The Slatest

Latest Ukraine Docs Show How Trump World Launders Useful Lies Through Conservative Media

Sean Hannity interviews Trump before a campaign rally.
Bros.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Lev Parnas handed over hundreds of pages of documents to congressional investigators as part of the impeachment inquiry, and Democrats in the House, on Wednesday, released those documents in full. The messages paint a deeply unflattering picture of Parnas, who is under federal indictment for campaign finance–related crimes, and are particularly damning for Rudy Giuliani, who worked closely with Parnas on trying to excavate Biden family dirt to use during the 2020 campaign. The conversations aren’t pretty, largely because they show a hapless crew of half-wits conniving in profoundly unsophisticated ways—ways that would ultimately get them caught—but they also show, with remarkable clarity, just how the Trump administration launders conspiracy, lies, and innuendo that it believes will further its interests.

In one illustrative instance, it starts with setting up an interview for Ukraine’s top prosecutor at the time, Yuriy Lutsenko, with a sympathetic journalist (John Solomon) at an outlet of dubious repute (the Hill). Among several different lines of disinformation, the whole Trump crew begins pushing the idea that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that somehow did the election meddling in 2016. Parnas and Giuliani are, in particular, looking to remove the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Obama appointee Marie Yovanovitch, as a favor to Lutsenko. In return for Yovanovitch’s ouster, Lutsenko has promised the pair dirt on the Bidens.

Here’s a series of passages from the Washington Post’s coverage of the Parnas documents that illuminates how (simply) it all works. “On March 12, Parnas sent a letter from Solomon to Lutsenko requesting the interview and included a list of questions to be addressed. ‘I sent you the questions and the invitation from the journalist, call me when you wake up,’ Parnas writes after sending the letter to Lutsenko,” according to the Post. “The messages show Parnas helping arrange a video interview for Lutsenko with John Solomon, a conservative columnist at the Hill newspaper.”

“Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko told Hill.TV’s John Solomon in an interview aired on Wednesday that he has opened a probe into alleged attempts by Ukrainians to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” the Hill subsequently blared.

Then, as the Post describes, the Trump propaganda apparatus went into overdrive:

After the interview posted online, Parnas texted it to [America First Action finance director Joseph] Ahearn and wrote, “Have jr retweet it.”

“Sent,” Ahearn responded.

Parnas then urged Ahearn to “Watch Hannity.”

Later that night, Trump himself tweeted coverage of the manufactured story by Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

The Hannity coverage also linked the fabricated scandal to Yovanovitch. With the story now in full presidential swing, the conservative site the Daily Wire covers the Fox News coverage about the “scandal in Ukraine surrounding the 2016 U.S. presidential election” while helping pivot the story to Yovanovitch. “Calls to remove former President Barack Obama’s U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, have intensified over the last week as a scandal in Ukraine surrounding the 2016 U.S. presidential election has started to gain more attention,” Ryan Saavedra wrote in the story’s lead.

Back to the Post:

Several days later, Parnas sent Ahearn an article about calls to push out Yovanovitch, to which Ahearn responded, “That’s a good article.”

That same day, Trump Jr. tweeted out the article and wrote that the United States needed “less of these jokes as ambassadors,” referring to Yovanovitch, a career diplomat.

Rinse and repeat. Over and again. In a month Yovanovitch was removed from her post and recalled to Washington.

And the dog has been wagged.