New revelations from Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, US president Donald Trump’s personal attorney, could add to current evidence that Mr Trump deliberately withheld 400 million US dollars of security aid for Ukraine unless the Ukrainian government investigated former US vice president Joe Biden.
Mr Biden is expected to be one of Mr Trump’s main political rivals in this year’s US presidential election.
US House Democrats have released a series of new evidence obtained from Mr Parnas that includes communication between him and the private legal team of the US president. The documents show Mr Giuliani’s associate worked to set up a meeting between the former New York city mayor and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky so that Mr Giuliani could push for an investigation into Hunter Biden, who sat on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company, and look for political dirt on his father, Joe Biden.
The documents provided by Mr Parnas also suggest that Marie Yovanovitch, a former US ambassador to Ukraine, who was ousted by Mr Trump for political reasons, was under surveillance by close-to-Giuliani figures. He also indicated that Mrs Yovanovitch had been removed from her post as she opposed Mr Giuliani’s shadow diplomacy efforts.
The Ukrainian authorities are now investigating the claims that the former US diplomat was spied on.
Mr Parnas has been at the centre of the impeachment inquiry since being indicted for illegal campaign contributions to the Republican Party and being the middleman for Mr Trump’s Ukrainian push.
Speaking in an interview with CNN, the former Giuliani associate claimed that the Ukrainian president and his aides were “lying” when they claimed that there had been no interference from Mr Trump’s side to launch investigations against the Bidens, since Ukraine relies heavily on foreign military and security assistance from the US.
“Trump knew exactly what was going on,” he stressed, adding that US vice president Mike Pence, former US national security advisor John Bolton and US attorney general William Barr were also aware of Mr Giuliani’s Ukrainian efforts.
Reacting to the new revelations, Ukraine’s foreign minister Vadym Prystaiko said that he had never spoken to Mr Parnas, questioning the credibility of his words.
“I don’t trust any of the words he is saying,” he told CNN on January 16, adding that Mr Parnas is most likely trying to save his own criminal case.
According to him, what Ukraine is trying to tell the American public is how grateful and happy the Ukrainian government is to have bipartisan support for the country in the United States.
Mr Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led US Congress in December. His trial in the US Senate begins on January 21.
While the new revelations from Mr Parnas could add fuel to the fire, it remains unlikely that the US president will be removed from office due to the Republican majority in the US Senate which will make the final decision on whether to remove or acquit Mr Trump.
Although the impeachment saga has tested relations between the two countries, the US Congress has been quick to reinforce its support towards Ukraine by imposing more anti-Russia sanctions and providing the country with more foreign aid from 2020.