was going to show up, 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: That's what I was told to do.
COOPER: Who told you to do that?
PARNAS: Rudy Giuliani.
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 the public's decision to see if that's true or not.
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 President 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 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 made --
PARNAS: That was always 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, when I was doing it, I thought it was all in the same. But, obviously, now as I can see what the situation, the way it is, it was strictly for him. But again, I thought he was 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 --
COOPER: But that's how you personally viewed it. This is about 2020 to help him get the next four years?
PARNAS: That was the way everybody viewed it. That was the most important thing is for him to stay on for another four years and keep the fight going. 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 go home at night. They'll have a conscience.
I have been there when they liked him, when they didn't like him, when they talk behind his back, when they agree with him or disagree with him. And to see the things they're doing now and just blindly -- it's a sham. It's a shame. And --
COOPER: They know the real story?
PARNAS: Absolutely. They all know. They were all a part -- they all know.
COOPER: Did the president care about corruption in Ukraine?
PARNAS: You'd have to ask him. But as far as I knew, the only thing we cared about, and were the team was to get Zelensky or Poroshenko or somebody to make a press release, an 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, because nobody trusted them to do an investigation.
COOPER: In terms of who knew about what you were doing in Ukraine, did Vice President Pence know?
PARNAS: Of course.
COOPER: Because his office has said he was unaware of -- 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 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. After Rudy would speak with the president or come from the White House, I was the first person he briefed. We had a relationship. We were that close. We were together from morning to night. He took me -- every interview he would do, I would be sitting over there while he was doing the interviews.
COOPER: So Giuliani knew everything you were doing?
COOPER: You're saying Vice President knew?
PARNAS: I don't know if the Vice President knew everything we were doing. I'm sure --
COOPER: But he knew about the quid pro quo?
PARNAS: Of course, he knew. Everybody knew. Everybody that was close to Trump knew that this was a thorn in the side and this was a serious situation.
COOPER: Bolton? PARNAS: Bolton.
PARNAS: Mulvaney. Bolton, I don't think, agreed with it. I think there were 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.
CAMEROTA: OK. So how does this change the Senate impeachment trial? That and more, next.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The breaking news, indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas tells Anderson Cooper he personally told the Ukrainians they would get no aid, no White House visits, no Mike Pence at the inauguration unless they announce an investigation into the Bidens. Parnas says he told him personally, and the president knew all about it.
So what does this mean for the investigation, for the Senate trial?
And we are getting fresh reaction from the White House this morning.
Joining us now, CNN senior global affairs analyst Bianna Golodryga, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and CNN senior political analyst John Avlon.
Jeffrey, I just want your first reaction to what Lev Parnas says and where this fits this morning.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, what's so extraordinary about what he said to Anderson Cooper is that it fits with everything else we have seen about the relationship between the president and Ukraine. The idea that, you know, it started with the July 25th phone call which certainly seemed to show that the only thing the Trump administration was interested in Ukraine was the announcement of an investigation of the Bidens. This is just further proof of that.
Now he is a problematic witness, like a lot of cooperators. He's under indictment. He's out on bail. If you were doing an investigation of him, you would scrutinize his words carefully and see if he had corroborating information. But it's certainly very provocative stuff.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Bianna, what did you hear?
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, look, I agree. There was no, where did that come from part of his interview. It all SORT OF fit together, the missing pieces of the puzzle were actually aided by the things he said last night and you get a timeline this goes back to, obviously, prior to the July 25th.
CAMEROTA: By the way, it goes back to Poroshenko. I don't know that we knew that.
CAMEROTA: This ultimatum that the U.S. giving about you must announce an investigation was previous to Zelensky.
GOLODRYGA: Which is why you can now see the frustration and anxiety from the president and Giuliani when Poroshenko wasn't re-elected and Zelensky comes in, because what has to happen, they have to start all over again. They have to make new associations and contacts with Zelensky's aides.
