By Robert A. Vella
Well, now we know why Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi delayed sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate required to start President Trump’s trial. She needed time to acquire additional evidence from Rudy Giuliani‘s indicted associate Lev Parnas after a federal court ruled that it was admissible. That mass of evidence was released this week ahead of interviews Parnas had with The New York Times and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow who aired part-one of a two-hour video discussion last night (part-two airs tonight).
What Parnas revealed was a bombshell, to say the least. Not only did he corroborate consistent witness testimony from the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry regarding Trump’s criminal scheme to coerce the Ukrainian government for personal political gain, he also implicated Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General William Barr, current and former Republican congressmen, GOP operatives and financiers, a conservative journalist, two former high-ranking Ukrainian officials (including the previous president), and a notorious Ukrainian oligarch closely tied to Russian organized crime, in a larger conspiracy which had tried to undermine the Mueller investigation. When Pelosi said she told Trump last October that for him “all roads lead to [Vladimir] Putin,” she may have grossly understated the relationship. Parnas’ interview suggests that this is a more expansive international conspiracy which is consuming the Republican Party.
Perhaps that explains why congressional Republicans have been so vehement in their defense of Trump. Maybe this isn’t just about politics as most pundits have asserted. Maybe this is about self-preservation as when the guilty desperately seek to cover-up their egregious crimes. In any case, the impending impeachment trial in the Senate has become dramatically more complicated. Technically, only Donald Trump is on trial. But more broadly, it is Republicans who are on trial.
Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) declared that Trump’s withholding of military aid to Ukraine last summer (i.e. the attempted coercion) was illegal. Ukraine has launched a criminal investigation into surveillance of then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch uncovered by Parnas’ evidence. In last night’s interview, Parnas said that the person in question – Republican congressional candidate Robert Hyde – is nothing more than a blowhard drunk and wannabe player whom he didn’t take seriously. Nevertheless, the GOP has turned on Mr. Hyde.
Regarding Parnas’ motives, Maddow implied something quite intriguing in her commentary. She posited that by coming clean and dropping this evidence bomb, Parnas is protecting himself from retribution. I agree. Had he kept quiet, powerful interests would have great incentive to ensure his silence before his criminal trial begins in New York. Parnas said only that he wants “the truth to come out.” By doing so, he just might have saved his own life.
Finally, I want to applaud the historic passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in Virginia yesterday. It’s a cause I’ve fought for since high school. Bravo, ladies!
Lev Parnas has leaped to the center of the impeachment of President Trump, with House Democrats releasing a series of documents from Parnas that detail his work with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and Ukrainian officials. Parnas, who has been indicted, 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’
2. Parnas implicates pretty much everybody
3. Doubting the surveillance of Yovanovitch
4. Nunes admits contact with Parnas — suddenly
Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani who has been implicated in an alleged attempt to pressure the Ukrainian government to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, says, “President Trump knew exactly what was going on.”
“He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the president. I have no intent, I have no reason to speak to any of these officials,” Parnas, who faces campaign finance charges, told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in an interview set to air Wednesday night.
“I mean they have no reason to speak to me. Why would President Zelenskiy’s inner circle, or Minister Avakov, or all these people, or President Poroshenko meet with me? Who am I? They were told to meet with me. And that’s the secret that they’re trying to keep. I was on the ground doing their work,” Parnas said.
In an interview with The New York Times on the day the House transmitted articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump to the Senate, Mr. Parnas also expressed regret for having trusted Mr. Trump and Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer and the architect of the Ukraine pressure campaign. His lawyer said he was eager to cooperate with federal prosecutors investigating Mr. Giuliani.
Mr. Parnas made his remarks as House impeachment investigators released more material he had turned over to them. The material, including text messages, photos and calendar entries, underscored how deeply Mr. Parnas and others were involved in carrying out the pressure campaign and how new information continues to surface even as the Senate prepares to begin Mr. Trump’s trial next week. And it provided additional evidence that the effort to win political advantage for Mr. Trump was widely known among his allies, showing that Mr. Parnas communicated regularly with two top Republican fund-raisers about what he was up to.
