Parnas’ Three-Way: John Dowd Has Already Confirmed a Key Part of Lev Parnas’ Story

Last night, Lev Parnas provided details to Rachel Maddow about how he came to be represented, briefly, by John Dowd. It was Rudy’s idea, but when Dowd first raised the issue, Jay Sekulow (who appears to have recognized this would all blow up) said he doubted the President would waive any conflict he had. Parnas replied that he believed the President would. Shortly thereafter, Dowd came back and told Parnas, “You are one lucky man,” confirming that Trump had waived the conflict.

Per the email from Dowd reflecting the request to Sekulow that Parnas released, that happened on October 2.

At around the same time, there was a discussion about what to do about the subpoena from the House Intelligence Committee, which requested documents on September 30, to be due on October 7. As Parnas explained it, they met at Dowd’s house with Rudy and Sekulow, with Victoria Toensing on the phone. Because Parnas worked for Rudy and Toensing, Parnas explained, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone would write a letter to Congress asserting “three-way privilege.”

Only, Cipollone didn’t write that letter. John Dowd, who had attorney-client privilege at the time with Parnas, wrote it the day after Trump waived any conflict. This is the letter that I said, back in October, might one day end up in a museum.

If we survive Trump and there are still things called museums around that display artifacts that present things called facts about historic events, I suspect John Dowd’s October 3 letter to the House Intelligence Committee will be displayed there, in all its Comic Sans glory.

In it, Dowd memorializes a conversation he had with HPSCI Investigation Counsel Nicholas Mitchell on September 30, before he was officially the lawyer for Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, now placed in writing because he had since officially become their lawyer. He describes that there is no way he and his clients can comply with an October 7 document request and even if he could — this is the key part — much of it would be covered by some kind of privilege.

Be advised  that Messrs. Parnas and Fruman assisted Mr. Giuliani in connection with his representation of President Trump. Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman have also been represented by Mr. Giuliani in connection with their personal and business affairs. They also assisted Joseph DiGenova and Victoria Toensing in their law practice. Thus, certain information you seek in your September 30, 2019, letter is protected by the attorney-client, attorney work product and other privileges.

Once that letter was sent, under penalty of prosecution for false statements to Congress, it became fact: Parnas and Fruman do work for Rudy Giuliani in the service of the President of the United States covered by privilege, Rudy does work for them covered by privilege, and they also do work for Joseph Di Genova and Victoria Toensing about this matter that is covered by privilege.

I observed at the time that this seemed to be an effort to adopt the same strategy that had worked so well in the Mueller investigation — throw everyone into the same conflict-ridden Joint Defense Agreement, and sink or swim together.

Only, this time, it would entail also admitting one other key player into the Joint Defense Agreement: Dmitro Firtash, whom months earlier Rudy had affirmatively claimed was part of the Russian mob.

[W]hen Dowd wrote Congress, explaining that Rudy worked for both Trump and the Ukrainian grifters, and the Ukrainian grifters worked for DiGenova and Toensing, he was asserting that the President is a participant in an ethical thicket of legal representation with a mob-linked Ukrainian oligarch fighting extradition (for bribery) to the United States. And all of that, Dowd helpfully made clear, related to this Ukraine scandal (otherwise he could not have invoked privilege for it).

In other words, the President’s former lawyer asserted to Congress that the President and his current lawyer are in some kind of JDA from hell with the Russian mob, almost certainly along with the President’s former campaign manager, who apparently gets consulted (via Kevin Downing) on these matters in prison.

And that’s why the inclusion of Parnas’ hand-written notes from a June 2019 phone call with Rudy are so important. They show that Rudy had a plan to trade Firtash — the guy that Rudy claimed in March 2019 was part of the Russian mob — “magic” to “cut deal” or “get dismissed” his legal troubles in return for dirt on Burisma and claims that the “Ukrain ledger” was bogus.

Parnas even wrote notes showing they were going to hire Brian Ballard or Robert Stryk to do a PR campaign of the sort that Paul Manafort used to do.

Rudy might contest that’s what these notes — indeed, he denied any tie to Firtash, including through a Firtash associate Dmitry Torner, in an important story yesterday (though he did admit speaking to two of Firtash’s lawyers).

In a statement, Giuliani said he did not remember meeting Torner or details of his meetings in Paris and London and had limited interest in Firtash. “I never met him. I never did business with him,” he said of Firtash. He did not respond to follow-up questions after The Post obtained photos of the Paris gathering.


