Mike Pence finally spoke out Thursday about accusations by indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas that the vice president was “in the loop” on the Ukraine operation intended to smear presidential candidate Joe Biden. “I don’t know the guy,” Pence insisted to reporters in Tampa during a campaign swing, and he called the claims “completely false,” The Hill reported.
President Donald Trump also reiterated Thursday that he doesn’t know Parnas, after which Parnas’s attorney Joseph Bondy released a video of his client with Trump.
Parnas, who just recently released a trove of documents supporting some of his claims, told both Rachel Maddow on MSNBC and Anderson Cooper on CNN that Pence knew of his work pressuring Ukraine officials to announce an investigation into unfounded accusations against Biden and his son Hunter. Parnas has said he was following Trump’s wishes, as communicated to him by Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney. Trump and Giuliani were fully aware “of all my movements,” he said.
Asked by Cooper in an interview released Thursday if Pence knew about the scheme concerning a Biden probe, Parnas responded: “Of course.”
Pence suddenly backed out of a planned appearance last year at the inauguration of Ukraine’s new president after Volodymyr Zelensky failed to announce a Biden probe. “Everybody was in the loop,” Parnas told Maddow in an interview Wednesday after she specifically asked about Pence. “He couldn’t not have known.”
Trump’s pressure on Zelensky to announce an investigation of Biden, a leading Democratic rival, while he was withholding U.S. military funds to the nation led to the president’s impeachment in the House.
Cooper asked Parnas if anyone appeared concerned about rooting out corruption in Ukraine, as Trump and his supporters have claimed. Parnas responded: “As far as I knew, the only thing we cared about ... was to get Zelensky ... to make ... an announcement into the Biden investigation.”
Trump reiterated Thursday that he does not know who Parnas is — even though he has appeared in a number of photos with him. At one point, as CNN reporter Jim Acosta questioned Trump about his interactions with Parnas, Trump ordered Acosta: “Quiet.” CNN in November reported 10 known personal interactions between Parnas and Trump.
Parnas has threatened to release a new photo of him with the president each time Trump denies knowing him. He has also pointed out that Ukrainian officials would have had no reason to meet with him unless they believed he was an emissary from the Trump administration.
Parnas and associate Igor Fruman, who was also involved in the Ukraine operation, have been indicted on charges of campaign finance violations linked to a large donation they made to a group supporting Trump’s reelection campaign. Prosecutors allege they funneled foreign money through a bogus energy company, thereby making illegal donations to U.S. politicians on behalf of foreign interests. Both men have pleaded not guilty.