Rep. Adam B. Schiff is promoting a new anti-Trump witness whose public allegations have been met with vehement denials and at least one lawsuit.
Lev Parnas, with his attorney, has been lobbying to become a star Schiff impeachment witness in a Senate trial as part of the congressman’s drive to remove President Trump from office.
Mr. Schiff, California Democrat and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, injected Mr. Parnas last week into the impeachment record. He and other Democrats released two troves of Parnas downloads from his various electronic devices including texts, emails and photos of himself with Mr. Trump.
Republicans say Mr. Parnas, who stands indicted on charges of making illegal campaign donations and is under house detention in Florida, is angling to cut a deal with federal prosecutors in New York who have looked into other matters involving the president.
The aim of Parnas attorney Joseph Bondy is to show his client had a front-row seat to a high-stakes campaign by Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney, to persuade Ukraine to announce an investigation into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter.
“After our trip to D.C., we worked through the night providing a trove of Lev Parnas’ WhatsApp messages, text messages & images … to [the House intelligence committee] detailing interactions with a number of individuals relevant to the impeachment inquiry,” Mr. Bondy tweeted on Jan. 12.
SEE ALSO: David Perdue dismisses Lev Parnas as impeachment ‘distraction’
Mr. Parnas appeared on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show Wednesday to level a series of fresh and sensational allegations against Mr. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General William Barr and others.
Conservatives on social media say Mr. Parnas is only another questionable Trump critic whom Democrats are promoting.
Ms. Maddow and Mr. Schiff have been loyal supporters of the Democratic Party-financed anti-Trump dossier. Sourced to anonymous Kremlin figures, the dossier made a dozen felony charges against Mr. Trump and several of his allies. Two government reports last year by special counsel Robert Mueller and Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz essentially discredited the claims.
Sen. David Perdue, Georgia Republican, dismissed efforts Sunday by Democrats to inject the Ukrainian-American businessman into the impeachment proceedings as a “distraction” based on “second-hand information.”
“This is a distraction. This is a person that’s been indicted right now,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “He’s out on bail. He’s been meeting with the House intel committee. If the House felt this information was pertinent, I would think they would have included him and his testimony in this.”
He added that Mr. Parnas also has personal motivations to cooperate with congressional Democrats seeking to impeach President Trump.
Does Mr. Parnas have material evidence? “That’s the deal he’s trying to make to get his sentence reduced,” Mr. Perdue said. “I’m not sure he does at all, personally.”
A favorite Parnas target is Rep. Devin Nunes of California. As the ranking Republican on the intelligence committee, Mr. Nunes has been locked in a number of battles with Mr. Schiff over Mr. Trump.
Mr. Nunes has termed Mr. Schiff’s Ukraine-centered impeachment investigation a “hoax,” just like the Trump-Russia conspiracy dossier. At hearings, he notes that Mr. Schiff tried to obtain naked pictures of Mr. Trump from the Kremlin via a person he thought was a Ukrainian politician. The person on the call turned out to be a Russian prankster who released a recording.
Mr. Schiff subpoenaed 3,500 pages of AT&T phone records and released data in December that showed Mr. Nunes spoke briefly with Mr. Parnas.
The Parnas document release last week showed that Nunes aide Derek Harvey had communicated with Mr. Parnas. Mr. Harvey inquired into whether Ukrainian officials intervened in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Congressional staffers said there was nothing wrong with Mr. Nunes’ committee aides interviewing potential witnesses because Ukraine was suspected of election interference. A House impeachment witness said Ukrainian officials backed Mrs. Clinton in 2016.
Before his document release and TV appearance last week, Mr. Parnas said Mr. Nunes made a secret trip to Vienna in 2018 to meet with former Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin. Mr. Nunes branded the story as fiction. He said he made no such stop during his trip to Libya and Malta and filed a defamation lawsuit in federal court against CNN, which reported the allegation.
Mr. Parnas also claimed to have had an extensive meeting with Mr. Trump during a White House Hanukkah party to plot strategy against Mr. Biden. Mr. Giuliani, who invited Mr. Parnas to the party, said they spent two minutes with Mr. Trump at a photo op but otherwise had no meeting.
The Parnas transition from Trump supporter to accuser began with his association with Mr. Giuliani.
In his role as Mr. Trump’s personal attorney, Mr. Giuliani started investigating corruption in Ukraine and any role of the Bidens. Hunter Biden won a lucrative appointment to Burisma Holdings, an oligarch-owned natural gas firm in Kyiv, soon after his father became the Obama White House’s point man for directing aid to Ukraine.
Mr. Giuliani has readily acknowledged that he used Mr. Parnas, a Florida businessman, as an intermediary to meet and interview Ukrainian figures. The two were photographed together at various public political events.
Mr. Parnas’ messages and notes show that he and Mr. Guiliani were working to oust U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, whom Mr. Trump eventually fired.
Mr. Giuliani, who as U.S. attorney in Manhattan brought indictments against mobsters and stock swindlers, has compiled affidavits and documents that he says show Biden corruption.
House Democrats voted to impeach Mr. Trump on a charge that he abused his power by withholding military aid to Ukraine as he pushed for an investigation into the former vice president, who is now running for the Democratic presidential nomination.
After Mr. Schiff released the Parnas file, the former friend of Mr. Giuliani appeared on Ms. Maddow’s show.
He provided some sensational new allegations.
Vice President Mike Pence
Mr. Parnas said the vice president was aware Mr. Trump wanted newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation into the Bidens. When Mr. Zelensky failed to follow through on the promise, Mr. Pence canceled his plans to attend the Ukrainian presidential inauguration.