In a statement this week, Giuliani said he spoke with a Chicago-based attorney who is handling Firtash’s federal case to see if he had “evidence of corruption in Ukraine in 2016” to bolster his defense of Trump.

“I asked some questions about him because I thought he might have some relevant information,” Giuliani told The Post. “I determined that he didn’t.”

He said that Parnas urged him to keep reaching out to Firtash associates, but that he rejected the idea because he did not believe the tycoon had any pertinent information.

But Bondy, who has been urging Congress to call his client as a witness, said Parnas would be prepared to describe Giuliani’s outreach to Firtash.

“If called upon to testify, Mr. Parnas would say that Mr. Giuliani never rejected efforts to establish a line of communication with Mr. Firtash, and that, to the contrary, he did everything possible to secure that channel,” Bondy said.

But, as I said in October, the president’s former lawyer is already on the record in a statement to Congress under penalty of false statements that Parnas worked for both the president (via his current lawyer) and Toensing and DiGenova.

It has been clear since October that something like those notes Parnas released would be forthcoming. And because the government arrested Parnas, there’ll be a damned good chain of custody on the notes, proving he didn’t make them more recently to get out of legal trouble.

Trump’s legal advisors all entered into an insane joint defense agreement in October to try to keep Parnas (and Fruman) quiet. It seems Parnas quickly realized, when Dowd started giving him orders in jail, that he was going to be the fall guy for all their shady dealings, Rudy’s shady dealings, done on behalf of the President.



38 replies
  1. Mitch Neher says:

    It looks like Parnas organized his to-do list into two columns, with the first column under the heading Joe and Victoria (Firtash’s current lawyers) and the second column under the heading Lanny Davis (Firtash’s previous lawyer).

    However, since the first to-do item in the Lanny Davis column is “get rid of Lanny Davis,” the organizational structure of the note might not be especially significant.

    Otherwise it would look as though the appearance in the Lanny Davis column of the name of the owner of Burisma Holdings, Mykola Zlochevsky, might have . . . who-knows-what to do with Lanny Davis? Beats me.

    There’s something illegible in parentheses next to the name Davis as well as two cross-outs that might as well be redactions for all I can see. D’oh!

    • Mitch Neher says:

      Ha-ha! The illegible parenthetic comment says (nicely) after the to do item “get rid of Lanny Davis. (nicely).”

      • Mitch Neher says:

        Exactly how important might it have been for the person talking to Parnas on the phone (“?”) to specify that Lanny Davis was to be gotten rid of “nicely”???

    • Eureka says:

      And the cross-out is “media”. I don’t see the second cross-out you’re referring to, tho there is a “fox” in parens next to “media” (if that’s what you see as 2nd x-out; I guess it might have one line through it).

        • Eureka says:

          the F-bar and crooked X make it look less crossed-out at first glance, tho after looking I could see a line or two (he wasn’t quite as agro about that one. Conserving time and ink, one supposes).

        • Mitch Neher says:

          Thanks again. I have irregular astigmatism from volleyball in ancient times.

          Was Parnas talking to Giuliani–R–while taking these notes?

          The first double asterick comment says *Firtash toxic*. The second, *He’ll confirm*. And under that what looks like “Atty can call.”

          So who’s going to confirm to whose attorney that Firtash is toxic–presumably in Ukraine?

    • ernesto1581 says:

      any sightings of sonny-boy Brady Toensing, who left the sunlit swards of VT last spring to join his progenitrix in DC and add his two-cents to this circle jerk?

      meanwhile, Parnas interview part II, with CNN:
      “I mean, a lot of people are scared. They don’t want to get investigated.” (LP)
      I don’t imagine it might have occurred to noted public intellectual Anderson Cooper to follow up on this remark beyond repeating it…?
      Like asking Who, What, and How would you know?

      • Mitch Neher says:

        The following excerpt from his mother’s Wikipedia entry is the best I can do in reply to your question:

        Brady Toensing, who joined the Justice Department in June 2019 as senior counsel in its Office of Legal Policy. Formerly, Brady Toensing was vice chair of the Vermont Republican Party, as well as a high-profile and controversial Vermont lawyer, and partner in his mother’s and step-father’s law firm. The Justice Department has said that Brady Toensing is recused from matters involving the diGenova & Toensing law firm, including the Trump–Ukraine scandal. He is said to be helping to choose judicial nominees for President Trump.

        [end excerpt]

        FTR, I had no idea that Brady Toensing even existed. Thanks for the tip, ernesto1581.

