WASHINGTON — House Democrats’ new impeachment report reveals startling new details about one of President Trump’s chief Republican defenders in Congress: Rep. Devin Nunes.
The report lays out how Nunes held repeated phone calls with key players at the center of the Ukraine scandal, including indicted Soviet-born businessman Lev Parnas and Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, at key moments under investigation.
And Democrats brought receipts: In the form of phone records subpoenaed from AT&T.
Nunes’ calls with an accused felon wrapped up in Trump’s Ukraine scandal deepen questions about the congressman’s own involvement. Most pressing of all: Why didn’t he disclose his contacts with figures in the drama, despite presiding over last month’s impeachment hearings as the top-ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee?
“There’s a lot more to learn about that, and I don’t want to state that that is an unequivocal fact. But the allegations are deeply concerning.”
Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, said Tuesday he would “reserve comment” about Nunes — but then went on to thrash Nunes for his apparent behavior anyway.
“It is, I think, deeply concerning that at a time when the President of the United States was using the power of his office to dig up dirt on a political rival, that there may be evidence that there were members of congress complicit in that activity,” Schiff said. “There’s a lot more to learn about that, and I don’t want to state that that is an unequivocal fact. But the allegations are deeply concerning.”
Nunes’ office did not immediately return a request for comment on Tuesday afternoon.
The records show a series of calls between Nunes and Parnas, who is facing felony charges from prosecutors in New York for allegedly attempting to buy political influence in the U.S. by making illegal donations to GOP political campaigns.
On Monday, prosecutors said the case against Parnas is likely to expand with fresh charges or additional defendants, but didn’t give specifics.
The report released Tuesday by Democrats even includes a handy chart documenting the calls between the various players.
Parnas has already acknowledged he helped guide Giuliani in Ukraine during Giuliani’s quest to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden, who is now campaigning to run against Trump in 2020. On Tuesday, in the wake of the report, Parnas’ New York-based defense attorney Joseph Bondy tweeted that Nunes should have recused himself from the impeachment hearings.
Bondy told CNN last month that Parnas is prepared to testify about meetings Nunes had with a former Ukrainian prosecutor named Victor Shokin to discuss digging up dirt on Biden.
The report notes a flurry of calls that followed an April 7 article in The Hill by controversial journalist John Solomon. Solomon’s piece essentially accused then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Maria Yovanovitch of withholding U.S. visas from Ukrainian officials who were supposedly primed to deliver evidence of wrongdoing by Democrats, including Biden, to Trump’s Department of Justice.
After that article, the report shows, the phone lines of Trump’s allies lit up.
“Over the course of the four days following the April 7 article, phone records show contacts between Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Parnas, Representative Devin Nunes, and Mr. Solomon,” the report states. “Phone records also show contacts on April 10 between Mr. Giuliani and Rep. Nunes, consisting of three short calls in rapid succession, followed by a text message, and ending with a nearly three-minute call.”
On April 12, Parnas was at the center of a flurry of calls with Nunes, Giuliani, and Solomon — while Giuliani also connected with a number associated with the White House and another with the Office of Management and Budget, which is headed by Trump Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
Nunes and Parnas exchanged at least four calls on April 12, with the longest lasting 8 minutes and 34 seconds. Less than 10 minutes later, Parnas was back on the phone with Solomon, the records show.
Meanwhile, a campaign in the right-wing media against Yovanovitch was ramping up, culminating in her early removal from her post.
Trump ordered Yovanovitch to return to Washington on April 24, paving the way for the so-called “three amigos” to take over Ukraine policy, Schiff claimed on Tuesday.
The amigos included EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who stated categorically in sworn testimony that, “yes,” there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine to exchange a presidential visit for the announcement of investigations. Sondland also said he personally told a Ukrainian official that he thought there was a link between the announcement of investigations and a hold-up by Trump of much-needed military aid from the U.S. to Ukraine.
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