And what you heard from Lev Parnas last night was, why on earth would Zelensky's aides or any of these Ukrainians talk to me unless I had a direct link to Giuliani and, thus, the president of the United States? So it goes much further back than we initially knew.
BERMAN: And, boy, John, does he tie himself to Rudy Giuliani? He says he was with him basically every minute. I think he said morning until night. Lev Parnas says he was tied to him for months. That Giuliani would have him around during speakerphone conversations with the president.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This was an incredibly close relationship between Lev and Igor and Rudy for a long period of time. This was beyond business associates.
As has been noted, I mean, you know, Rudy even brought him to George H.W. Bush's funeral as a guest. So they were very, very tight.
Look, on the one hand this is the indicted impresario behind fraud guarantee. Take with a grain of salt.
On the other, he's got the receipts. That's why the notes are so important. And all of this really does dovetail with the stories to date.
Obviously, his credibility is going to be questioned. People are going to say he doesn't know what he's talking about, but he does have the notes and it does fill (ph). And there are a couple of places he may have colored beyond the lines, he's going to offer some proof, particularly the allegation that A.G. Barr is involved.
The things like the vice president, we know from the OMB DOD emails that people were looking in the email chain for Vice President Pence to resolve the issue when he met with Zelensky on September 1st, I believe. So this does dovetail and add additional color.
And you see a toxic culture twisted by hyperpartisanship impacting foreign policy, the intelligence community, all to advance one person's -- the president's personal ambition.
GOLODRYGA: And wait, you never heard --
BERMAN: Let me just -- can I just say because you brought up Vice President Pence.
BERMAN: We do have a statement now from his office just to get it out there. This is from Marc Short, the chief of staff who says: Witnesses have testified under oath in direct contradiction to Lev Parnas' statement. This is very simple. He says Lev Parnas is a multi -- under a multi-count indictment and will say anything to anybody who will listen in hopes of staying out of prison.
CAMEROTA: What part has been in direct contradiction to Lev Parnas' statement? He should be more explicit.
BERMAN: I think he's saying what the vice president knew.
TOOBIN: One of the problems with Parnas' testimony is there seem to be certain assumptions that he was making. And this is why, if you were preparing him as a witness, you would nail down, what did you see, what did you hear, versus, what did you just assume.
His relationship with Pence, Vice President Pence, with Attorney General Barr seems to be at a double hearsay level.
TOOBIN: And I think we need to be skeptical of that.
But when it's with Giuliani, you know, as John was just saying, that was a very close relationship.
CAMEROTA: See, but -- once again, what's happening is sort of Michael Cohen-esque, where somebody who was a constant companion, and we see the pictures, is now -- now what we hear the White House saying this morning, what we hear the vice president saying this morning is nobody could ever trust Lev Parnas. This guy is totally shady.
Well, the president's personal attorney sure trusted him and was around him morning to night. And we see the pictures.
So the press -- Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, who will only go on Fox, has -- is talking about this, this morning. So, I guess we should hear from her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEPHANIE GRISHAM, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has said he did not know him. And I've got to say, just to say Rudy told me these things doesn't mean it has anything to do with the president. And it certainly doesn't mean the president was directing him to do anything.
You know, we stand by exactly what we've been saying. The president did nothing wrong. The phone calls, the transcripts say everything there is to it.
This is a man who's under indictment, and who is actually out on bail. This is a man who owns a company called Fraud Inc. So, I think that something that people should be thinking about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Rudy Giuliani should have been thinking about that.
BERMAN: Well, that's the thing, I want to just, want a few things, he owned fraud guarantee while Rudy Giuliani was palling around with him.
CAMEROTA: He was paying him -- he was paying Rudy Giuliani for fraud guarantee.
BERMAN: Fraud guarantee --
CAMEROTA: While he was talking pictures, right.
BERMAN: -- while taking pictures with President Trump.
This is something they've known about for a while. So, I'm not sure that's a defense.
