Indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas helped Devin Nunes with investigations in Europe

Lev Parnas didn't just aid Giuliani's Ukraine escapades, he also helped Nunes, says his lawyer

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published November 21, 2019 11:11AM (EST)

Lev Parnas and Devin Nunes (AP Photo/Getty Images/Salon)
Lev Parnas and Devin Nunes (AP Photo/Getty Images/Salon)

Lev Parnas, an indicted businessman who assisted Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani in his hunt for damaging information about Joe Biden in Ukraine, also helped Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., in the Congressman's attempts to help discredit the Russia investigation, according to his lawyer.

Parnas was Giuliani’s man on the ground in Ukraine as he sought to implicate Biden in a baseless corruption scandal in order to help President Donald Trump's campaign for re-election by searching for incriminating information about Biden, which grew out of an effort to find evidence that would discredit former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Parnas’ attorneys have said that he is willing to testify about his meetings with the president and Ukrainian officials.

On Wednesday, Parnas’ attorney Ed MacMahon told The Daily Beast that Parnas also helped arrange overseas meetings and calls for Nunes in 2018.

MacMahon did not say the meetings were specifically related to Russia but confirmed they were part of Nunes’ investigative work. The meetings took place as the then-chairman of the House Intelligence Committee led an investigation into the origins of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Nunes’ aide Derek Harvey participated in the meetings, MacMahon told the outlet. Congressional records show that Nunes and three aides traveled to Europe in November of last year at a cost of $63,000 to taxpayers.

Nunes, the top Republican presiding over the impeachment hearings — in which Parnas has repeatedly been referenced — was central to Trump’s efforts to discredit the Mueller probe. Nunes infamously made a late-night trip to the White House after Congress launched a probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and then announced he had discovered evidence of wrongdoing by officials inside the Intelligence Community. Nunes was ultimately forced to step back from the Intelligence Committee’s investigation but launched his own inquiry into the origins of Mueller’s probe. Attorney General Bill Barr later appointed United States Attorney John Durham to conduct a similar investigation.

Nunes continued to malign the Russia investigation at Wednesday’s impeachment hearing, decrying it as the “Russia hoax” even though the Intelligence Committee is now investigating whether Trump lied to Mueller’s investigators in his sworn statements. Former Trump campaign official Rick Gates testified in court earlier this month that Trump discussed Democratic emails stolen by Russian operatives and released by WikiLeaks with longtime adviser Roger Stone, who was convicted last week of lying to Congress about WikiLeaks.

While Parnas helped Nunes arrange meetings, he also assisted Giuliani in smearing then-Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who later testified that she was ousted by Trump because Giuliani believed she was interfering with his efforts. The Justice Department in its indictment alleged that Parnas and partner Igor Fruman illegally funneled money into elections to “advance the political interests of . . . a Ukrainian government official who sought the dismissal of the U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine.”

Parnas and Fruman both pleaded not guilty. Both men retained former Trump attorney John Dowd after their arrest, but Parnas later fired Dowd after the president claimed not to know him — even though they have met several times.

Numerous new details and allegations have emerged in the weeks since Parnas fired Dowd. Parnas told associates that Trump tasked him with a “secret mission” at a 2018 White House Hanukkah party to pressure Ukraine into investigating the Bidens, according to two of his confidants who spoke to CNN.

Parnas also met Trump at a small fundraising dinner at his Washington, D.C. hotel in April 2018 where he says he convinced Trump to fire Yovanovitch, according to The Washington Post.

In February 2019, Parnas and Fruman met top Ukrainian officials and offered a State Dinner at the White House in exchange for the country publicly committing to the investigations Trump and Giuliani had pushed for, according to The Wall Street Journal.

After Volodymyr Zelensky won the Ukrainian presidential election earlier this year, Parnas told the new administration that aid would be withheld and Vice President Mike Pence would not attend Zelensky's inauguration without a public announcement of the investigations, according to his attorney. Fruman acknowledges the meeting happened, but has denied mentioning aid or Pence; Giuliani has denied directing Parnas to issue threats of withholding aid or support. Pence later abruptly pulled out of the inauguration.

MacMahon told The Daily Beast that Parnas is willing to tell Congress everything he knows because he is upset that Trump claimed not to know him.

“President Trump’s recent and regrettable disavowal of Mr. Parnas has caused him to rethink his involvement and the true reasons for his having been recruited to participate in the President’s activities,” MacMahon said. “Mr. Parnas is prepared to testify completely and accurately about his involvement in the President and Rudy Giuliani’s quid pro quo demands of Ukraine.”

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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