Text messages and call logs show that Mr. Parnas was in contact with Tom Hicks Jr., a donor and Trump family friend, and Joseph Ahearn, who raised money for pro-Trump political groups, about developments in the Ukraine pressure campaign.
The new materials released by House Democrats also include months of messages between Parnas and then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko in which the Ukrainian official provided Giuliani’s team with interviews and information in exchange for a pledge that Yovanovitch would be removed from her post.
The messages show Parnas helping arrange a video interview for Lutsenko with John Solomon, a conservative columnist at the Hill newspaper. 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.
The relationship between Parnas and Lutsenko turned hot and cold over the months of text messages in Russian. At one point in March, Lutsenko appeared to have grown impatient that he was holding up his end of the bargain — while Parnas was failing to come through with the ambassador’s removal and other requests that would benefit Lutsenko or his boss, then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
The excerpts show Parnas acting as a conduit between Giuliani and current and former Ukrainian officials, including several close aides of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. One handwritten note reads: “get Zalensky to announce that the Biden case will be investigated” — a reference to the ongoing efforts to get Ukraine to announce probes to benefit Mr. Trump politically.
Committee investigators found an image of a letter from Giuliani to Zelensky dated May 10, 2019, after Zelensky won election but before he was inaugurated. On the day before, The New York Times reported Giuliani planned to travel to Ukraine to try to dig up dirt against former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
In the letter, Giuliani introduced himself as Mr. Trump’s personal attorney.
Parnas detailed a conversation with Serhiy Shefir, an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Parnas said Vice President Mike Pence would cancel a planned trip for Zelensky’s inauguration unless the incoming Ukrainian government announced it would investigate the Bidens. Parnas said that when he learned the Ukrainians were not going to announce a Biden probe, he told Giuliani.
“I remember Rudy going, ‘OK, they’ll see,’” Parnas said.
Pence’s trip was canceled the next day.
Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, says he told Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash that in exchange for information that could discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, he would try to stop Firtash’s extradition to the U.S. to face corruption charges.
Firtash, who is believed to have ties to the Russian mob, was in Vienna fighting extradition. During an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Wednesday, Parnas said he was told Firtash’s camp claimed to have evidence that one of Mueller’s prosecutors was doing some “illegal stuff,” and he was tasked with securing this evidence. John Solomon, a conservative columnist who pushed conspiracy theories, gave him documentation to show Firtash he “was in the loop,” Parnas said.
Giuliani, meanwhile, was working in Ukraine to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and Parnas said they wanted Firtash to pressure Ukraine into announcing an investigation into the Bidens. Parnas told Maddow he was “involved” in conversations Giuliani and diGenova had with Attorney General William Barr, and Barr “absolutely” knew of the effort to get Ukraine to announce the investigation. “Mr. Barr had to have known everything,” he said. “Victoria, Joe, they were all best friends. Attorney General Barr was basically on the team.”
Congressional Republicans are distancing themselves from Robert Hyde, a controversial House candidate and GOP donor who has become the latest figure to get wrapped up in the Ukraine saga that led to President Donald Trump’s impeachment.
The top three Republican leaders in the House — Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming — all said they don’t know Hyde and don’t support him, according to their offices.
And the Republican Party chairman in Connecticut, where Hyde is one of several Republicans vying to challenge Democratic Rep. Jahana Hayes this fall, is calling on Hyde to drop out of the race.
WASHINGTON, Jan 15 (Reuters) – Legislators in Virginia on Wednesday backed a long-gestating amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would guarantee equal rights for women, setting up a fight over whether the deadline to finalize it has passed.
Backers say the vote by the Democratic-controlled state Senate and House of Delegates makes Virginia the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which under the Constitution is the required number of states required to ratify an amendment.
But opponents, including President Donald Trump’s administration, say the deadline has long passed for the proposal, which the U.S. Congress kick-started in 1972. Conservative activists are opposed to it in part because they fear it could be used to bolster abortion rights.
The battle will play out in Congress and potentially in the courts.