House Democrats unveiled new evidence Tuesday that they plan to send to the Senate as part of their case to remove President Donald Trump from office, providing text messages and hand-written notes from an indicted Rudy Giuliani associate that add more details about the push for Ukraine to announce an investigation against Trump’s political rivals.
The documents show how the associate, Lev Parnas, sought to set up a meeting between Giuliani and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and connect with members of his government. The records also add more details about the push by Giuliani to seek the ouster of the then-US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.
The House Intelligence Committee pored through the reams of material provided by Parnas as they prepared for Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, and the transition of the material to the Senate suggests House Democrats may cite the documents while presenting their case. Joseph Bondy, Parnas’ attorney, hand-delivered the contents of an iPhone to the Intelligence panel’s staff over the weekend.
The House panel made some of the documents that Parnas provided public on Tuesday, including a letter from Giuliani to then-President-elect Zelensky requesting a meeting as the President’s personal attorney, in which Giuliani said he was working “with the President’s knowledge and consent.” There are also text messages that show Parnas’ communications with members of Zelesnky’s aides where he pursued a meeting between Zelensky and Giuliani and provided negative information about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
The text messages provided show exchanges with former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, who provided Giuliani with unsubstantiated allegations against the Bidens last year, pushing for the ouster of Yovanovitch. In the texts, he suggested that he wanted Yovanovitch removed if he was going to provide allegations to Giuliani about “B,” which could be a reference to Burisma or the Bidens, saying, “If you don’t make a decision about Madam — you are bringing into question all my allegations. Including about B.”
The documents also include a hand-written note on stationery from the Ritz-Carlton in Vienna, Austria, that Bondy said was written by his client, which says: “get Zalensky (sic) to Annonce (sic) that the Biden case will Be Investigated.” There are also cryptic text messages suggesting that Yovanovitch’s movements were being tracked.
The Senate trial is expected to begin next week, and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, is expected to lead the House’s presentation of the case against the President. The House is expected to have to present exhibits and trial records ahead of time, according to sources, which means Democrats expected to need to provide materials on the front end — although the House has yet to see the formal resolution laying out the trial rules from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“I think it’s something we can’t ignore,” said Rep. Val Demings, a Florida Democrat on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees, told CNN when asked about Parnas’ documents. “To what extent we can get through it before the Senate trial remains to be seen.”
In response to the House committee releasing the records, Bondy tweeted: “HPSCI has just transmitted evidence from Lev Parnas to the Judiciary Committee, which it deemed relevant to @POTUS’ impeachment inquiry. Mr. Parnas remains committed to testifying as to all the actions he took in Ukraine on behalf of @realDonaldTrump.”
‘With his knowledge and consent’
The tranche of documents released Tuesday included the previously undisclosed letter from Giuliani to Zelensky asking for a meeting in mid-May of last year. Parnas included a screenshot of the letter in a text to Serhiy Shefir, an aide to Zelensky.
“Along with many others, I am very hopeful that your election is a real turning point and allows the Ukraine to prosper and overcome some of the long-standing problems of the past,” Giuliani wrote.
He then made his ask: “In my capacity as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent, I request a meeting with you on this upcoming Monday, May 13th or Tuesday, May 14th. I will need no more than a half-hour of your time and I will be accompanied by my colleague Victoria Toensing, a distinguished American attorney who is very familiar with this matter.”
Subsequent texts between Parnas and Shefir indicate the two met in Kyiv at Restaurant Prague after Giuliani canceled his trip.
The new documents also provide additional details on Giuliani’s efforts to obtain a visa for former Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin, which had been denied by the State Department. Giuliani repeatedly told Parnas in text messages that he would help him obtain a visa after it was denied, and provided Parnas with the contact info of the President’s attorney Jay Sekulow. The visa was ultimately not issued.
The texts help establish the role that Parnas played in Giuilani’s Ukrainian efforts. In the early stages of the impeachment investigation, Trump allies described Parnas as a low-level “translator” who assisted Giuliani and occasionally had his photo snapped with Trump at events for political donors. But the documents make it clear that Parnas was not a bit player — he was in direct communication with members of the incoming Zelensky administration in spring 2019.
