On January 3, U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken in Manhattan authorized Lev Parnas, the associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, to turn over documents and the contents of his iPhone to a House panel as part of the impeachment process against President Donald Trump. The Justice Department did not object to Parnas handing them over. Giuliani associate can give documents sought in Trump impeachment to House panel.
Presumably the Justice Department, which seized documents and the iPhone when Parnas was arrested on Oct. 9 — and Parnas is now a cooperating witness — has had sufficient time to conduct its due diligence to verify the genuineness of the evidence seized against other corroborating evidence, or it would not have agreed to the release of these documents to Congress if it had any reason to question its genuineness.
Congressional investigators and staff attorneys no doubt have conducted their own due diligence to verify the genuineness of the evidence produced to Congress from Parnas and his attorneys. This week, Congress publicly releases two tranches of documents from Lev Parnas that it included in the evidentiary record to the Articles of Impeachment transmitted to the Senate. The first tranche of documents is here. The second tranche of documents is available here.
Greg Sargent of the Washington Post analyzes, Four big takeaways from the explosive Lev Parnas documents:
In a functional political environment, the explosive new documents from Lev Parnas just released by House investigators would rock the ongoing impeachment saga. They leave almost zero doubt that the scandal that got President Trump impeached will continue getting worse — substantially so — for him and his defenders.
Parnas had helped orchestrate Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani’s negotiations with Ukrainian officials pursuant to Trump’s wide-ranging plot to pressure Ukraine into doing his corrupt political bidding.
One of the new documents reinforces this point. It’s a handwritten note by Parnas, telling himself to “get” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “to announce that the Biden case will be investigated.”
That shows Parnas working to carry out Giuliani’s plot to pressure Zelensky to validate the Trump/Giuliani narrative of corruption designed to smear Joe Biden, a narrative that is entirely fabricated.
The documents blow up one of Trump’s main defenses.
The documents contain a letter from Giuliani to Zelensky, dated May 10, in which Giuliani requests a meeting. The New York Times had just reported that Giuliani was set to undertake his pressure campaign.
In the letter, Giuliani explicitly states that he was representing Trump “as a private citizen, not as the president of the United States,” and also that Giuliani was carrying out this mission with Trump’s “knowledge and consent.”
That confirms in Giuliani’s own words that his scheme was geared toward satisfying Trump’s personal interests, even as Giuliani was in effect carrying out U.S. foreign relations with an ally. Our national interests were subverted to Trump’s own, at Trump’s explicit direction.
One of Trump’s main defenses is that, in pressing Ukraine to announce an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden — and another that would absolve Russia of 2016 electoral sabotage — he was merely acting as a responsible leader. Yes, Trump unlawfully froze hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid while demanding these investigations, but only because he reasonably wanted Ukraine to clean up “corruption”!
That has always been obvious nonsense, but the letter forcefully underscores the point: Trump’s defenders cannot explain why, if he was merely acting in the national interest throughout, he needed his private attorney to orchestrate the whole scheme, all to his private benefit.
The menacing texts about Yovanovitch raise questions that will yield more revelations.
The documents contain menacing-sounding text messages between Parnas and an associate, Robert Hyde, who appeared to be tracking the movements of Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine removed by Trump.
Some texts seem to capture Hyde relating his communications with people tailing Yovanovitch. One said: “They will let me know when she’s on the move.”
Separately, a text from a former top Ukrainian prosecutor shows him pushing Parnas to help oust Yovanovitch so he can then carry out efforts to dig dirt on Biden.
Recall: Giuliani wanted Yovanovitch out of the way so he could implement his corrupt pressure on Ukraine. Also, Trump told Zelensky on July 25 that “she’s going to go through some things,” which made Yovanovitch feel threatened.
It’s not clear what that meant, but at a minimum, we know Giuliani launched an ugly smear campaign to oust Yovanovitch, and plainly, Trump was aware of it in some way before removing her himself.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee will, in coming hours, demand that the State Department provide information on its knowledge of any security threats to Yovanovitch during that campaign against her.
In a statement sent my way, Rep. Eliot Engel, the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said the menacing texts are “profoundly alarming,” and noted that texts between Parnas and Hyde “occurred at the same time that the two men were also discussing President Trump’s efforts, through Rudy Giuliani, to smear the ambassador’s reputation.”
The Foreign Affairs Committee will now seek to learn what, if anything, the State Department knew about this situation at the time these messages were sent. Today, I will convey a formal request for documents, information, and a briefing from senior officials related to this matter. This unprecedented threat to our diplomats must be thoroughly investigated and, if warranted, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Engel said an initial contact with department security had drawn a response, which he said left him “confident” that this matter would get attention.
