Parnas said he didn’t have any particular interest in Soros, but got pulled into the conservative lawyers’ allegations. Many of Trump’s thorniest problems, in their view, started with Soros.

“The consensus was that the reason Trump had the 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 the Trump World,” he said.

So the effort to influence Zelensky’s administration included machinations against Soros, he said—in particular, to push Zelensky to distance himself from people perceived to be close to billionaire. That push and the push for political favors for Trump were one and the same, he said. In retrospect, Parnas said, the Soros focus grew out of an atmosphere he described as cult-like. When asked if he believed his former allies’ claims about the billionaire, he said he got sucked in at the time.