Lev Parnas, the man partially responsible for a smear campaign that led to the firing of Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in late April, says he now wants to apologize to the diplomat.

An associate of U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Parnas shuttled between the United States and Ukraine in search of compromising information on Trump’s opponents.

Parnas and another Giuliani associate, Igor Fruman, were arrested in October and are facing trial for campaign finance violations. Now, Parnas has agreed to cooperate in the impeachment probe.

Read more: Lev Parnas reveals political extortion of Ukraine, corruption in White House

In a Jan. 15 interview with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, Parnas admitted he had told Trump that Yovanovitch was “badmouthing him” and “saying bad things about him” — claims that were never substantiated.


Now, Parnas says he no longer believes them.

“That’s why I want to apologize to her because, you know, at that point I believed it, but I don’t believe it now after reevaluating and seeing everything that transpired, looking at the documentation again,” he told Maddow.

The Kyiv Post reached out to Yovanovitch for comment but has not received a response.

‘Political hit job’

Yovanovitch left office on May 20 after a sustained smear campaign against her by Giuliani, Parnas, Fruman, compromised Ukrainian officials and right-wing media. At the time, two Democratic congressmen termed her removal a “political hit job.”

Even once she was removed, her opponents did not let up. In a late May interview with a Ukrainian media outlet, Giuliani accused Yovanovitch of working for financier and philanthropist George Soros, a frequent bogeyman in right-wing conspiracy theories, against Trump.

Her embassy “was involved heavily in finding dirty information and creating it on people in the Trump campaign,” Giuliani said.

No evidence has ever been offered to back up these claims, which appear to partially originate with statements by ex-Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko. The former top prosecutor made a series of unsubstantiated allegations against Yovanovitch, who had criticized his handling of anti-corruption efforts.


Read more: Giuliani accuses ex-US ambassador to Ukraine, Democrats, Soros of anti-Trump conspiracy

In his interview with Maddow, Parnas said that Lutsenko had offered dirt on former U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, widely seen as Trump’s likely Democratic opponent in the 2020 U.S. presidential elections, in return for Yovanovitch’s ouster.

Yovanovitch would go on to testify in the House of Representatives’ impeachment probe against Trump.

Lev Parnas tells Rachel Maddow how U.S. President Donald J. Trump struggled to fire U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie L. Yovanovitch.

Failed firing

Removing Yovanovitch from office was neither easy nor straightforward, Parnas told Maddow. He said Trump unsuccessfully tried to fire her four or five times.

“The president kept firing her and she wouldn’t leave,” Parnas said, laughing. “So nobody could understand what was going on.”

“(Trump) even had a breakdown and screamed ‘Fire her!’ to Madeleine (Westerhout), his assistant, his secretary, before he fired her (Westerhout),” he added. Westerhout served as Trump’s personal secretary from January 2017 until February 2019.


Parnas said that Trump was directing the State Department to fire Yovanovitch, but that it refused.

Parnas said he spoke to Trump twice personally about firing Yovanovitch. One of those times was at a dinner with Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr., at the Trump Hotel. At that dinner, Parnas says he told Trump that she was badmouthing him and saying he would be impeached.

According to Parnas, Trump then turned to John DeStefano, at the time counselor to the president, and said, “Fire her.”

Parnas says that a silence fell over the room after that. DeStefano then said, “Mr. President, we can’t do that right now because (Mike) Pompeo has not been confirmed yet” as Secretary of State, Parnas claimed.

He says Trump ordered Yovanovitch’s firing several more times during the course of the dinner.

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