Here are the eight most explosive accusations from Lev Parnas

Image: Lev Parnas Rachel Maddow interview
Lev Parnas sits down for an exclusive interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. Copyright NBC News
By Chuck Todd and Mark Murray and Carrie Dann with NBC News Politics
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First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.


WASHINGTON — On the very day that House Democrats walked the articles of impeachment against President Trump over to the U.S. Senate came maybe the most explosive testimony/evidence yet in the entire Ukraine scandal.

In an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Wednesday night, Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, pointed his finger at everyone from President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, to Devin Nunes and Attorney General William Barr.

Here are the eight biggest bombshells from Parnas:

1. "President Trump knew exactly what was going on. He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn't do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the president... Why would President Zelenskiy's inner circle, or Minister Avakov, or all these people, or President Poroshenko meet with me? Who am I? They were told to meet with me."

2. "(I)t was all about Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, and also Rudy had a personal thing with the Manafort stuff. The black ledger. And that was another thing they were looking into, but it was never about corruption, it was strictly about Burisma, which included Hunter Biden and Joe Biden."

3. Parnas: "Basically, the message that I was supposed to — that I gave (Ukrainian official) Sergei Sheyfir was a very harsh message. That was told to me to give it to him in a very harsh way. Not in a pleasant way... the message was, it wasn't just military aid, it was all aid. Basically, their relationships would be sour. That we would stop giving them any kind of aid."

Maddow: "Unless?"

Parnas: Unless, well several things, there were several demands at that point. A, the most important one was the announcement of the Biden investigation.

4. Maddow: "So you believe that Mr. Pence's trip to (Zelinskiy's) inauguration was cancelled because they didn't agree (to an investigation)?"

**Parnas: "**Oh, I know 100 percent. It was 100 percent."

5. Maddow: "Let me make sure I understand what you're saying. When Vice President Pence when over there (to Poland) on September 1st, again in President Trump's stead, you believe, or you have reason to believe, that Vice President Pence was tasked at that meeting with getting President Zelenskiy to announce investigations of Joe Biden specifically?"

Parnas: "Yes."

6. Maddow: "Do you believe that part of the motivation to get rid of Ambassador Yovanovitch to get her out of post was because she was in the way of this effort to get the government of Ukraine to announce investigations of Joe Biden?"

Parnas: "That was the only motivation."

Maddow: "That was the only motivation."

Parnas: "There was no other motivation."

7. Maddow: "Do you know if Mr. Giuliani was ever in contact with (Attorney General) Barr, specifically, about the fact that he was trying to get Ukraine to announce these investigations into Joe Biden?"

Parnas: "Oh, absolutely."


Maddow: "Mr. Barr knew about that?"

Parnas: "Mr. Barr had to have known everything. I mean it is impossible."

8. Maddow: "Given that interaction that you just described with Congressman Nunes and his aide, Mr. (Derek) Harvey, does it strike you as unusual or inappropriate that Devin Nunes would be one of the lead investigators into this scandal on the House Intelligence Committee? He is obviously the top Republican on that committee."

Parnas: "I was in shock, when I was watching the hearings, and when I saw Devin Nunes sitting up there, and there was a picture where Derek Harvey was in back over there, sitting, I texted my attorney, I said I can't believe this is happening."

Trump and Pence representatives deny Parnas' allegations

This morning, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham released this statement in response to the Parnas interview, per NBC's Kristen Welker:


"These allegations are being made by a man who is currently out on bail for federal crimes and is desperate to reduce his exposure to prison. The facts haven't changed - the President did nothing wrong and this impeachment, which was manufactured and carried out by the Democrats has been a sham from the start," Grisham said.

And Pence's chief of staff, Marc Short, also responded: "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."

Our question: If Parnas is such a problematic witness, why was Giuliani continually interacting with him? And why was Trump taking photos with Parnas?

Impeachment trial update

NBC's Geoff Bennett has today's activity for the impeachment trial into President Trump.

At noon ET, House impeachment managers go to the Senate and read aloud the impeachment articles.


