Lev Parnas, who operated in Ukraine on behalf of U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani, said this weekend that removing “Soros people” from the orbit of the Ukrainian president was among the missions his team had been pursuing.
A belief that Soros stood behind Trump’s troubles since the 2016 election was common in what Parnas described as the “cult” of Trump’s inner circle.
“Soros became Enemy Number One, and it was understood that Soros infiltrated the U.S. government and State Department over a certain period of time,” Parnas told Daily Beast reporter Betsy Swan, echoing widespread Soros conspiracy theories popular in right-wing circles in the United States and across Europe.
The Israeli right, notably Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his eldest son, Yair, have similarly promoted anti-Soros theories related to the Holocaust survivor’s agenda in the Middle East. Last fall, Yair Netanyahu told a Hungarian audience that Soros’ organizations “are working day and night with an unlimited budget to rob the country of its Jewish identity.”
Parnas has been charged alongside another Florida businessman, Belarus-born Igor Fruman, with illegally funneling money to a pro-Trump election committee and other politicians. Fruman and Parnas, both of whom are Jewish, have pleaded not guilty.
While Fruman has remained silent, Parnas embarked on a media blitz over the past week, following his transfer of a trove of documents to Congress regarding his work in Ukraine on Giuliani’s behalf.
Parnas’ alleged efforts to help Giuliani strong-arm Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy into announcing an investigation into Hunter Biden lie at the heart of the ongoing impeachment trial against Trump.
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It had been revealed in the impeachment hearings that a key part of that effort was taking action to facilitate the firing of the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. But according to the Daily Beast report published over the weekend, Parnas and the other members of Giuliani’s team also worked to get Zelenskiy to eject two alleged “Soros people” who they believed exerted negative influence on the Ukrainian president: Former journalist Serhiy Leshchenko and then-national security adviser Oleksandr Danylyuk.
Leshchenko, a former investigative journalist turned anti-corruption activist and politician, first published secret documents in 2016 (“the black ledger”), which showed that Paul Manafort, who had served briefly as Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, was paid millions to lobby on behalf of pro-Kremlin Ukrainian political figures. Leschenko had been widely attacked by Republicans during the impeachment hearings last November.
Danylyuk, meanwhile, was appointed last June and resigned four months later, citing a “cluster of events” as being responsible for his resignation.
Parnas described the line of thinking in the Giuliani effort as promoting the theory that Soros was plotting against Trump, and that the president’s impeachment woes were instigated by the Hungarian-born Jewish billionaire and philanthropist.
“The consensus was that the reason Trump had Russiagate and everything that was happening was because Soros and the Democrats controlled certain U.S. embassies in Eastern Europe, particularly the Ukrainian one, and were able to help with the Manafort stuff and all other kinds of stuff that basically caused problems in Trump World,” he said.
Parnas said he was told that Soros “employed different prosecutors in different states, different congressmen, and the biggest thing was they thought [former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State] Victoria Nuland was his person in the State Department and then let him control Eastern Europe by naming ambassadors and stuff, and then opened up this anti-corruption-type of system to cover up, actually, his corruption. That’s what we were running with.”
Asked if he believed the theories he heard about Soros, Parnas said he got “sucked in” at the time. “When you’ve got the president saying it, you’ve got his attorneys saying it, you’ve got all these congressmen saying it, you’ve got all these senators saying it – again, when I say Trump World, that small inner-whatever, everybody would talk about it: ‘This Soros guy.’ That’s why I look at it as a cult.”
Parnas’ descriptions echoed statements made by Giuliani in December when he repeated a popular right-wing, deep state conspiracy theory, asserting that Yovanovitch had been a puppet “controlled” by Soros, who had “put four ambassadors” in their posts and is “employing the FBI agents.”
In an interview with New York magazine, Giuliani said his smearing of Soros should not be called anti-Semitic because Soros is “hardly a Jew,” is an “enemy of Israel,” and that he views himself as “more of a Jew than Soros is.” He was slammed by Anti-Defamation League Director Jonathan Greenblatt, who called Giuliani’s rhetoric “baffling and offensive.”
Fiona Hill, the former White House senior staffer who testified in the November congressional hearings to impeach Trump, likened the narrative casting Soros as all-controlling to a notorious anti-Semitic forgery. The narrative that Soros is behind an array of evildoings “is the new ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’” Hill said. “It’s an absolute outrage.”