Lev Parnas, Creator of Echo Chambers

Last night, Lev Parnas gave the first half of a very explosive interview to Rachel Maddow.

I’ll go back and dig into it in more detail later. But for now, I’d like to make one observation about what the texts from Parnas released over the last few days show (though a large volume, because they’re in Russian, will escape close crowdsourced analysis).

Over and over, we see Parnas feeding very well placed people links to (usually) frothy media stories, many of those stories based on false claims he is getting Ukrainians and others to tell. Parnas claims — a claim that is only partly true — that these stories are all about the Bidens, though he admits they are partly about 2016. As such, Parnas presents himself as creating, then magnifying, the stories that President Trump wants to tell. He has positioned himself to be a gatekeeper because he serves as translator for Rudy, who is mentally unstable and probably desperate for other reasons but also believes he’s pursuing stories that will help his ostensible client, Donald Trump, though Trump is not the one paying to have these stories told. But he’s also the translator for John Solomon. Parnas is the only one on the American side who can assess what kind of prices Rudy (and Victoria Toensing and Joe DiGenova) are paying to create these stories. Indeed, a key part of this economy involved removing the people — not just Marie Yovanovitch, but also Fiona Hill and Bill Taylor — who could warn about the costs being incurred along the way.

In short, for the last 18 months, Parnas has played a key part in creating the right wing echo chamber, one that — particularly because the addled Rudy is a trusted advisor — forms a key part of how Trump understands the world. One way Parnas did that was by recruiting Ukrainians who were, for very crass reasons, willing to tell Trump and the rest of the frothy right what they wanted to hear, even though it was assuredly not true.

Remarkably, we really don’t know why Parnas decided to play a key cog in the right wing echo chamber in the first place. He’s a grifter, but even with a recent cash infusion from Dmitro Firtash, he’s not getting rich. He was in a powerful position, the one sober person at Trump’s hotel bar, spinning up the drunk Trump sycophants. But that “power” got him indicted for the influence peddling that first landed him in this position. Before answering why he’s telling his story now, without immunity and while facing down still more charges, we’d want to understand that primary motivation, and we don’t know it yet.

Last night’s interview continued that grift, only he moved to spin an echo chamber for the left this time. He emphasized — and Maddow predictably responded — some of the key allegations Democrats most want to be true. Mike Pence is closely involved, Parnas revealed, and while nothing he revealed would amount to impeachable conduct, Democrats immediately latched onto the possibility it would be. Everyone was involved, Parnas confirmed, including Devin Nunes and Bill Barr. It was all about Biden, Parnas almost certainly lied.

In short, doing what he appears to be very good at, Parnas is telling us what we want to hear, whether true or not.

On key parts of his story, however, he got — with the help of MSNBC’s editors — notably more reserved or deceitful. We didn’t learn the full terms of his relationship with Firtash, even though Firtash is the guy paying for the defense strategy that includes telling us these stories. Parnas describes, “we were tasked” to spin these stories, leaving the subject of the tasking unknown. Parnas dubiously claims he’s sorry about targeting Marie Yovanovitch, even while he shows no remorse at similar shivs in service of the grift. Parnas claims to have been more concerned by the breakdown Robert Hyde had at Doral than he was about Hyde’s claims to have Yovanovitch under surveillance and possible contract.

Parnas is telling us what we want to hear. And we listen, even though we all recognize that the stories he spun for the frothy right were false, but those false stories were all it took to work up half the country. We also recognize, though Parnas didn’t lay this out and it’ll take days before people have an adequate understanding of what he promised in Russian, that he made commitments on Rudy’s and Trump’s behalf but without any way for them to verify what he was promising.

Perhaps he’s doing this to pressure Bill Barr, the one guy who can constrain what SDNY does with his prosecution, and likewise can authorize criminal targets against whom Parnas might be able to cooperate against. Perhaps he believes he’ll get immunity from Adam Schiff, though as a former prosecutor, it’s unlikely Schiff will make that happen. Perhaps Parnas believes Trump will panic and pardon him. Or perhaps the corrupt oligarchs and prosecutors in whose debt Parnas has put Rudy and Trump have decided that — since they didn’t get what they wanted out of the deal — it’s now worth their while to expose those debts.

But until we understand why Parnas is doing what he’s doing — why he inserted himself into the right wing echo chamber in the first place, and why he’s so insistent on telling us what we want to hear now — we would do well to exercise caution about the stories he’s telling.

Update: Made some minor rewrites for clarity.

Update: Fixed location of Hyde’s breakdown.

124 replies
  1. Mister Sterling says:

    Throughout the whole interview, I was staring at Joseph Bondy staring at Rachel Maddow. For a moment, I confused him with John “Comic Sans” Dowd. I was thinking, what are you thinking? Why are you letting your client do this? And what isis motive? I believe Barr and Pence were involved in the conspiracy. But I had a hard time believe anything else Parnas said. He doesn’t drink? Why are all these goons teetotalers?

    • Raven Eye says:

      Once you get the “group” (or targets, colleagues, chumps, etc.) to relax with your decision to not drink, it can be quite informative to watch the drinkers over the course of an evening. If you are attentive, the little foibles and weaknesses appear…Things you can weaponized down the road.

        • J says:

          Drinking is like deliberately making yourself stupid. No savvy person—especially one guarding national security secrets in their head—should ever drink.

