Lev Parnas has a real story to tell to Congress
Parnas’ files, including the contents of his iPhone 11, are being delivered to Congress — perhaps just days before Trump’s impeachment trial kicks off in the Senate. And that could spell trouble for Trump, who’s insisted he doesn’t know the Ukrainian-born businessman now facing criminal charges for allegedly making illegal donations to GOP campaigns on behalf of foreign interests.
Parnas’ iPhone and other files could make things downright awkward for Trump by offering up fresh, documentary evidence that Parnas’ links to Trumpworld were a lot closer than Trump has been willing to admit. Photos of Parnas posing cheerfully with the president and other high-ranking Republicans have already spilled out in public. And there’s no telling what else Parnas has on that iPhone.
Parnas recently began sharing new files with the House Intelligence Committee in response to a Congressional subpoena issued in October, after the judge in his Manhattan criminal case granted him permission last Friday, Parnas’ New York-based attorney, Joe Bondy, told VICE News earlier this week.
Impeachment investigators haven’t yet said whether they’ll ask Parnas, who has pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges, to actually show up on Capitol Hill and tell his story. But his documents and iPhone data could buttress his version of events if that happens, Bondy told the judge in a recent court filing.
“Review of these materials is essential to the Committee’s ability to corroborate the strength of Mr. Parnas’s potential testimony,” Bondy wrote.
Videos and photographs of Parnas posing with Trump, Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, and top-ranking GOP officials have already caused a stir, and prompted questions about how close Parnas really was to all those major GOP players.
Bondy has suggestively tweeted some of those out himself, while publicly pressing members of Congress to invite his client to appear with the hashtag, #LetLevSpeak.
Parnas already reportedly handed over a batch of videos and photographs that include Trump and Giuliani, along with other documents, to House impeachment investigators back in November.
But the new batch includes materials that were seized by federal investigators at the time of his arrest in October, and have been held tightly by prosecutors as potential evidence until last week.
On Monday, Bondy tweeted a photograph of Parnas posing next to GOP House Minority Leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, adding: “call the witness.”
McCarthy has acknowledged receiving a donation from Parnas, but said this week he doesn’t actually know the guy, and couldn’t remember where they met. And as soon as he realized where the money came from, he passed it on to “charity,” McCarthy said.
The next day, Tuesday, Bondy tweeted out a picture of Parnas with both McCarthy and Vice President Mike Pence.
Parnas left behind a trail of evidence documenting his close relationship with Giuliani, including on a private Instagram account uncovered by The Wall Street Journal in October around the time of his arrest.
On Insta, Parnas lounged on a private jet with Giuliani, flaunted a signed thank-you note from Trump, and posed with Trump’s son Don Jr. and Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis.
Now, the question becomes what else the new documents and iPhone data might reveal about his ties to high-ranking figures in Trump’s Washington, and about his role assisting in Giuliani’s search for damaging information about Biden in Ukraine — topics of keen interest to Democrats in Congress who support Trump’s impeachment and removal from office.
Prosecutors have accused Parnas of engaging in a scheme with an unnamed Ukrainian official to oust the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, a move Giuliani also advocated. Yovanovitch’s removal last spring became a key moment in House Democrats’ impeachment investigation against Trump.
The House voted in December to impeach Trump for abusing his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden. The case will next be considered by the Senate, in a trial that’s been delayed amid a dispute over whether to admit new witnesses and fresh evidence. That might include former National Security Advisor John Bolton, who has said he would testify if the GOP-controlled Senate actually subpoenas him.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has held up forwarding the impeachment articles to the Senate, saying she wants to see rules established that will ensure Trump gets a fair trial. On Friday, however, she told her House colleagues to get ready to hold a vote that would kickstart the Senate trial “next week.”
Lev Parnas wants to tell his story about President Trump and Ukraine to Congress, and he’s reportedly already turned over a stack of evidence to back it up. Parnas, a criminally-indicted associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, handed audio, video, and photographs to the House Intelligence Committee, including material featuring Trump and Giuliani.
The promise of new evidence arrives as Parnas’ New York-based defense attorney, Joseph A. Bondy, mounts a public campaign to convince the intel committee to call Parnas as a witness, tweeting directly at senior members of Congress with the hashtag #LetLevSpeak.
But Parnas has shown he’s not going to wait for their invitation to start throwing bombs. Bondy said Parnas was prepared to testify about events involving the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes.
That makes Parnas potentially dangerous for Trump and Giuliani — and, perhaps, for their staunchest allies in Congress, especially if he’s got the audio and visual evidence to prove it.
But he’s also a deeply complicated witness. While his narrative could provide a gripping eyewitness account of events at the center of the Trump team’s controversial interactions with Ukraine, his credibility is also likely to be questioned.
Parnas was indicted for allegedly funneling foreign money into GOP campaigns, and Bondy told VICE News earlier this month that his client would comply with Congressional subpoenas while maintaining his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
For weeks, Parnas has claimed he’s ready to help Congress understand his complex role in the Ukraine saga. But he recently broadened his aim, by suggesting that one of Trump’s key defenders in Congress was more directly involved in the story than he’s let on: Nunes.
Bondy told CNN that Parnas is prepared to tell Congress about meetings Nunes had with a former Ukrainian prosecutor to discuss digging up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden.
“Mr. Parnas learned from former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin that Nunes had met with Shokin in Vienna last December,” Bondy told CNN. That story followed an article in the Daily Beast which said Parnas helped Nunes arrange phone calls and meetings aimed at uncovering the origins of the Russia investigation into Trump. (Congressional records show that Nunes took a taxpayer-funded trip to Europe from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3, 2018 with three aides.)