Also, when Stephanie Grisham says saying that Rudy Giuliani told me doesn't mean anything about the president. You know who disagrees with that? Rudy Giuliani, because Giuliani on paper that's been presented to the House Intelligence Committee said what he is doing is working on behalf of the president of the United States as his personal lawyer.
AVLON: Personally, right? I mean, that's what's so striking about this. That line in particular in that stationery that Lev turned over undercuts a lot of the distance the president has been trying to create.
He hasn't thrown Rudy under the bus yet. Obviously, Lev is going to try to be, you know, tried to be dismissed in all sorts of ways. But the president hasn't turned on Giuliani yet, despite I think the encouragement of people in the administration.
This is going to get very tense because Rudy was using Lev Parnas of all people to represent the president's personal interests in the Ukraine to try to influence foreign policy. Lev is dealing with staff members to Devin Nunes on the Intelligence Committee.
So, how does Lev Parnas all of a sudden become a point man for the president's personal interests? Through Rudy Giuliani. No one can say that Rudy and the president weren't singing from the same hymnbook.
GOLODRYGA: Can I just go back the timeline, too? Because I think what we heard from Lev was something different and what we haven't heard before. And remember what Republicans have been saying all along in defense of the president, that Zelensky not only did he ultimately get the money but he didn't even know it was being withheld, right? They didn't know, so there was no way this was a quid pro quo.
We know from reporting that as early as May, Zelensky was concerned about this Biden investigation and the investigation into Burisma and the pressure he was getting from the White House. What we heard from Lev Parnas was confirmation of that, related to the vice president and relating to who would attend his inauguration. Remember he was elected in April.
And according to Lev Parnas, he relayed to Zelensky's associates that nobody from the administration, vice president would not attend, because they were not being aggressive enough in terms of these investigations, once again reiterating that Zelensky knew earlier than any of the president's defenders acknowledge that there was this need for an investigation from the United States.
AVLON: And so important to highlight it's not about the corruption. It's not about an actual investigation. It's about the announcement of an investigation. This is purely for domestic political benefit.
BERMAN: I've got to say --
CAMEROTA: I mean, Lev Parnas admitted that. Lev Parnas says that was his clear understanding that it was -- this was about 2020. The president had to be re-elected. That's what they were explicitly -- they knew.
BERMAN: If only there were some kind of proceeding, a trial, say, where people could be asked questions, where evidence could be presented --
AVLON: Under oath.
BERMAN: -- to get to the bottom of this, Jeffrey.
TOOBIN: If only. If only there were. But this is not a trial conducted --
BERMAN: You're talking about the Senate impeachment trial.
TOOBIN: Right -- by, you know, people who are trying to get at the truth. This is a trial conducted by Mitch McConnell who is trying to keep it narrowly focused for the same reason that Donald Trump wants it resolved this way, so Donald Trump can get re-elected. That's the only agenda behind this trial, not getting at the facts.
CAMEROTA: But there may be people involved in this trial, and I'm thinking of the three senators who have said -- or four, who have said that they're open to hearing witnesses. Maybe, you know, at some point there's always a tipping point, OK, and you just never know when that tipping point is going to happen.
And this morning, when you hear all of this information and you see the text messages and you see the letters from Lev Parnas, at some point you peel off the blinders and you say, I'd like to hear more.
AVLON: Yes, do you sell your political soul for the political advancement of one person as an entire body?
BERMAN: Maybe he's --
BERMAN: Maybe they could poke holes in it, you know? Maybe this would work for the Republicans?
GOLODRYGA: Right, exactly. There's a lot to question about his credibility, and even for those Republicans that are vulnerable, the three or four we're talking about if for no other reason than an optics standpoint. Hear from witnesses. You can make up your opinion after.
BERMAN: All right.
CAMEROTA: Thank you all very much.
BERMAN: And you can watch Anderson's full interview with Lev Parnas tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. That's on "AC360."
CAMEROTA: Lev Parnas just said he's willing to testify to Congress. Now what? Well, Senator Doug Jones is going to tell us, next.