Below, some takeaways.
1. Ukraine knew this was about hitting Biden, not ‘corruption’
On Tuesday night, we got documents that indicated there was an early quid pro quo between Parnas and then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko. During the administration of Volodymyr Zelensky’s predecessor, then-President Petro Poroshenko, Parnas and Lutsenko tied information about Hunter Biden and Burisma Holdings to the removal of then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, whom Lutsenko wanted out.
And the new documents seem to make it even clearer that Lutsenko was seeking to trade derogatory information about the Bidens — rather explicitly so.
At one point, relations between Parnas and Lutsenko turn testy, with Lutsenko expressing frustration at the lack of reciprocation.
“I’m sorry, but this is all simply b------t,” Lutsenko wrote on March 13 in Russian. “I’m f-----g sick of all this. I haven’t received a visit. My [boss] hasn’t received jack all. I’m prepared to [thrash] your opponent. But you want more and more. We’re over. ”
Given the previously released text messages, it’s difficult not to read Lutsenko preparing to deliver negative information about “your opponent” as him recognizing this effort was aimed at political dirt on the Bidens. And it undercuts the Trump team’s repeated and strained claims that this was actually about Ukrainian corruption more broadly.
The new Ukrainian administration has been very diplomatic about it all; Lutsenko seemed to say privately exactly what he knew it was.
And Parnas clarified to Maddow on Wednesday night: “It was never about corruption. ”
2. Parnas implicates pretty much everybody
Parnas’s credibility as a witness has yet to be established. He is under indictment right now and seems to be motivated to incriminate people. But in his interview with Maddow, he said there was no secret about what was going on among Trump team members in Ukraine — including with some key people.
Crucially, Parnas indicated that then-national security adviser John Bolton was well aware of what was going on. He said Bolton spoke with Zelensky and that he was a “key witness. ”
“One hundred percent, he knows what happened,” Parnas said.
That quote could loom as Democrats seek to persuade four Senate Republicans to join them and vote to allow Bolton to testify in the impeachment trial. Bolton has indicated he is willing, and his lawyers have said he knows about key events that other witnesses, at least as of early November, hadn’t testified about. Thus far only Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) has indicated he’d likely vote to allow Bolton to testify, while Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) appear willing to consider it.
Parnas also indicated that Vice President Pence, who was pulled out of a visit to Zelensky’s inauguration in a move that may have been used as leverage, was in-the-know.
“I’m going to use a famous quote by [U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland]: ‘Everybody was in the loop,'" Parnas said. Asked to state it more plainly, he paused and said of Pence: “He couldn’t have not known. ”
Parnas added that, to a novice politician such as Zelensky, a White House meeting and having top U.S. officials at his inauguration was actually more important than U.S. aid, which was also withheld later on and has also been tied to quid pro quos.
Pence chief of staff Marc Short responded, saying according the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman, “This is very simple: Lev Parnas is under a multi-count indictment and will say anything to anybody who will listen in hopes of staying out of prison. It’s no surprise that only the liberal media is listening to him.”
Perhaps Parnas’s biggest implication, though, was reserved for Attorney General William P. Barr, who he said was in contact with Giuliani about everything.
“Mr. Barr absolutely knew everything,” Parnas said. “I mean, It’s impossible [that he didn’t].”
He added: “Attorney General Barr was basically on the team."
Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec responded to Parnas’s claim by saying, “100 % false.”
3. Doubting the surveillance of Yovanovitch
One of the big headlines from Tuesday night’s document release was that Parnas’s text messages appeared to indicate Yovanovitch was under surveillance by an associate of Parnas’s — or even worse. Ukraine is investigating, and Yovanovitch has called for U.S. authorities to do the same.
But Parnas told Maddow he never believed the man behind those texts, Robert F. Hyde, was actually doing the things described in the text messages and distanced himself from him.
“I don’t believe it’s true,” Parnas said. “I believe he was either drunk or was trying to make himself bigger than he was. ”
Parnas added: “He was drunk all the time. … I’ve never seen him not drunk."
Parnas said he was told that Hyde was up to no good. Reporting since the initial text messages were released on Tuesday night has revealed a very colorful past for Hyde, a Trump loyalist who is now a congressional candidate in Connecticut. Parnas, at the same time, has incentive to downplay the potential surveillance, given he was wrapped up in it.
In his own interview Wednesday night, Hyde appeared to confirm to Sinclair TV that the texts were the product of drinking and weren’t true.
“You know, we had a few pops way back when I used to drink,” he said when asked about the texts. Asked directly whether he had surveilled Yovanovtich, he said, “Absolutely not, are you kidding me?” He described himself as just “a little landscaper” from Connecticut, using an expletive.
4. Nunes admits contact with Parnas — suddenly
When Rep. Devin Nunes’s (R-Calif.) phone number showed up in Parnas’s phone records, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee said he “didn’t really recall” speaking with Parnas.
Now he has recalled.
In a conspicuously timed disclosure shortly before Parnas’s interview aired, Nunes appeared on Fox News on Wednesday night and admitted to talking to Parnas, while maintaining he didn’t recognize the name at the time.
“It was very clear,” Nunes said. “I remember that call, which was very odd, random, talking about random things. And I said, ‘Great, just talk to my staff,’ and boom boom boom.”
Parnas, though, in keeping with what he said about Bolton, Pence and Barr, said there was more to it.
“He knew very well that he knew what was going on,” Parnas said. “He knew what’s happening. He knows who I am."
Parnas said Nunes “was involved in getting all this stuff on Biden.”
"It’s hard to see them lie like that when you know it’s like that scary, because you know, he was sitting there and making all statements and all that when he knew very well that he knew what was going on,” Parnas said.