Giuliani, his Ukrainian middleman face increased scrutiny
Lev Parnas, a Ukrainian-American businessman who has been subpoenaed as part of the US House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, has spent thousands of dollars on Trump properties and donated to the main super PAC supporting the President’s reelection effort, according to documents produced in an unrelated federal lawsuit.
Starting in November 2018, Parnas introduced Rudy Giuliani, the President’s personal lawyer, to former and current Ukrainian officials, according to Giuliani. Those officials provided information that Giuliani claims is damaging to some of Trump’s political enemies, including former Vice President Joe Biden. Giuliani’s efforts prompted Trump to ask Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate those cases, making Parnas potentially a key witness in the House’s inquiry.
The request from Congress is the second set of subpoenas linking Giuliani and other Trump affiliates to Parnas. The first set, part of a lawsuit filed in federal court in Florida earlier this year, sought Parnas’ financial records and included a request for any work he may have done on Giuliani’s behalf.
Financial records uncovered as a result of the lawsuit show Parnas spent thousands of dollars at Trump hotels in the fall of 2018, donated hundreds of thousands to the pro-Trump super PAC, and received checks from Ballard Partners, a lobbying firm with deep connections to the Trump White House.
The financial ties between Trump’s world and Parnas raise new questions about the nature of Parnas’ relationship with Giuliani and who was paying the former New York City mayor and Parnas for their research on Ukraine. Giuliani has told CNN he works for Trump pro bono, for his investigative work in Ukraine, and the financial documents in the Florida lawsuit have not revealed a direct financial connection between Parnas and Giuliani, according to the lawyer who has reviewed them.
Neither Parnas nor his attorney replied to multiple requests for comment. On Tuesday, Giuliani told CNN he would not answer questions about his financial relationship with Parnas until he decides on how to address the congressional subpoena, citing a “very complicated attorney-client issue and other constitutional questions.” Giuliani did say he has not paid anyone to help him in his research in Ukraine.
Parnas and Giuliani
In their letter to Parnas Monday, the House committees focused on some of the same details a private attorney in Florida has gained through a separate investigation of Parnas’ financial transactions. Tony Andre, who represents a private family trust suing in federal court to have Parnas pay back an alleged outstanding loan now worth $500,000, has uncovered financial records through multiple subpoenas.
Andre told CNN Monday there has been a “lot of money” in and out of Parnas’ bank accounts over the last two years.
“I’m not convinced I’ve found every single account this man’s been using,” Andre said.
One of Andre’s subpoenas requested employment contracts and correspondence about any work Parnas might have performed, and names Ballard Partners, Trump, and Giuliani as potential employers of Parnas. Court documents include a check to Parnas from Ballard, dated September 21, 2018, in the amount of $22,500.
Andre said he only included Giuliani’s name in the subpoena because of news reports regarding the Trump personal attorney’s communications with Parnas.
Brian Ballard, a veteran Florida lobbyist, has emerged as a major player in Washington since Trump was elected. His firm, Ballard Partners, which he established in Washington two years ago, reported $18.3 million in 2018 domestic lobbying income, catapulting it into the top 10 lobbying firms in the nation’s capital. Ballard counts Trump as a former lobbying client and served as a top fundraiser for both Trump’s campaign and inaugural festivities. Susie Wiles, who was a managing partner at the firm, ran Trump’s successful Florida campaign in 2016.
Ballard Partners paid Parnas a total of $45,000 in 2018 for client referral fees, according to a person familiar with the arrangement. According to that person, the two sides have not done any business since then, and Ballard Partners did not make any payments to Parnas in 2019.
But the person familiar with the arrangement also said Ballard Partners has never been in business with Giuliani and has not been involved in any of the work Giuliani has been pursuing regarding the Biden family and Ukraine.
Parnas as a Trump donor
While Ballard’s payments to Parnas appear to be unrelated to Giuliani, according to CNN’s reporting, Parnas’ spending has caught the attention of the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry.
Other court records show Parnas spent almost $13,400 at the Trump International hotels in New York and Washington in September and October 2018.
Parnas also appears to have sent, through a shell company, $325,000 to the Trump super PAC America First Action in May 2018, according to court records. In 2016, he donated in total nearly $50,000 to 20 different state Republican parties and to the Republican National Committee. Two years later, Parnas gave $500 to the National Republican Campaign Committee and $2,700 to the campaign of Republican House member Pete Sessions of Texas, who lost reelection in 2018.
The political spending has raised questions with the House committees, who have requested from Parnas documents related to his campaign contributions, as well as documents and communications Parnas has regarding the Bidens, Paul Manafort, the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton, Trump and Trump administration officials, Giuliani and other contacts of the President’s attorney, and Ukrainian officials.
The committees are also seeking documents regarding a May 2018 meeting between Parnas and Sessions, during which the two allegedly discussed Ukraine’s wish to fire the US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, as reported by Buzzfeed News in July. Yovanovitch was another subject of Trump’s call with Zelensky now under congressional investigation.
Asked by CNN about his interactions with Parnas, Sessions responded via text message, “I am retired thank you.”
Even so, in all of the documents Andre has found about Parnas, none show direct payments to Giuliani, Andre said.
On Thursday afternoon, around the time the House announced its subpoena of him, Parnas’ attorneys asked to see all the documents Andre has collected, including those related to the Trump International Hotels, the Trump Super PAC and the banks that hold Parnas’ accounts.
Parnas has until Tuesday at 5 p.m. to respond to the House’s subpoena request.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Susie Wiles is no longer at Ballard Partners.
CNN’s Sara Murray, Fredreka Schouten, and Manu Raju contributed to this report.