The documents reveal that Parnas communicated with Ivan Bakanov, who is the chief of Ukraine’s Security Service, which means he is one of the senior law enforcement and intelligence officials in Ukraine. House Democrats say the documents show how Parnas sent articles to Bakanov containing smears and “false allegations” against Biden, and that Bakanov said he shared the articles with Zelensky. The articles were about alleged corruption by Biden and his son, the same claims Trump has promoted without providing any evidence.
A new figure emerges
The texts disclosed Tuesday also revealed a previously unknown participant in Parnas’ efforts: Republican Connecticut congressional candidate Robert Hyde. In a series of texts, Hyde ranted in crude language about a person identified by the House of Representative committee officials as Yovanovitch.
“F— that bitch,” Hyde wrote to Parnas on March 22, 2019, in response to a series of articles and tweets Parnas sent him. The following day, he continued: “Wow. Can’t believe Trumo (sic) hasn’t fired this bitch. I’ll get right in that.”
The House Intelligence Committee said that the texts suggested he had Yovnoavitch under physical surveillance while in Kiev.
“Wake up Yankees man. She’s talked to three people. Her phone is off. Computer is off. She’s next to the embassy. Not in the embassy. Private security. Been there since Thursday.”
Hyde told Parnas “that address I sent you checks out” and “they are willing to help if we/you would like a price.” He added: “Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money … what I was told.”
The text messages also provide the first evidence that Giuliani and Parnas had advance notice Trump had made the decision in April to remove Yovanovitch as ambassador to Ukraine. One day before she was informed by her bosses at the State Department that she was being stripped of her position, Giuliani texted Parnas, “he fired her again,” according to the documents. Giuliani has spoken openly about his role in removing Yovanovitch, but the information released Tuesday is the first contemporaneous written record of his central role in the scheme.
Reached by a CNN reporter by phone Tuesday, Hyde declined to comment when asked about the House Democrats’ statement that the text messages suggested Hyde had Yovanovitch under physical surveillance in Kiev. He said he has not heard from prosecutors.
Told he was speaking to a CNN reporter, Hyde said: “Communist News Network? Sorry, I only talk to Fox, OAN and Blaze reporters like Eric Bolling.”
Larry Robbins, Yovanovitch’s lawyer, declined to comment on the texts.
Questions on how the documents will be used in Senate trial
On Tuesday, Schiff said he didn’t know if the House impeachment managers would be able to present in the Senate any new evidence that has emerged since the chamber impeached Trump in late December because they don’t know what the trial procedures will look like under the resolution being drafted by McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.
“This is going to be a partisan resolution by Mitch McConnell, and I’m sure it will be drafted with the White House lawyers to give the President every advantage,” Schiff said on MSNBC. “I will say this, though. It’s going to be hard for the Senate to ignore information that comes into the public record and say we’re not going to consider that, even though it’s directly relevant, even though it’s directly incriminating.”
Parnas and Igor Fruman worked with Giuliani in Ukraine as part of the President’s lawyer’s efforts to oust the US ambassador to Ukraine and then push the country to investigate Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company which made up the core of the House’s impeachment case. Parnas and Fruman were indicted by federal prosecutors late last year.
Parnas’ document dump is one of several developments that have occurred since the House passed two impeachment articles against the President — and additional information could be released during the trial. The watchdog group American Oversight has already received documents from the State Department, thanks to Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, and is slated to receive Ukraine records from the Energy Department on January 28 — which is likely to be in the middle of the Senate trial.
If new documents come up in the trial, Chief Justice John Roberts could have to rule on whether they are admissible. Fifty-one senators could vote to overturn a chief justice’s decision, senators said.
“We could” overturn Roberts’ rulings, said Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of Senate GOP leadership. “Or if he doesn’t admit (records), we could overturn the chief justice.”
It’s not yet clear how Schiff and other potential House impeachment managers would use any new information during the trial that wasn’t available when the House voted to impeach the President, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has touted the new development as part of her argument that the strategy of withholding the impeachment articles for nearly a month was effective.