Still, in light of these new revelations, the State Department’s stonewalling of ongoing investigations looks a lot worse.
As part of the impeachment inquiry, Democrats had subpoenaed the State Department for documents that could shed light on any knowledge that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had of this ongoing campaign, on Giuliani’s communications with the State Department about it, and on efforts by Trump and other henchmen to pressure Ukraine more generally.
The State Department defied this subpoena, and Pompeo just blew off a request that he testify to the Foreign Affairs Committee about Trump’s Iran policies. The State Department is responding to journalistic inquiries with radio silence[.]
Democrats will simply have to go on an investigative war footing that will continue after the impeachment saga, and it is likely to produce new revelations.
Senate Republicans should be nervous, because time is not on Trump’s side.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is protecting vulnerable senators by postponing votes on whether to hear witnesses and new evidence at Trump’s impeachment trial until after opening statements, in hopes that they’ll then be able to claim, “we’ve heard enough,” and vote “no.”
Good luck with that.
Time is working against Trump. The revelations we’ve seen since the House passed articles of impeachment have been extraordinary.
First, the New York Times extensively documented that concerns about the legality and propriety of Trump’s freezing of military aid ran far deeper inside the administration than previously known. Then the Just Security website released a batch of new documents illustrating this in even more incriminating detail.
Now we’re learning both that Giuliani’s hijacking of U.S. foreign policy — which was run at Trump’s direction, to realize his corrupt personal ends — was far more nefarious than we thought, and that enormous unanswered questions still remain about it.
The time lag has focused intense public attention on whether GOP senators will admit at Trump’s trial new witnesses and evidence that Trump himself blocked during the House impeachment inquiry, and now doesn’t want senators to see.
Vulnerable GOP senators preparing to vote on this suddenly have reason to be a lot more queasy — if they vote no, future revelations will get hung around the necks of those senators as an example of what they tried to cover up on Trump’s behalf.
More is coming. A lot more.
An official involved with the impeachment inquiry says more documents are coming from Parnas soon. Meanwhile, there will be extensive investigative media digging that will almost certainly establish more about what, precisely, Giuliani ordered done on Trump’s behalf.
Say it with me this time: All throughout, Giuliani ran this scheme at Trump’s direction. So we will surely learn more soon enough about what Trump himself knew, and when.
For further analysis, see Neal Katyal and Joshua Geltzer, Lev Parnas and Rudy Giuliani have demolished Trump’s claims of innocence.
As I indicated above, Lev Parnas is a cooperating witness with the Southern District of New York (SDNY). I assure you that SDNY did not approve of Lev Parnas and his attorney providing an extraordinary interview to Rachel Maddow on MSNBC Wednesday night. (Part 2 of that interview will air Thursday night). See below.
As a defendant in a criminal case, Mr. Parnas no doubt has been advised that anything he says can and will be used against him by SDNY in his prosecution. His interview with Rachel Maddow can be used as a statement against interest. No criminal defense attorney worth his salt would ever allow his client to make public statements — Donald Trump’s horseshit attorneys excluded — unless his client tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in furtherance of his cooperation agreement with prosecutors in order to obtain a favorable plea bargain. Mr. Parnas has no incentive to lie (this is not to say that everything Parnas said was true or can be corroborated. This is yet to be determined.)
Part 1 of the Rachel Maddow interview is broken down into shorter segments:
Aaron Blake of the Washington Post analyzes 4 takeaways from the Lev Parnas interview and revelations in Part 1 of the Maddow interview:
Lev Parnas also spoke with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Wednesday night, during an interview in which he lodged some explosive allegations that have yet to be substantiated.
Below, some takeaways.
1. Ukraine knew this was about hitting Biden, not ‘corruption’
On Tuesday night, we got documents that indicated there was an early quid pro quo between Parnas and then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko. During the administration of Volodymyr Zelensky’s predecessor, then-President Petro Poroshenko, Parnas and Lutsenko tied information about Hunter Biden and Burisma Holdings to the removal of then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, whom Lutsenko wanted out.
And the new documents seem to make it even clearer that Lutsenko was seeking to trade derogatory information about the Bidens — rather explicitly so.
At one point, relations between Parnas and Lutsenko turn testy, with Lutsenko expressing frustration at the lack of reciprocation.