        • timbo says:

          As opposed to typing. Relaxing is harder for some people more than others apparently. Time to bring back Prohibition? Anyone? I’m sure Trump would have an angle to make millions off it if we did…

  2. Bobster33 says:

    I am almost imagining that Trump is some massive genius, writing a Hollywood Epic intending to capture the media’s attention, feed his narcism, and realizing that everyone is in on the script. Trump writes it, and the Dem’s play their role and the media creates the high drama and nothing, absolutely nothing changes. The story lines are just that bad, that complicated and that ridiculous.

    • bmaz says:

      Lol, that is a great link, and I had never seen that. Bondy is a gadabout in a way that makes me uneasy about a lawyer. I don’t care that he represents shady people, that is what criminal defense lawyers do. I care that he talks about it. I have, over the years, represented people that would make your blood curdle. But you will not hear me yammering about them with any specificity. The job is to represent them, not to talk about it.

      • ish says:

        I just looked Bondy up on Twitter and between his Twitter page and the NYT article it seems to me that he sees himself as a kind of crusader protector of liberty. I imagine he did not vote for Trump. Given this + his thing about only representing people he REALLY LIKES, I wonder whether he could just be unquestioningly buying whatever Parnas is telling him. Not a great look for a defense lawyer (I used to be one) but IDK. Do you know him? Is he like this?

      • Mooser says:

        ” I have, over the years, represented people that would make your blood curdle.”

        Gee, I would have thought that on the whole hematologists were pretty sedate, law-abiding folks.

  3. John Forde says:

    Parnas was paid “two hundred thousand” and then there was an immediate jump cut. The edit prevented us from hearing if Parnas’s $200k was a single payment or monthly. MSNBC looked bad. They to be concealing that info.

    • bmaz says:

      Maddow is unwatchable to my eye. I have seen the Anderson Cooper interview though. To CNN’s credit, they replayed it almost in full this morning. I really don’t understand what the fuck Parnas and his lawyer Bondy are doing. You need to get some kind of deal, whether from prosecutors or Congress, before blabbing. But his information is stunning, assuming true. Wow.

      • I Never Lie and am Always Right says:

        Has Putin decided to pull down Trump using Parnas as his agent? If the information from a Parnas is accurate, that is one possible explanation. Putin is certainly flexing his muscles inside Russia.

        Aside from this wild ass speculation, I’m with you. I don’t understand WTF they are doing.

      • TXphysicist says:

        Forgive my ignorance, but how sure are we that Parnas hasn’t secured some sort of concealed agreement with the SDNY? One reason is because it’d presumably require Bill Barr’s approval, I guess. There’s no timeline in which he isn’t forcefully attempting to intervene in all of this. Still, Parnas clearly waited on the evidence being passed to the House before opening his mouth, as might have been contingent with a plea deal arrangement.

        But yeah, Marcy’s right, it’s probably most wise and objective to distrust any Parnas claim that isn’t almost 100% backed up by verifiable documentation.

  4. klynn says:

    Last night seems a cover for the Yovanovitch texts.

    Unfortunately, drunk narrative or not, the texts match a timeline and language of other players.

    So, the GOP want the Yovanovitch threat to play out as drunk texting?

    Clearly, no one has thought through, from being tasked to be responsible for national security, what it means for even the President to have been influenced by drunk texting?

    • Eureka says:

      The other thing is that Hyde’s breakdown (and what he says during and after*) also matches up with interesting timeline events. May 16th came after a very busy week+: May 7th the public learns of Yovanovitch’s ouster; May 11th or so Rudy cancels the “meddling in an investigation” trip to Ukraine that he’d been publicizing for days beforehand. Etc…

      *New Figure in Ukraine Scandal Was Taken Into Police Custody at Trump Resort Last Year

      […]Hyde posted a note on Instagram stating that he had been “Baker Acted” for nine days and placed into “a facility” where his “mental, emotional, and physical self” were “pushed.” He noted that he had passed “all medicals, physicals, psych exams and diagnoses with flying colors.” Hyde, a former Marine, also wrote, “I’m not a traitor or a colluder or a conspiracy theorist.” And he added, “eff you and your intelligence agencies or whatever or whoever was or is effing with me.”

      Sounds to me like he is affirming his loyalty to the grifter op.

      As to what he says when he gets taken in (see link): sure, lots of folks in psychotic breaks with paranoid delusions frequently cite the government tracking them and stuff like that (though implants are often involved), but they also haven’t been on Ambassadorial stalking sprees themselves. (In other words, I think the specificities of his “paranoia,” the slight differences between what he says and what’s commonly said — and in light of what he himself had allegedly been doing — suggest his crack-up was not entirely de novo).

      Parnas protests too much on the reputation-levelling “Hyde is a drunk” routine, independent of whether Hyde is a drunk or not.

      • Former Fed prosecutor says:

        I think Parnas is pulling a Cohen. Like Cohen, Trump disavowed knowing him when he was charged. But after his phones were seized and copies of the material were returned, Parnas realized he had information with which he could get even.

        The SDNY requires total honesty in a cooperator. We can only imagine what kind of other crimes Parnas may have committed, or have knowledge of. He’s dealt with people who may not take kindly to honest discussions with prosecutors. So, like Cohen, Parnas may not be able to cut a deal with the SDNY — it’s too dangerous..

        Like Cohen, then, Parnas went public to to convince the sentencing court and the public that he’s a “cooperator” and good guy, and that he should not be convicted — or, if he is, should get a lenient sentence.

        • bmaz says:

          “The SDNY requires total honesty in a cooperator.”

