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Bridging The Gap
The middleman: How Lev Parnas joined Team Trump and became Rudy Giuliani's fixer in Ukraine
  Friday 24 January, 2020
The middleman: How Lev Parnas joined Team Trump and became Rudy Giuliani\'s fixer in Ukraine

The state funeral for former President George H.W. Bush in 2018 featured a who's who of U.S. political heavyweights.

The nation's four living former presidents and their wives were in the first row of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Alongside were President Donald Trump and his wife. Bush's eldest son, former president George W. Bush, sat nearby with his wife and extended family.

Among the mourners was the man once known to millions as America's Mayor and now Trump's personal lawyer: Rudy Giuliani. He was accompanied by who?

The chubby man in the dark suit was Lev Parnas, a Soviet-born businessman known to few at the time. Now, the 47-year-old Florida resident is famed as Giuliani's associate in pressing for an investigation that could discredit former Vice President Joe Biden, a Trump rival in the 2020 presidential race, by digging up dirt in Parnas' native Ukraine.

Parnas' relationship with Giuliani wasn't all business. He'd honored Giuliani by naming him godfather of his young son. Just a few weeks before the final farewell for the nation's 41st president, Giuliani invited Parnas to join him at Shelly's Back Room, a clubby Washington retreat for cigar and whiskey aficionados.

"Sounds good I'll meet you there," Parnas answered via text. He said he'd bring Rep. Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican and longtime Giuliani ally who had just lost his seat in the midterm elections.

Parnas' uninvited attendance at the funeral illustrated the meteoric rise and curious position of a man who played Sancho Panza to Giuliani's Don Quixote, a status enabled in part by large contributions to Republican politicians and Trump-related campaign committees.

Parnas is no longer cigar buddies with America's Mayor. Instead, he's dishing about his work with Giuliani in Ukraine and providing reams of messages and documents to House impeachment investigators.

He says the evidence shows Trump approved of his work to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden. House investigators agree. They've sent it to the Senate for potential consideration in Trump's impeachment trial, currently underway in the Senate.

While Parnas has described his turnabout and prime-time TV interviews as patriotic truth-telling, he's also angling for leniency in a campaign finance case brought against him by federal prosecutors in New York.

Parnas' journey to a state funeral and Manhattan federal court started with his family's emigration from Odessa, Ukraine, to the U.S. when he was three years old.

Now a naturalized U.S. citizen, he grew up in Brooklyn, home to many immigrants from Eastern Europe.

Over the years he sold condos and closed deals. He signed up and fell out with business partners. He started new ventures and watched them fold. He was evicted and sued. He was a doting father described by some as a con man.

By March 2019, jetting around the world with Giuliani, he seemed to have reached a milestone. "I'm officially part of team trump," he wrote in a WhatsApp message to Harry Sargeant III, a wealthy Florida energy mogul and GOP donor.

That may have been true until last week, when House impeachment investigators disclosed the trove of material Parnas turned over.

They contend the evidence bolsters their case that Trump should be removed from office for his role in a scheme to withhold nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid from Ukraine unless government officials there investigated Biden's family.

Source: https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/2020/01/24/lev-parnas-ex-giuliani-ally-could-key-figure-trump-impeachment/4531125002/

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