“I’m sorry, but this is all simply b——t,” Lutsenko wrote on March 13 in Russian. “I’m f—–g sick of all this. I haven’t received a visit. My [boss] hasn’t received jack all. I’m prepared to [thrash] your opponent. But you want more and more. We’re over.”
Given the previously released text messages, it’s difficult not to read Lutsenko preparing to deliver negative information about “your opponent” as him recognizing this effort was aimed at political dirt on the Bidens. And it undercuts the Trump team’s repeated and strained claims that this was actually about Ukrainian corruption more broadly.
The new Ukrainian administration has been very diplomatic about it all; Lutsenko seemed to say privately exactly what he knew it was.
And Parnas clarified to Maddow on Wednesday night: “It was never about corruption.”
2. Parnas implicates pretty much everybody
Parnas’s credibility as a witness has yet to be established. He is under indictment right now and seems to be motivated to incriminate people. But in his interview with Maddow, he said there was no secret about what was going on among Trump team members in Ukraine — including with some key people.
“One hundred percent, he knows what happened,” Parnas said.
That quote could loom as Democrats seek to persuade four Senate Republicans to join them and vote to allow Bolton to testify in the impeachment trial. Bolton has indicated he is willing, and his lawyers have said he knows about key events that other witnesses, at least as of early November, hadn’t testified about. Thus far only Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) has indicated he’d likely vote to allow Bolton to testify, while Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) appear willing to consider it.
“I’m going to use a famous quote by [U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland]: ‘Everybody was in the loop,’” Parnas said. Asked to state it more plainly, he paused and said of Pence: “He couldn’t have not known. ”
Parnas added that, to a novice politician such as Zelensky, a White House meeting and having top U.S. officials at his inauguration was actually more important than U.S. aid, which was also withheld later on and has also been tied to quid pro quos.
“Mr. Barr absolutely knew everything,” Parnas said. “I mean, It’s impossible [that he didn’t].”
He added: “Attorney General Barr was basically on the team.”
Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec responded to Parnas’s claim by saying, “100% false.”
3. Doubting the surveillance of Yovanovitch
One of the big headlines from Tuesday night’s document release was that Parnas’s text messages appeared to indicate Yovanovitch was under surveillance by an associate of Parnas’s — or even worse. Ukraine is investigating, and Yovanovitch has called for U.S. authorities to do the same.
UPDATE: FBI investigators visit Robert Hyde’s home and office: FBI investigators on Thursday visited both the home and business of Connecticut congressional candidate Robert Hyde, who this week was implicated in the Ukraine scandal.
But Parnas told Maddow he never believed the man behind those texts, Robert F. Hyde, was actually doing the things described in the text messages and distanced himself from him.
“I don’t believe it’s true,” Parnas said. “I believe he was either drunk or was trying to make himself bigger than he was. ”
Parnas added: “He was drunk all the time. … I’ve never seen him not drunk.”
Parnas said he was told that Hyde was up to no good. Reporting since the initial text messages were released on Tuesday night has revealed a very colorful past for Hyde, a Trump loyalist who is now a congressional candidate in Connecticut. Parnas, at the same time, has incentive to downplay the potential surveillance, given he was wrapped up in it.
In his own interview Wednesday night, Hyde appeared to confirm to Sinclair TV that the texts were the product of drinking and weren’t true.
“You know, we had a few pops way back when I used to drink,” he said when asked about the texts. Asked directly whether he had surveilled Yovanovtich, he said, “Absolutely not, are you kidding me?” He described himself as just “a little landscaper” from Connecticut, using an expletive.
Now he has recalled.
In a conspicuously timed disclosure shortly before Parnas’s interview aired, Nunes appeared on Fox News on Wednesday night and admitted to talking to Parnas, while maintaining he didn’t recognize the name at the time.
“It was very clear,” Nunes said. “I remember that call, which was very odd, random, talking about random things. And I said, ‘Great, just talk to my staff,’ and boom boom boom.”
Parnas, though, in keeping with what he said about Bolton, Pence and Barr, said there was more to it.
“He knew very well that he knew what was going on,” Parnas said. “He knew what’s happening. He knows who I am.”
Parnas said Nunes “was involved in getting all this stuff on Biden.”
“It’s hard to see them lie like that when you know it’s like that scary, because you know, he was sitting there and making all statements and all that when he knew very well that he knew what was going on,” Parnas said.
Lev Parnas essentially corroborated what Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified to under oath: “Everybody was in the loop.” All the President’s men have to be called to testify under oath in the Senate impeachment trial. Anything short of this is a sham impeachment trial and a coverup by Senate Republicans.