          Heh, that is on an extremely selective basis. There is no sentencing court, and you cannot be a cooperator without a deal to cooperate with. You are a “Former Federal Prosecutor”? Really?

          And, by the way “Former Fed”, this is the third sock puppet name you have used here out of three tries. Pull that again, and you will be done.

        • Former Fed prosecutor says:

          I’ll set out the argument more clearly. He’s similar to Cohen (except for the timing of the arrest), because:

          1. He was arrested and his phones were seized.
          2. He realized he was in deep trouble.
          3. He realized Trump’s lawyers weren’t really representing him, and Trump disavowed a strong connection with him, which pissed him off.
          4. He likely couldn’t cooperate with the SDNY because that office usually requires a complete disclosure of his knowledge of all past crimes.
          5. He didn’t want to give up his family, the Russian mob-linked people he knows, and/or his other crimes.
          6. Hoping to catch a break from the prosecutor, jury, or the court, he decided to go public and tell at least 75% of the truth about Trump and his flunkies. His lawyer will call him a “cooperator,” even though he’ll never get a cooperation agreement, and Schiff likely wouldn’t give him immunity,
          7. He’a turned over contemporaneous records, which he received back from the Government after they had been seized and processed. They corroborate large parts (but not all) of his story
          8. He may or may not be telling the truth about any part of the story that is not corroborated.

          And yes, I’m a former federal prosecutor, for over a decade.

        • A. Non says:

          I’ll add some speculation to this thread… Parnas realizes the evidence against him for campaign finance violations is strong. He doesn’t want to go to jail and he doesn’t want to give up his true patron. He knows he’s not going to get a pardon from Trump. He asked for a plea deal but he doesn’t have anything the prosecutors want. His testimony is of little value in a court because he’s a known criminal and he might pull a Flynn so the prosecutors can’t build a case around him as a star witness. So his best hope is to throw himself at the mercy of the court and try to play the repentant sinner ala Cohen.

      • Eureka says:

        This is what Hyde had to say on Friday 1-17-20 re his memory of Rudy cancelling his trip (not taking this at face value as he is in an information war with Parnas, among others; more interested that he is citing ~in-time interest in the cancellation of the trip):

        “Back when @RudyGiuliani cancelled his trip with Lev Parnas to the Ukraine. I heard it was because he found out Lev was going to have him kidnapped to blackmail the president. Lev has always been a bad man.”

  5. twpolk says:

    So based on this post, here’s what I think Marcy is saying:

    1. Parnas is possibly an operative for someone (Firtash/Putin/Russia?).
    2. As an operative, Parnas worked to ingratiate himself to Trump/Rudy and spin wild right-wing stories about Ukraine.
    3. During that time, Parnas interacted with many people in GOP and Trump circles and made sure there was a lot of evidence of those interactions.
    4. Once the Ukrainian/Biden operation was blown open by the Whistleblower, Parnas switched gears.
    5. Now Parnas is an operative in a new game: exposing all the crimes committed by Trump and GOP world.

    The bigger picture is why he’s doing this at all (to Marcy’s point about motivation). And if he’s not making any money, why is he doing this? It’s more than a grift…it’s an operation. But who is calling the shots?

    • rg says:

      “… Parnas interacted with many people in GOP and Trump circles, and made sure there were a lot of evidence of those interactions.” this reminds me of Maria Butina.

    • Molly Pitcher says:

      I would think that Parnas ultimately works for Firtash/Mogilevich (organized crime boss for Eastern Europe)/Putin. That is a trio which works for the mutual benefit of themselves.

      I think that in addition to divesting himself of his government, Putin is in the process of cutting Trump loose. Parnas’s code switch would help serve that purpose.

      There is a very interesting artice from Reuters dated Nov. 26, 2014 that provides very interesting background to Firtash, Ukrainian gas and corruption and Putin’s ties to both.


      • Molly Pitcher says:

        I forgot to mention that this article states that Lanny Davis is on Firtash’s defense team…

    • Shalimar says:

      Parnas admittedly works for Firtash, who works for Mogilevich, who works for Putin. And Firtash gains nothing from this stage of the operation, which means either Parnas is now working at the direction of one of the higher ups, or he is trying to save his own skin. My guess is the former. Getting all of the info he knows out in public might protect him from Trump’s people, but it isn’t going to stop Putin from having him killed. And Parnas is still very vague about Firtash’s role.

  6. BobCon says:

    One thing I’d add is that I wouldn’t assume that Parnas was only feeding the right wing echo chamber. I think there is good reason to believe that mainstream reporters who sought out Giuliani were also talking to his associates about dirt.

    Part of the game Parnas is playing may be to not just threaten politicians like Nunes who got tangled up in his games. He may be sending warnings to reporters as well. Nunes is jumping to clean up his denials, and I’m curious whether any reporters will come clean as well — somebody should ask Parnas about the full extent of his press contacts.

    • twpolk says:

      Completely agree. Reporters like Ken Vogel (who seemed to be working with Rudy and his partners on Biden/Ukraine stuff in the Spring of last year) probably felt a shot across the bow in these interviews.

