Volodymyr Zelensky and Donald Trump
Credit: Presidential Office of Ukrain

We now know who will prosecute the impeachment case against President Donald Trump in his Senate trial. Speaker Pelosi has predictably selected Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York. Additionally, she chose Reps. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Sylvia Garcia of Texas, Val Demings of Florida, Zoe Lofgren of California, and Jason Crow of Colorado. It will be fascinating to see how they divvy their responsibilities up, and I’m particularly interested in learning who will be discussing Lev Parnas.

I’ve written about Parnas repeatedly in the past. It’s hard to identify a shadier character, and he’s not necessarily of much use as a fact witness due to his complete lack of credibility. But his documents and electronic communications are another matter: Parnas has been turning them over to Congress as fast as he can get them released by the Feds who seized them when they arrested him and his partner Igor Fruman back in October 2019 for making illegal campaign contributions with Russian money.

A new batch landed on the nation’s lap on Tuesday, and they included everything from death threats against a sitting U.S. ambassador by a Republican congressional candidate, to confirmation that a Ukrainian prosecutor had agreed to “find” dirt on Hunter Biden in exchange for the removal of that ambassador, to written proof that Giuliani (with the assistance of lawyer Victoria Toensing) sought an audience with newly-elected Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky for the purpose of helping Trump is his capacity as the president’s private attorney.

Philip Bump of The Washington Post explains why it’s significant that Giuliani wasn’t a government employee and wasn’t claiming to be serving the nation’s interests when he wrote to Zelensky. Giuliani was explicit that the president has different attorneys who are responsible for managing “official” business:

Document from Lev Parnas, a former associate of Rudolph W. Giuliani, released by House investigators. (House Intelligence Committee)

This is also a problem because the president has stated that he didn’t authorize Giuliani to do any of this:

Asked about Giuliani’s planned trip in an interview with Bill O’Reilly in November, the president denied awareness of what his lawyer was up to.

“I know that he was going to go to Ukraine and I think he canceled the trip. But Rudy has other clients, other than me,” Trump said. Asked if Giuliani was going to Ukraine on his behalf to try to find negative information about Biden, Trump said, “No, I didn’t direct him, but he is a warrior, he is a warrior.”

Giuliani told the Times he was going for Trump. He told Zelensky he was going for Trump. But in November, once the impeachment inquiry was well underway, Trump dismissed the idea.

There’s a lot more to unpack here than I can cover in a single blog post, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t add one last revelation from Parnas’ latest document dump. Even before Parnas was arrested in October 2019, the president was very aware that he had some legal problems.

The documents also reveal that when Parnas and Fruman came under scrutiny in the impeachment inquiry (but before his arrest), Trump personally approved his former lawyer John Dowd’s representation of the pair. That’s according to an email from Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow.

Do you remember what Trump said about Parnas after he was arrested and people immediately found many pictures of the two together?

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday told reporters that he doesn’t know two Ukrainian associates of Rudy Giuliani arrested on campaign finance charges — despite being pictured with both of them.

The previous evening Florida-based businessmen Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — clients of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani — were arrested on charges of campaign finance violations involving a pro-Trump PAC and Republican candidates.

“I don’t know those gentlemen. Now it’s possible I have a picture with them because I have a picture with everybody, I have a picture with everybody here,” Trump said, according to a pool report.

“But somebody said that there may be a picture or something at a fundraiser or somewhere. But I have pictures with everybody.”

“I don’t know them. I don’t know about them. I don’t know what they do but I don’t know, maybe they were clients of Rudy. You’d have to ask Rudy, I just don’t know,” continued the president.

There’s really only one defense available to Trump, and that’s the one Nixon tried out after he’d already been drummed out of office. In 1977, British journalist David Frost interviewed Nixon and asked him about his illegal activities. Nixon famously responded, “Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

If the Republican senators agree, then he’ll be acquitted.

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Martin Longman

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