Lev Parnas Could Be the Star Witness Who Takes Trump Down

On October 15, 2019, I took a look at Fraud Guarantee, the essentially fake company that hired Rudy Giuliani for a half a million bucks, ostensibly to provide technological and regulatory advice. As I noted at that time, their website doesn’t look like it has been updated in years, and I couldn’t identify an actual product that might have produced any stream of revenue. Fraud Guarantee was established in 2013 with $1.5 million in seed money, never delivered on its promises, and somehow had $500,000 to pay Giuliani in 2018.

I must have done a decent job of reporting on that, because on October 31, 2019, the Wall Street Journal confirmed my conclusions:

Since its inception in 2013, a Florida firm called Fraud Guarantee has attracted no identifiable customers, generated zero returns for investors and—according to Florida court records—defaulted on its office lease years ago after falling behind on rent.

And yet the fraud-insurance company and Ukrainian-born founder Lev Parnas scored a major victory in August 2018: a business relationship with Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney.

Fraud Guarantee paid Mr. Giuliani’s consulting firm, Giuliani Partners, $500,000 for what the former New York mayor has said was business and regulatory advice.

But the Journal dug a little deeper and discovered that Lev Parnas has a long record of fraudulent business practices. He attracted investors for a movie that never was made. He ran a penny-stock pump-and-dump scam reminiscent of the operation that Felix Sater ran for the Russian mafia in concert with New York’s Bonanno, Colombo and Genovese crime families. Also, like Felix Sater, he likes to threaten people with violence:

In Las Vegas in November 2018, friends of Mr. Parnas showed a Russian-American businessman photos of Messrs. Parnas and Giuliani and Mr. Parnas’s children, the businessman said, as well as photos of Mr. Parnas with Mr. Giuliani on a private plane and at dinner.

Mr. Parnas’s friends offered to make an introduction, he said. But the businessman already knew Mr. Parnas: In 2008, he said, Mr. Parnas had given the businessman worthless stock certificates in lieu of rent for a Florida condominium the businessman owned.

For six months, Mr. Parnas lived in that condo with his wife and daughter, refusing to leave and paying no rent, the businessman said. The businessman moved back into the condo while Mr. Parnas was away on a trip.

When Mr. Parnas returned, he threatened the businessman and pulled a gun out of his waistband, said the businessman, who soon got a court order forcing Mr. Parnas out.

Unlike Sater, there is no record of Mr. Parnas threatening to electrocute anyone’s testicles:

In 2007, the manager of one Trump hotel-condo in Phoenix, Arizona, sued Sater after he allegedly threatened to get a cousin to electrocute the manager’s testicles, dismember him and leave him “dead in the trunk of his car.”

So, this is the kind of person that Rudy Giuliani contracted with to give legal and business advice and then hired to travel to Ukraine and assist him in securing the removal of the U.S. ambassador and manufacturing dirt on Joe Biden.

But Lev Parnas is now willing to testify to Congress about what he knows, and I just can’t believe that is good news for Giuliani or the president.

Remember, Parnas was arrested at Dulles International Airport with a one-way ticket to Vienna, Austria in his hand. He had lunch with Giuliani at Trump’s D.C. hotel that day. He was in the process of skipping out on his promise to testify before Congress. Once in Vienna, he was no doubt going to meet up with Russian mafia-affiliated oligarch Dmytro Firtash who is fighting extradition to the United States. He had been providing translating services to Firtash’s lawyers Joe DiGenova and Victoria Toensing.

Hopefully you can see why I keep calling this the biggest scandal in American political history. It seems to encompass every aspect of the corruption of Trump and his close associates. For example, Firtash was part of a money laundering scam involving Paul Manafort. Meanwhile, after his latest arrest, Parnas originally hired John Dowd to be his lawyer. You might remember Dowd as the man who represented Trump during the Mueller investigation until he quit in frustration. Dowd actually secured Trump’s permission to represent Parnas.

Mr. Trump signed off on the hiring of Mr. Dowd, according to an Oct. 2 email reviewed by The New York Times.

“I have discussed the issue of representation with the president. The president consents to allowing your representation of Mr. Parnas and Mr. Furman,” Jay Sekulow, another lawyer for Mr. Trump, wrote to Mr. Dowd, misspelling Mr. Fruman’s surname.

Mr. Dowd said in an interview that Mr. Trump’s approval was sought “simply as a courtesy to the president,” because of the lawyer’s previous work for him.

Dowd then proceeded to accuse Congress of harassing his client and refused to have Parnas cooperate. Unfortunately for Trump, Parnas has now found different legal representation. Also, Parnas seems to be very angry with the president.

“We are willing to comply with the subpoena to the extent that it does not violate any appropriate privilege that Mr. Parnas may properly invoke,” said Joseph A. Bondy, who along with Edward B. MacMahon, Jr. now represents Mr. Parnas.

Mr. Bondy said that given the federal criminal charges, his client may invoke his right under the Fifth Amendment not to incriminate himself.

The turnabout occurred after Mr. Trump denied knowing Mr. Parnas when he was arrested.

“Mr. Parnas was very upset by President Trump’s plainly false statement that he did not know him,” said Mr. Bondy, whose client has maintained that he has had extensive dealings with the president.

These are just some of the reasons that anyone assuming that the president will ultimately be acquitted in the Senate is probably lacking some imagination. The challenge is to take the giant mess of a story and make it comprehensible to the people. That won’t be easy, but I can picture nationally televised testimony from Mr. Parnas, and I can’t picture that going well for anyone who wants to excuse Trump’s behavior.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com