  7. PeeJ says:

    I totally agree about being cautious. Rachel missed on not asking about the gas deals. After all, Parnas was in the gas business. That was one of the reasons he was there. Part of me wants to believe Lev has seen how well John Dean is doing today and wants to get out in front of all this. Dean has made millions for his part in Watergate. The first one to break against Trump in this scandal will too. However like Marcy says, Lev definitely told us what we wanted to hear. Bolton is also scary in that I see him answering any question that puts Trump in a good light and claiming executive privilege on any juicy details. We may be witnessing the perfect crime where everyone is in the pocket of the guilty and there is nothing that can be done. Once the Senate pushes this aside, I expect to see Trump follow Putin’s lead and arrange to be President for life. Then we’ll have the big three, Xi, Vlad, and the Donald. Good luck, America…

    • emptywheel says:

      The gas deals will be covered today–it’s one of the topics she said they were doing more reporting on.

    • Mooser says:

      “Dean has made millions for his part in Watergate. The first one to break against Trump in this scandal will too.”

      Trump, I’m talking about Donald Jenius Trump, will be the greatest rehabilitative catalyst in American history! He will put Nixon in the shade when it comes to redemption! Hundred, maybe thousands, will recreate their credibility, and mitigate their monstrosities simply by turning on the Trump. (And making a deal with the relevant State or Federal Prosecutor first!)

      “I-first-supported-then-repudiated-Trump” is going to be the “I-was-for-the-War-on-Iraq-before-I-was-against-it” of the 2020’s. The position of a serious person.
      And “I-always-thought-Trump-was-a-crook”, well, you’re either lying, or you’re some kind of addled, liberal hippie.

  8. Kelly says:

    2 thoughts –
    1 – I am glad to see that the Ukranian National Police have opened an investigation about the Yovanavich threats vis-a-vis the possibility that her communications were being intercepted


    2 – You know who I like more than I already did, after hearing some of the credible pieces of Parnas? Zelensky.

    He resisted the mob-like pressure at every step.

  9. doug says:

    At first it seems bizarre.
    One possibility is that the Russians now see DJT as more of a liability than asset. And thus Parnas has been encouraged to go down this path.

    But the principal problem we now have is such intense polarization that fairly smart people will swallow whatever aligns with their views. I’ve never seen it this bad. Marcie’s skepticism here is much appreciated.

    • emptywheel says:

      Oh, DJT is not a liability to Russia. It’s just that he’s as useful to them whether he’s in trouble or not. So in this case, either Parnas’ testimony makes no difference and the Senate STILL exonerates Trump, which will mean Russia will have an entire party bought and sold, or this leads to removal, which will exacerbate the polarization.
      Since we’re well past the place where most people are operating in the good of the country, rather than from polarization, we’re fucked no matter what happens.

      • BobCon says:

        I’d qualify the “most people” a bit — I think most people actually support most of the right things, but we have a system that is heavily skewed against fixing problems.

        You can reasonably cite the hesitancy of the majority to overturn the screwed up system as evidence of their compliance, although I think it is fair to note that people have some understandable concerns about what happens in the aftermath of a wholesale reform movement.

    • Mister Sterling says:

      Are you implying that Parnas is also representing Russia? Are you implying that the idea to go after the Biden’s through Hunter’s no-show board seat was not an idea hatched on the Trump side? This is a Russian strategy to help Trump? I think the whole MSNBC brass would masturbate furiously to your suggestion.

      • doug says:

        I think that Russia has an interest in decreasing the international clout of the US. They wanted the “indispensable nation” to be more dispensable. Exacerbating polarization was one way to do that. I don’t think many, including Russia expected DJT to win. They played both sides to stir things up with more focus on the DJT side since the closer the election, the more subsequent turmoil. And it seems they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Especially given DJT’s character.

  10. Charles says:

    I have no inside information, so my opinion is worth that of every other person in a similar situation, but I think Susan Hennessey take [1] is right. To paraphrase it in my own words, Parnas is a single source providing raw intelligence. Some is true and some is even documented. Some is self-serving or even false, perhaps even deliberately so. All of it needs to be verified. Saying that Parnas is feeding the Democratic echo chamber is one take. It is not substantiated. We don’t know his motivations, although those surely include establishing good relationships with journalists, and he has limited choices as to who those are.

    I also think that accusing Maddow of something underhand is not warranted, at least until the second half of the interview is aired. It’s not important that we know exactly what Parnas was paid, for example. So, while it is annoying to have him cut off mid-sentence, we don’t know why she chose to do that. He might have said something that under the ground rules of the interview could not be included or it may introduce a topic that Maddow wanted to save for the second half. I will just file it as a question that I am hoping to have answered.

    I can easily understand why Parnas might want to put the Hyde/Yovanovitch part of the story on the record. It’s very unlikely Hyde himself had assets in Ukraine capable of stalking and harming the Ambassador. But he knew lots and lots of GOP machers. It’s always possible he was hearing about things from them. If Parnas feared that there might have been an actual plot that Hyde’s texts reflected, he might well want to get out in front of that and make it clear he wasn’t part of it.

    In terms of Parnas’s motivations, my current speculation is that he is playing a long game and a short game. The short game is, as he said, to get his material on the record so that threatening or harming him has no value. In the longer term, he presumably fears reprisal. Democrats are not in power at the moment, so the only way to succeed in the longer game would be to bring down figures like William Barr and, of course, earn brownie points with Democratic successors. But he earns brownie points and weakens the Trump regime only to the degree that his charges are accurate. Few congressional Democrats are going to jump on this interview without listening to the Intelligence Committee’s assessment, and those people will be going through his records and statements with a fine toothed comb.

    1. twitter.com/Susan_Hennessey/status/1217655321096806401

  11. Daniel Becker says:

    The one thing that struck me hard was when I was only listening and not watching. At times, his voice, his phrasing sounded just like VP Cheney. My impression of Cheney is that he is a dark man, a thinking, dark man. That impression, I could not help but put on Parnas.