Ms. Maddow: “So, you believe that Mr. Pence’s trip to the inauguration was canceled because they didn’t agree.”
Mr. Parnas: “Oh, I know, 100%.”
“I mean, I know he went to Poland also to discuss this on Trump’s behalf, so he couldn’t have not known, absolutely.”
Mr. Pence told reporters traveling with him Thursday in Tampa, Florida, that Mr. Parnas’ claim that he was aware of outreach to Mr. Zelensky for an investigation of the Bidens was “completely false,” the pool report said.
Attorney General William P. Barr
“Attorney General Barr was basically on the team,” said Mr. Parnas, referring to Mr. Giuliani and two other attorneys, Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing.
Also on the agenda, Mr. Parnas said, was reaching out to Ukrainian businessman Dmytro Firtash, who is fighting extradition to the U.S. The aim was to get the Justice Department to drop its case filed in Chicago.
“I personally did not speak to [Mr. Barr], but I was involved in lots of conversations that Joe diGenova had with him in front of me, Rudy had with him in front of me and setting up meetings with Dmytro Firtash’s team. I was involved in that,” Mr. Parnas said.
“Mr. Barr had to have known everything. I mean, it’s impossible,” he said. “Not only Rudy Giuliani. I mean, Victoria and Joe, they were all best friends. I mean, Barr — Barr was — Attorney General Barr was basically on the team.”
Kerri Kupec, chief Justice Department spokesperson, categorically denied Mr. Parnas’ narrative.
The Maddow show messaged a synopsis of Mr. Parnas’ claims, and Ms. Kupec responded, “100% false.”
Ms. Kupec tweeted a statement from September after the White House released a transcript of Mr. Trump’s July 25 phone call with Mr. Zelensky: “The president has not spoken with the attorney general about having Ukraine investigate anything relating to former Vice President Biden or his son. The president has not asked the attorney general to contact Ukraine — on this or any other subject. Nor has the attorney general discussed this matter, or anything relating to Ukraine, with Rudy Giuliani.”
Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing
Mr. Parnas said the legal couple talked with Mr. Barr about the Bidens.
“Last night on @maddow show @LevParnas absolutely lied,” Ms. Toensing tweeted. “Joe and I never ever discussed Ukraine corruption with AG Barr. Not ever. Any discussion with AG was about our own client. Never about anything @RudyGiuliani was doing.”
Their “own client” is Mr. Firtash, the Ukrainian oligarch who is fighting U.S. extradition on bribery charges after his 2014 arrest in Vienna. He hired the duo last year.
Ms. Toensing said of Ms. Maddow, “Also not smart enough to know when inconsistent.”
Mr. Parnas said Mr. Firtash was at the center of an effort by Mr. diGenova and Ms. Toensing to somehow discredit the Mueller investigation, which ended in March.
The Washington Post reported that Mr. diGenova met with his old friend Mr. Barr, who declined to intervene in the Firtash case.
Rep. Devin Nunes
“We don’t have too much of a relationship,” Mr. Parnas said. “We met several times at the Trump hotel, but our relationship started getting basically where it expanded was when I was introduced to his aide, Derek Harvey.”
Mr. Nunes’ office declined to comment.
But after Mr. Schiff released some of Mr. Parnas’ phone calls, which purportedly showed two missed calls and one eight-minute call with Mr. Nunes, the congressman said in December on Fox News, “I’ve never met Parnas.”
“You can’t trust anything this guy says,” Mr. Nunes said of Mr. Schiff. “We embarrassed them with the Russia hoax.”
The last time Mr. Parnas made an allegation against Mr. Nunes, the congressman filed a libel lawsuit against CNN.
Mr. Nunes, as chairman of the House intelligence committee, discovered during a 2017-2018 investigation that Democrats had funded the anti-Trump dossier. He issued a report clearing the Trump campaign of Russia collusion.
He said false media stories have smeared him.
An MSNBC analyst has accused Mr. Nunes of being a traitor beholden to the Kremlin.
Mr. Nunes now is threatening legal action against Rep. Ted Lieu, California Democrat, who on Friday tweeted parts of a letter sent to him by Virginia lawyer Steven S. Biss. Mr. Biss has brought a number of Nunes defamation cases, including against CNN, Twitter and the McClatchy newspaper chain.
Mr. Lieu has accused Mr. Nunes of conspiring with Mr. Parnas. Mr. Biss demanded a retraction.
“I welcome any lawsuit from your client and look forward to taking discovery of Congressman Nunes,” Mr. Lieu said in a return Jan. 16 letter. “Or you can take your letter and shove it.”
Mr. Lieu, like his colleague Mr. Schiff, has been a prominent supporter of the discredited anti-Trump dossier.
“We know that with the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] application, the relevant parts of Christopher Steele’s dossier were corroborated,” Mr. Lieu said on CNN in August 2018. “That was in the Democratic memo about the FISA application. We also know that as time goes on more and more parts of the Steele dossier get corroborated.”
The historical record rebuts this.
Mr. Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general, said in his Dec. 9 report that none of the FBI’s dossier sections used to obtain a FISA wiretap was corroborated. The inspector general said dossier writer Christopher Steele relied on a Kremlin contact who later told investigators that he was simply repeating gossip to Mr. Steele.
The Mueller report said the FBI didn’t find a Trump-Russia election conspiracy, as the dossier claimed.
Mr. Parnas, a Soviet-born U.S. citizen, and a colleague, Igor Fruman, were arrested Oct. 9 by FBI agents as they were about to board a flight to Europe on one-way tickets.
They are accused of illegally funneling foreign funds into a Republican political action committee and campaigns. The indictment said the motive was to increase their profiles among Republican political and business leaders.
• Valerie Richardson contributed to this report.