Mr. Parnas Goes to Washington

WASHINGTON (CN) — As the Amtrak Acela from New York sped into Washington’s Union Station shortly before 11 a.m. Wednesday, reporters swarmed to greet indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, joining his legal team on a journey to the U.S. Capitol.

“I want this under oath so this way the truth is out, so that we don’t have to do this in the media,” Parnas told reporters on the last leg of his voyage, right before the entryway to the Senate.

Lev Parnas is pictured in this undated photo sitting in the office of onetime Congressman Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican who chaired the House Rules Committee before losing re-election in 2018. Now under indictment, Parnas wears a GPS bracelet that bars him from entering the Senate for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

Parnas could not enter the storied institution because of a bail condition as he awaits trial in the Southern District of New York: Senate rules prohibit wearing electronic devices, and Parnas must not remove his GPS monitoring.

“We can’t get Mr. Parnas in today because he’s wearing a GPS device on his ankle, and it’s not permitted in the gallery,” said Joseph Bondy, an attorney for Parnas. “But he’s with us because what we’re hoping is that we can get the message out and that message is: A fair trial involves witnesses and evidence. Without witnesses or evidence, you just don’t have a trial.”

Parnas, who has made the cable TV rounds over the last month, reiterated to reporters that he has useful information to share with senators, including allegations that have been corroborated by documents released by the House Intelligence Committee.

“I think I’ve said a lot, and I think a lot has been proven by my evidence that I brought over to the House,” Parnas continued. “So, the next thing is I’d like to be involved, and I welcome all of them, I welcome Rudy [Giuliani] to come testify. I welcome the president to come testify under oath. I welcome [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo to come testify under oath, and attorney general Bill Barr.”

Before arriving at the Capitol, Parnas and Bondy paid a visit to the Hart Building, the site of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office.

“We asked Senator Schumer, and he was kind enough to extend tickets to the legal team,” Bondy noted.

In court documents released on Tuesday night, the senator’s aides could be seen exchanging emails with Bondy trying to get his client a seat in the Senate gallery to watch today’s trial, before the effort hit the GPS logistical snag.

The president’s lawyer Giuliani has been facing government scrutiny for his ties to Global Energy Producers, a business run by Parnas and his co-defendant Igor Fruman, which federal prosecutors say was a shell company for funneling six-figure donations to prominent Republicans. Parnas and Fruman have pleaded not guilty.

Asked about the last time he saw the former New York City mayor, Parnas replied simply: “The day I got arrested.”

On the evening of Oct. 9, 2019, authorities intercepted Parnas and Fruman in Washington’s Dulles Airport, where the men held one-way tickets to Vienna, Austria.

Parnas, a Rudy Giuliani associate with ties to Ukraine, has his ankle bracelet checked by a member of the U.S. Capitol Police on Wednesday during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Exactly one week earlier, President Donald Trump, through his attorney Jay Sekulow, signed off on Parnas and Fruman’s criminal defense counsel.

Opposing congressional subpoenas for documents at the time, Parnas and Fruman were represented by John Dowd, who is also a former lawyer for Trump. Dowd no longer represents either men, but Fruman kept his legal team close to the White House with attorney Todd Blanche, who previously represented Paul Manafort, the convicted former chair of Trump’s 2016 election campaign.

Parnas pursued a dramatically different legal strategy, dropping Dowd in favor of Bondy and embarking on what only can be described as a campaign of full disclosure: a Nielsen-smashing interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, a follow-up with CNN’s Anderson Cooper and, of course, the wholesale transmission to the House Intelligence Committee of forensic scans of multiple electronic devices that Parnas held.

After watching three hours of proceedings, Bondy and Parnas returned to the steps of the Capitol for a follow-up press conference with a walk back to Senator Schumer’s office, to return the invitations.

Uncommonly accessible for a criminal defense attorney preparing for his client’s trial, Bondy emphasized that they have withstood the glare of lawmakers, investigators and the international press.

“We will know that we stood in front of you, naked, willing to speak, to tell the truth, and we’ll be able to look back on this part of our lives and know that we did it,” Bondy remarked, as he stood outside the same Hart Office Building where the day began.

While waiting for an elevator inside the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, Lev Parnas and his attorney Joseph Bondy took questions from dozens of reporters who tracked them down on Wednesday. (CNS photo/Adam Klasfeld)

Along the way, Parnas turned up the heat on the president’s inner circle, telling reporters that Secretary Pompeo may be feeling himself under pressure.

“I think he has a lot of things in his closet that he doesn’t want to get out,” Parnas charged. “His relationship was very, very, very close to Giuliani, Trump, Bolton. This whole firing business of the ambassador.”

Recordings and documents that Parnas shared with the House Intelligence Committee lay bare a plan, with the knowledge of the president, to smear, possibly surveil and allegedly threaten ex-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, whose reputation for anti-corruption advocacy won her acclaim inside the State Department and powerful enemies where she was posted.

“So, I think he’s trying to, ‘Hopefully, this passes on,’” Parnas said, referring to Pompeo.

When pressed on his actions in Ukraine by NPR’s national-security correspondent Mary Louise Kelly, Secretary Pompeo berated the reporter in private before issuing a press release that attacked her for reporting their interaction. The exchange occurred after Kelly asked Pompeo whether he owed Yovanovitch an apology.

Asked by a reporter why the public should trust him, Parnas referred to the corroborating documents, but his attorney made a more foundational point.

“Let me speak to trust for a second: I don’t see anyone else from the president’s camp standing here and talking to you,” Bondy told reporters in front of the Capitol steps. “I don’t see any of them attempting to be made a witness, attempting to be placed under oath, cooperating and providing information.”

The second article of impeachment against Trump, for obstructing Congress, made note of the president’s blanket ban on anyone from his administration agreeing to testify and prohibiting his agencies from complying with requests for documents.

As they prepared for their journey back to New York, Parnas and his legal team have an important federal court fight on Thursday that could affect their strategy of disclosure. Fruman’s legal team has asked a federal judge, not only to prevent Parnas from sharing more data, but to “claw back” information that may fall under attorney-client privilege.

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