    Thus, beware, be very aware.

  12. P J Evans says:

    I suspect Rudy is going to be in trouble, since that letter is in the dumps, and in it he clearly says he’s a private lawyer working for Trmp-the-citizen, not for the US president. So his claims of working for the State Department are now investigatable (if that’s a word).

  13. pseudonymous in nc says:

    It’s a decent parallel to Steele’s subsource network, especially those sources based in the US, except that we can see the machinations in real time. Steele at least didn’t publicly appeal for Russian cutouts to contact him the way Rudy has. And Parnas is apparently embedded deep within an ecosystem that includes the frothies and can get failson Uday to do a tweet on request.

    The bits of the document dump that interest me are ones where Parnas meets resistance or his swagger breaks down, notably that “wtf man Rudy posted a private message with my personal phone number?” from Yermak. It illustrates the places where power resides: Firtash; Shokin and Yutsenko; Yermak for Zelensky; Bolton and Yovanovitch. And as EW says up top, the aim is to get “no 1.” involved at those points.

    The reporters who’ve been texting back and forth with Rudy over the past couple of days apparently haven’t asked him whether the letter to Zelensky and WhatsApp messages are genuine, or at least haven’t reported his answer. Maybe Talia Lavin can do that on their behalf.

  14. B-rad says:

    Could Parnas be the Steele Dossier 2.0? He’s providing what amounts to raw intelligence with (possibly) just enough misinformation to keep the press chasing their tails in the run up to the 2020 elections.

    • Rayne says:

      Possibly, but audiences are different requiring different ops. The dossier should have been read as HIC SVNT DRACONES — advice that there was treachery afoot and greater research and caution was necessary, but its dispersion after the election ensured it would be misused and not for our benefit. Imagine how different public perception would be had the dossier been contained and used as it should have been as raw intelligence.

      This is a different operation; the opacity of Parnas’ motivation hides the intent of the operation if this is what it is, as does the audience. With Parnas’ materials dumped into the public sphere, even if screened by SDNY and House Intel, control over other narratives is lost or hidden in the incipient fog. What aren’t we seeing?

      I’d like to know what’s up with Fruman. And where’s Rudy?

      • pseudonymous in nc says:

        The other big difference is that Rudy Giuliani, acting on behalf of the president of the United States, is publicly requesting assistance to smear the Bidens without any capacity or apparent desire to do due diligence other than have his guys translate.

        This means that at bare minimum he’s being taken for a ride by grifters, and more likely means every Russian cutout and asset in UKR has reached out knowing that whatever shite they bring will end up in front of the president and written up by the frothy right.

  15. dwfreeman says:

    This isn’t about Maddow. This is about the story her source is telling. Is it credible? You don’t run it till you know. This guy wouldn’t talk till he turned his stuff over to Congress. Does he have the receipts? And what do they all mean?

    Trump has conducted political collusion with foreign governments in plain view while surrounding himself with cutouts and liars since seeking election. That is what distinguishes him and his unfit administration since he took an oath of office he never intended to uphold.

    Don’t tell me what I should believe about the motivation of whistleblowing insiders when every book and story since even before his first hours in office have told the same story about his lack of attention to detail, immoral and pugnacious and outright pernicious personality that drives purposeful deceit for his own devices and that of his base and party of sychopantic supporters.

    In a country where government cover stories of a murdered president, his brother and a civil rights leader can last a lifetime, getting ahead of the pressure of false contentions, true lies and the fulsome threat of political shielding of public accountability by hypocritical oath-takers, I have no illusion about the sources of what I hear and whether to believe them.

    But you are missing the bigger point here. The only thing that saves Lev Parnas at this point is telling the truth as he knows it. Whether you want to believe him or not is the same process of believing what this government tells you about drone strikes, border policy actions, favoring pre-existing conditions in medical coverage for all, or whether the Ukrainian ambassador was stalked before her recall and only fired to help facilitate a political narrative for a president’s reelection benefit.

    You can apply the details of that small aspect of Trump’s Ukraine pressure tale, which we’ve barely scraped the surface while recognizing the defense has offered no counter argument or witness to challenge any of these details, and then conclude that even if Parnas isn’t explaining why he’s telling us his story, his facts make more sense than the stark denials without similar evidence to support them.

    • bmaz says:

      Naw, it is about Maddow too. And, by the way, we are not missing any points. Some of us actually do this for a living. Smart lawyering is the only thing that will “save” Parnas. Not sure he is getting it, or that you understand the implications thereof.

      • P J Evans says:

        My assumption is whatever Parnas says to interviewers is intended to make himself look better to the court before his sentencing, and to make those he worked with look worse.

        The documents need to be verified, but they’re probably more truthful, if still incomplete.

  16. Bay State Librul says:

    Re: Maddow’s Book – Blowout

    “According to Maddow, Russia’s desperation to maximize its petroleum-based influence in global politics was part of what drove Putin to risk interference in America’s last presidential election. The oil and gas industry is tied into the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the circumstances and Trump associates in the orbit of the impeachment inquiry — a development that Maddow did not foresee when writing Blowout.”

  17. roberts robot double says:

    I think a point needs to be emphasized: only deeply stupid people fall for the bullshit charisma of the Trump family. You can see the doofy in Parnas’ eyes, yet he doesn’t appear to be evil, per se; perhaps he just got swept up in the power and bling of the thing. And then it really, really hurt his feelings that Trump disavowed him. This, of course, only makes sense if Parnas really believed he was doing good for both the U.S. and Ukraine.