At 2:00 pm ET, Chief Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, who presides over the trial, is sworn in, and Roberts then swears in the senators.

2020 Vision: "I think you called me a liar on national TV": Well, CNN released the audio of Elizabeth Warren's pointed conversation with Bernie Sanders after Tuesday's debate.

And it means this story won't be going away anytime soon — with the Iowa caucuses just 18 days away.

Their exchange, per NBC's Gary Grumbach:

Warren: "I think you called me a liar on national TV."


Sanders: "What?"

Warren: "I think you called me a liar on national TV."

Sanders: "You know, let's not do it right now. If you want to have that discussion, we'll have that discussion."

Warren: "Anytime."

Sanders: "You called me a liar. You told me -- all right, let's not do it now."


Steyer: "I don't want to get in the middle, I just want to say hi, Bernie."

Sanders: "Yeah, good, okay."

Our question: Did Warren really intend for this to be her closing argument Iowa, given that the impeachment trial will keep her out of the Hawkeye State for much of the next 18 days?

Was it planned, especially knowing that CNN owns those microphones?

Or was it spontaneous?


And will it backfire in "Iowa Nice" Iowa? Or could it actually help Warren — similar to Hillary Clinton's tearful moment in New Hampshire in 2008?

As NBC's Alex Seitz-Wald writes, progressives are worried that the Bernie-versus-Warren feud might only end up helping someone like Joe Biden.

On the campaign trail today

Pete Buttigieg remains in Iowa, holding town halls in Algona, Emmetsburg, Arnolds Park, Orange City and Sioux City… Tom Steyer is out in Nevada… Tulsi Gabbard is in New Hampshire… And Vice President Mike Pence stumps for the president in Tampa, Fla.

Dispatches from NBC's campaign embeds

While campaigning in Iowa yesterday, Pete Buttigieg continued to be asked about his lack of support in the black community, per NBC's Priscilla Thompson. "Many black voters I talked to are feeling frustrated and taken for granted by not only being kicked around by the Republican party, but often taken for granted by the Democratic Party," Buttigieg said. "You have to earn a level of trust over some skepticism. And I recognize that challenge, again what's worked best, especially in the places where we've campaign the most, is sustained dialogue, engagement, not just big events like this but small ones where we're sitting at a table, talking with community leaders and pastors and business leaders and making sure that we are inviting participation to shape our campaign, not only to support it."

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 4 percentage points

Four percentage points.


That's Joe Biden's margin over Donald Trump in a hypothetical general election matchup in Wisconsin, according to a new Marquette Law School poll.

Biden gets 49 percent support compared to Trump's 45 percent.

For Bernie Sanders, it's 47 percent to Trump's 46 percent in a head-to-head matchup.

For Elizabeth Warren, it's 45 percent to Trump's 48 percent.

And for Pete Buttigieg, it's 44 percent to Trump's 46 percent.


The Lid: Hot spot

Don't miss the pod from yesterday, when we did a deep dive into Americans' views on Trump's recent handling of Iran.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn't miss

The House has hand-delivered the articles of impeachment to the Senate. What's next?

The AP profiles the impeachment managers.

There's a new character in the Ukraine saga: a donor and congressional candidate named Robert Hyde.

What did the trending #NeverWarren hashtag prove about progressive disunity? Probably not what you think.


Pete Buttigieg is getting a big congressional endorsement in New Hampshire.

Trump Agenda: Party like it's 1999?

The New York Times looks at how this impeachment process might compare to Bill Clinton's.

Many economic experts aren't all that enthusiastic about Trump's trade deals.

The inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction says that officials have routinely lied to the public about progress in the country .

The Washington Post has new details on Giuliani's outreach to a Ukrainian gas tycoon.


2020: Yang's lack of endorsements

Andrew Yang says he's not worried about trailing in the endorsement race.

Michael Bloomberg took some tough questions on NDAs and stop-and-frisk during an appearance on The View.

Democrats are investing big in a plan to flip state legislatures.

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