The Democrats’ latest star witness has an ulterior motive, President Donald Trump suggested.
The president put Lev Parnas, a Ukrainian-born ex-associate of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, at arm’s length in comments at the White House on Thursday. Democrats and the media have seized on Parnas’ claims that he worked at Trump’s behest to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, but the president said that he did not know Parnas and that “he’s trying to probably to make a deal for himself.”
Trump denies knowing Parnas
Parnas, who was indicted in October for campaign finance charges, entered the media spotlight this week as House investigators released a tranche of documents from Parnas that purportedly detail a plot to have Ukraine investigate the Bidens. In an interview with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, Parnas claimed that Trump and much of his Cabinet, including Attorney General Bill Barr, “knew exactly what was going on.”
Some Democrats have expressed measured doubts about Parnas’ credibility, but in practice, they are eager to exploit his convenient, eleventh-hour “bombshells” as they press for additional witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial. Reacting to the Parnas news cycle, Trump denied knowing the Ukrainian-American businessman and suggested that a picture of him with Parnas at a fundraiser meant nothing.
“I don’t know Parnas other than I guess I had pictures taken — which I do with thousands of people, including people today,” Trump said.
Democrats have alleged that Parnas was part of a conspiracy that may have included everyone from Trump to lawmakers like Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who had phone logs of alleged conversations with Parnas exposed by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). In his interview with Maddow, Parnas claimed that the Ukraine pressure effort was always solely about opening an investigation into Burisma Holdings, the corrupt Ukrainian energy company on whose board Hunter Biden, son of Joe Biden, sat with no relevant experience or reason.
Dems boost “bombshells” as trial starts
Democrats, and leading anti-Trump networks like CNN and Maddow’s MSNBC, wasted no time pushing Parnas’ claims to ramp up pressure on Republican senators. The Democrats claim that Trump and Republican lawmakers are trying to “cover-up” incriminating evidence as Republicans seek to limit testimony in the trial, which will continue Tuesday.
Democrats are seeking testimony from John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, and other administration officials who they say are critical open leads in the Ukraine drama. But Republicans insist that the Democrats are trying to give Republicans the burden of finishing their inadequate investigative work and that calls for more evidence prove, if anything, that the vote to impeach Trump was a pre-judged decision.
The House voted to transmit articles of impeachment to the Senate on Wednesday after a month of delay, during which Democratic leaders failed to win a pre-trial commitment from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to allow for additional witnesses.
McConnell has expressed confidence that he has the 51 votes needed to shut down the Democrats’ demands for more evidence, but a handful of Republicans, namely Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Trump nemesis Mitt Romney (R-UT), may cross party lines on that issue.
Republicans reject GAO claims
Meanwhile, Democrats have pointed to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) which claims that Trump broke the law by suspending military aid to Ukraine. Republicans have dismissed the GAO claims as meaningless, arguing that Trump has the authority to give or cut foreign aid, and they have questioned Parnas’ credibility. “I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
Anyone who was awake during the Mueller saga can see this as a partisan ambush. Republicans should come prepared for the worst, and get ready to move on from this disgrace.