    I’m guessing that for once in this entire sordid Trump saga, a truly simple explanation suffices for the entirety of Parnas’ motivations. Remember, if he is (as I believe) a true Ukrainian patriot (as opposed to being a Russian asset), he might be more than a bit miffed that his boy Trump is very likely a Russian asset and was actively working to undermine the sovereignty of Ukraine.

    In other words, Furman looks like a guy who may have broken a few legs to get where he is; whereas Parnas looks much more likely to be a white-collar money and influence sort of thug. And here is the huge lesson for evil mofos: they should never add people with a conscience to their criminal conspiracies.

    Not the hero we could have imagined, but I reckon there’s some (perhaps small?) chance that Parnas is the hero we need.

    Love and truth shall indeed find a way. They are our destiny, no matter how many fools deny this essential truth and work to undermine the happiness of others for their own selfish gain.

    And I have to give a huge shout-out to Tom Joseph (@TomJChicago) for calling that Pelosi knew something was about to drop that would coincide nicely with her timing of delivering the Articles to the Senate. I’m no twitter guy but Mr. Joseph and William Gibson (@GreatDismal) almost redeem the platform.

    • Rayne says:

      I don’t buy that. Parnas surely knew which side the players were on when he accepted his paid ‘translation’ gigs. What would a (Ukrainian) patriot do? Hmm – no.

      • roberts robot double says:

        I’ll merit that the theory is thin, but I just can’t imagine a Ukrainian wanting to be ruled by Putin’s Soviet-nostalgic Russia. (Most people not being so conniving and evil is a real hindrance to our ability to get a handle on those who truly are; which is the primary reason why they get away with so much shit.)

        Barring such altruism, that makes his motives even simpler, then, for all of Trump’s family and close associates are exactly the same: they just love the limelight and the smell of power, and don’t give a damn who gets hurt in their quest to gain ever more. In this case, “like attracts like” may be the simplest and most bang-on explanation. Shit, “Fraud Guarantee” describes the operating principle of the Trump family’s entire business model since Fred and Roy.

        • Mooser says:

          ” but I just can’t imagine a Ukrainian wanting to be ruled by Putin’s Soviet-nostalgic Russia.”

          I think we can take it for granted that there is a cohort of people in Ukraine who will benefit greatly from closer ties to Russia. If there wasn’t, Russia would make one or buy one.

  18. Josephus says:

    Tomorrow’s headline:
    “POTUS implicated in murder plot of Ukraine Ambassador”
    -Guiliani and Parnas used Ukraine henchman to surveil ambassador
    -Yovanovich told to flee by security staff
    -POTUS said “she’s going to go through some things”
    -Pelosi makes cryptic “Do you paint houses, too?” remark while delivering Articles of Impeachment

  19. Dave Karson says:

    As always, great post and thanks for advising everyone to “exercise caution”, until we understand motivations, etc. Being naïve, I usually get hooked like a marlin and truth be told, I always feel like the village idiot on this blog because IANL or policy expert on this stuff and don’t have the time to keep up with everything. I do have one question that I am hoping someone can shed light on: When Ambassador Yovanovitch testified to the Intel Committee back in the fall, it was brought out that in late April of 2019, she received a late night phone call saying to leave Ukraine immediately for vague security reasons. At the time, when I read the transcript, since there was no additional explanation, I assumed that it was just someone at the State Department’s excuse to get her back to Washington where she would be told in person that Trump wanted her fired. So I left it at that. But with the new information that Parnas has brought out, about her being followed/spied upon in Ukraine (and once again, as EW points out, we can’t believe everything Parnas says until further confirmation, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume it’s true) does it make sense to go back to the State Department and dig a little further into what these security concerns were and where did they come from? Thanks in Advance! Best, Dave Karson

  20. mospeck says:

    Agree with Marcy, and also with Murphy’s Laws :) and “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” (like the Steele dossier Cohen summer road trip to Prague back in 16). Russian dezinformatsiya is no doubt built into Lev doc dumps and Rachel interview. But a lot of what Parnas is saying is probably likely true. They need the underpinnings of truth in order to discredit it and to construct really good credible lies, ones that are able to be used to gain tactical advantage. This mixing of true and false is a new art form that is now being perfected by the GRU. How will nogoodnik Lev be used in order to blow things up?

  21. Chuffy says:

    I am interested to see where ground zero is on all this Ukraine stuff. Was it Helsinki? It appears to me that Drumpf blew up a pretty simple conspiracy by not keeping his mouth shut. He has forced his handlers to do some damage control, and they’re going to the mattresses now. Parnas is just a pawn, IMO. Maybe he has nothing to lose, if he gets his name out there, he can’t just fall out of a window now without raising some suspicion. He could be playing his part in the scorched earth campaign. Pivot to just destroying both sides in this election, that’s the ultimate goal anyway. We’ll do their jobs for them, as Kruschev predicted all those years ago…

    Even if we discover all the players, what chance do we have of ever bringing anybody to justice at this point? Half the government appears to be tied up in this mess. Who can we trust to put it back together again?

  22. Mitch Neher says:

    Ms. Wheeler wrote, “Parnas . . . [o]n key parts of his story . . . got . . . notably more reserved or deceitful . . . [including that] . . . Parnas claims to have been more concerned by the breakdown Robert Hyde had at Mar-a-Lago than he was about Hyde’s claims to have Yovanovitch under surveillance and possible contract.”

    That does sound deceitful. Doesn’t it? After all, it wasn’t Robert Finley Hyde’s idea to surrender to HPSCI his WhatApp messages to Parnas. It was Parnas who did that. Why would Parnas expose Hyde through those WhatsApp messages only to go on to suggest that Hyde was just play-acting fantasy-mobster the way Blagojevich was once wont to do?

    I mean . . . Is that some sort of a legal defense that they’re all thinking about coughing up?

    “Your Honor, if it please The Court, we all got carried away with a game fantasy mobster–just like Blago taught us to play.”

    Is that Trump’s last ditch, last stand, line of defense?

    Can we please give deez guys da complete fantasy mobster experience?

    No, no, no. Not that experience. Alcatraz! Or the latter day equivalent. Wherever they sent Blagojevich. Please?

    • timbo says:

      It’s a threat to others with Parnas (and his lawyer(s)?) implying “I’ve got some good stuff on a lot of (other) people…”

  23. Terrapin says:

    You are correct to be cautious about Lev Parnas’ motives and credibility in speaking with Rachel Maddow. However, they could be as simple as personal revenge and the refusal of prosecutors to cut a deal with him.

    Having done Rudy and POTUS’ bidding, Parnas is now facing significant legal jeopardy. Parnas understandably doesn’t feel like going to jail while the powerful men he has been working for distance themselves and act like they don’t know him. It is an old and understandable motive (just ask John Dean).

    What is curious here is why is Lev Parnas talking to Maddow and not to prosecutors who have the power to end or at least significantly diminish his legal jeopardy? Could it be Bill Barr is blocking federal prosecutors from considering doing a deal with Parnas and Parnas has gotten desperate enough to tell his story with whatever part of the media is most likely to listen to him seriously and disseminate his allegations? Parnas’ actions bespeak desperation.

    • timbo says:

      So Parnas has publicly said that no one at DoJ was interested in in any of this? Whatever the case, it’s clear that the prosecutors in his case did not object to this info being released to the Congress—there was a court hearing about that some days ago and now we’re seeing what happens when there ain’t a clamp down on dissemination of much of Parnas’ information.

      • bmaz says:

        It is his own fucking information. He did not need “court permission” to disseminate it. That was just another stunt by his Twitter lawyer Bondy. Parnas has some interesting information. But be careful buying off on things laundered through Rachel Maddow “exclusively”.

        • timbo says:

          I’m still questioning the notion that no one at DoJ or in the intelligence agencies were not interested in any of this information. However, today we’ve learned that the intelligence agencies are now no longer cooperating as fully with the House Intel committee members that they are legally required to cooperate with.

          Basically, we may have reached the tipping point into full blown crisis. That is, we’re at the point where the CYAers at many/most levels of our Federal bureaucracy are beginning to side with the Trump vision of how the government agencies should be conducted.

  24. Vicks says:

    I forgot why Parnas fired Dowd?
    I read what Ukraine said, but seriously, where did Ukraine suddenly get the chutzpah to call for this investigation?
    I can’t quite articulate my suspicions, but I sense Ukraine just took back a bit of it’s power with this move, and I’m not sure it was a coincidence that Parnas seemed to make a point of not just feeding second hand information to anti-Trumpers but also pumping up the image of stoic Ukrainian leaders staring down the deadly serious threats of corrupt American bullies.
    If you consider what could be turned up if Ukraine does a serious investigation into the threats against Yovanavich, (IMHO it seems the personal lawyer to the president of the United States is the big fish here) and that no matter how far they get, or what it reveals, I think they are full of it when they say they have no wish to involve themselves on American politics.
    Something about choosing to announce this investigation after refusing to give in to the shamiming and demands of Trump bullies to investigate the Bidens smells a bit like revenge to me.
    Or it’s a trap laid by Rudy and his pro-trump pro-russia pals

  25. Molly Pitcher says:

    So is Lucy at it again, or is Susan Collins really calling for witnesses ? NPR just said that Susan Collins and TED CRUZ are both talking positvely about calling witnesses !!

      • Molly Pitcher says:

        Thanks for that, in deference to my blood pressure and trying to maintain a civil attitude I try not to follow, on Twitter, those who make me want to shout at them.

      • Sandwichman says:

        “It is likely that I would support a motion to call witnesses…”

        translation: It is LIKELY my vote will not be decisive so I can vote rhetorically, but if it is decisive, I will oppose the motion.

  26. Vinniegambone says:

    All roads lead to Brighton Beach. Parnas and Cohen’s world view was shaped by their days in Russian mob hangouts. Parnas sold condos for Fred Trump. Cohen refused in his proffers to tell all he knew, because telling all he knew could get him killed. Parnas is following orders, and more than likely those orders come from Brighton Beach. Those orders might first come from Putin. How that happens, who knows. Both Cohen and Parnas know not to play with these guys. Somewhere along the line Parnas checks back with Brighton Beach on what to do. Where was Hyde when he sent text, and did any text at all go to his phone from Ukraine ? That somebody wanted money to be involved sounds the most realistic part of it all. Hyde may have just been being played into paying . Cell phone tower records will tell if who was reporting to Hyde on Yanovichs movements were close enough to physically observe her, and if they weren’t he was being set up. Parnas may have been denying the truest part of it all, that she was been surveiled, and not by the good guys.

  27. lawrence a fisher says:

    Parnas hired Dowd with Trump’s consent. Dowd probably told Parnas that Barr would bury his case or that Trump would pardon him. When Trump denied knowing Parnas, Parnas realized there would be no pardon, and fired Dowd, hired Bondy. Bondy convinced his client to get on the right side of the big problem, the stalking and potential attempted murder charge of Yovanovitch. A long prison term as opposed to a campaign finance charge or money laundering indictment. This has all been my speculation, but seems to be reasonable spec.

  28. Frank Probst says:

    I don’t know what the hell Parnas is doing, either, nor do I know why his lawyers are letting him do it. And I agree that everything coming from him should be checked and double-checked. But like most witnesses who are habitual liars, the documents are really what he brings into the story. And those have already dug up Robert Hyde, which is another string to pull on, as well as things like Parnas calling Devin Nunes on his cell phone (rather than his office phone). Nunes has already had to go out and do one round of clean-up. It’s going to be curious to see how many other people are going to suddenly remember having totally innocuous phone calls with this guy.

  29. alcatraz says:

    One salient detail is how much seems to be happening over at the Trump Hotel bar. Why don’t more reporters hang out over there?

  30. Eureka says:


    It was all about Biden, Parnas almost certainly lied.

    It seems timely for a reminder of coconspirator Correia’s hot-headed reply (1-22-17) to Joe Biden’s ~outgoing VP tweet (1-19-17):

    i assume the day your son took his position in Ukraine was also a great moment? I have a feeling that chapter isn’t closed….

    (both tweets screenshot here: https://www.inquirer.com/news/david-correia-rudy-giuliani-trump-philadelphia-20191018.html )

    So just like “Burisma” was code for “Biden” for some folks in the Spring-Summer 2019 phase of the operation, “Biden” is code for “No, _we_ want all the gas money — GTFO!” on the schemers-facing side of the long-con (not that I believe Correia was high enough in the food chain to know the big picture).

    • Eureka says:

      …or that Correia had to have been that knowledgeable at that time to have smarmed-after Biden (and surely public moves like this, if detected, might have discouraged info-sharing with him)

    • timbo says:

      No, they just claim that’s the case. The fact is that most or all of them were referring to Biden directly but that would directly implicate them in the conspiracy.

      • Eureka says:

        Uh, no, their text messages, for example (where they say ‘Burisma,’ not ‘Biden’ — but we know they mean ‘Biden’) “claim” that’s the case.

        • timbo says:

          I guess you believe the grifters more than I do. It’s clear that Guiliani wasn’t squeamish. It appears that Trump wasn’t squeamish. Except when it comes to testifying truthfully in front of the Congress—that’s apparently where all the cold feet sets in. Sondland and Volker and Perry (who never testified… and why is that?) all probably mentioned Biden by name; they’re not as naive as they seem, not at all. Whether they’re competent is another matter. But kudos for you for believing they’re competent at maintaining a cover story.

        • Eureka says:

          Mischaracterizers gonna mischaracterize. I see on another page(s) you are lighting up bmaz with the same 180-to-reality bullshit.

          Template: try reading; you are fucking nuts; give it a rest.

          Nothing I have said supports your claim; most of what I have said, and repeatedly, directly contradicts your claim. I am possibly the last person you want to try on this topic.

          Gaslight elsewhere.

        • timbo says:

          My apologies for not reading what your original post was about more closely. Sometimes I’m in a strident mood, I’ll admit that. In this case, I got too carried away again and I deserved the calling out. You make some interesting points on the germ of where this scandal evolved from in your original post here and I was remiss in not paying closer attention while I was on kind of a tear. I will endeavor to read your posts more carefully and try to avoid jumping the gun again. It was certainly not my intention to detract from the value that your post brings to the history of what is happening to Biden here in this election cycle.

  31. Bruce Stewart says:

    Lawrence Tribe @tribelaw believes that Parnas hopes to reduce the chances he will be rubbed out by the Russian mob, by putting his receipts in the public record.

  32. Eureka says:

    I’m multitasking, but the gloss I’m getting from Maddow-Parnas, given other known facts, is that The Adults in the Room prevented Trump from actually firing Yovanovitch while the Mueller investigation was ongoing (e.g. April 2018).

  33. skua says:

    A comment on The Hill site urging against blind acceptance of Parnas has gained 1 up-vote and 10 down-votes.
    Unlike twitter there appears to be no way to rate the genuineness of the voters.

    But it would be very possible that paid trolls are attempting to boost Parnas’ perceived reliability.

    • Reader 21 says:

      I think you’re onto something—The Hill has long seemed like a breeding ground for paid trolls and bots—even before the latest John Solomon stuff came out. And the comments section—yeesh. Step carefully.

  34. P J Evans says:

    Slightly OT: the defense team for the impeachment will be
    Pat Cipollone
    Jay Sekulow
    Ken Starr (yes, the one from Clinton’s impeachment)
    Alan Dershowitz
    Robert Ray
    Pam Bondi
    Jane Raskin

    I have opinions on this lot, and I’m sure everyone else does, too.

        • P J Evans says:

          The only other one I haven’t heard much about is Raskin, and given the rest of the bunch, I’m not going to assume she’s any better.

        • bmaz says:

          There are actually two Raskins, Jane and Martin, husband and wife, and operating mostly out of Florida. Although Jane seems to be the only one currently involved with Trump’s impeachment defense.

          That may literally be because one of them has to mind the actual law practice in FL, and that would be perfectly understandable. To the best of my understanding, they are both pretty competent, which is unusual for lawyers associated with Trump.

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