  2. Stew McF says:

    /Shortly thereafter, Dowd came back and told Parnas, “You are one lucky man,” confirming that Trump had waived the conflict./

    This has a whiff of the “shunting to a friendly lawyer” that they did with some of the women that alleged affairs with Trump.

    • emptywheel says:

      Which is why it’s so interesting that Parnas realized he was fucked as soon as Dowd came and gave him orders in jail.

      • klynn says:

        Honestly, I took that part of Parnas’ story as not only realizing he was f’d but that he would be silenced.

  3. Jenny says:

    Thank you Marcy.
    Lots of “fall guys for the shady dealings” with Trump. I hear the theme from the Godfather.

    Parnas is talking and Fruman is not. Why not?

    PS Thanks the timed edit button is back.

      • BobCon says:

        It’s interesting to me that both Parnas and Cohen went the route of hiring loudmouth, loose cannon attorneys, and made significant but notably incomplete disclosures about Trump.

        I don’t have a good reason — it could just be the psychological makeup of a certain kind of hustler — but I also wonder if there is a consistent type of strategy involved with Trump operators being set up to take a fall.

        • timbo says:

          Cohen disclosed enough to certainly indicted the President in a sane country. Our country is not sane, so blaming grifters who spill the beans for the ineffectiveness of the government and justice system itself makes no sense. Parnas, like Cohen, is hoping people will not just listen to their stories but also act on them. If the DP had not managed to take back control of the House in the 2018 election, you can bet that there would have been nary a word from either of Cohen or Parnas. That’s how close the failure of our Constitutional institutions are at this point. We can see them failing and the fact that Cohen and Parnas ET AL is a symptom of systemic failure of our legal and judicial system.

          The President almost certainly violated campaign finance laws in 2016. There have been no article of impeachment directly addressing that. The President currently has a broad “obstruction of Congress” article that has been forwarded to the Senate. However, there has been no article alleging obstruction of justice, an article that, in a functioning, un-corrupted system, would be simple to prove. The fact is that the DP itself does not have faith in the Congress to actually handle an easy case of obstructing justice.

          The DP leadership itself has fallen in with those that argue that all the law is is transitory political consideration, and by extension, that facts do not matter if no one can do anything about it. And that’s the position the DP leadership held until their own personal power was threatened by Trump’s use of a foreign power to dislodge the DP’s own political aspirations, frankly. By coincidence, Trump’s actions also threaten not only the DP but any political rival from any part of our body politic that might seek to rein in Trump’s disregard for the law or fair-play. Which is the only reason why the DP leadership finally decided to move against Trump; because suddenly, maybe the facts might matter to “enough people”. And how, we note that the DP leadership waited for the GAO to come out with a legal opinion on the President’s actions with regard to the Impoundment Act, rather than step up and actually file an article about that abuse of the law.

          Where is the impeachment article for any other administrator who obstructed Congress here? Why isn’t any other official facing a grilling by the Congress for their acts here as yet? “It would be too distracting” is what we’re told by DP leadership but, frankly, if the laws aren’t being followed by the administrators, particularly by political appointees, within the Federal government itself, then how is this putting any significant pressure on them at all to straighten up and fly right?

          Yep, seems like reluctance to use the power of impeachment here is simply allowing a lot of lower flying players to continue to glide around federal laws when and where it suits whoever needs them to glide around those laws.

  4. orionATL says:

    so parnas has been resuscitated as a somewhat reliable source. that’s very useful.

    recently i was told parnas had said that in all ukraine-(no, no, i refuse to advance that easy innanity) matters, trump was, in effect, the puppeteer controlling all aspects involved

    in my view this has been trump’s m.o. from day 1 of the attack the fbi and why he was so furious with attyny. gen. sessions. his life story is that, like any sharp mob boss, trump has always stayed one or more persons removed from necessary dirty or criminal deeds.

    relevant to a obtaining a complete picture trump’s political mercenaries is this:

    the new yorker has a long (14 pp) fascinating history by adam entous of the role of the most recently fired ukrainian prosecutor general (there have been several so its hard to keep this mess straight), yuriy lutsenko, and his role in creating the lies about ambassafdor marie yovanovitch that were eagerly sucked up and used by our president.

    a trailer for you:

    “… During the past two years, Lutsenko, seeking to bolster his reputation and suspecting that Yovanovitch was attempting to undermine him, was eager to arrange high-profile meetings for himself in Washington, starting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. When he heard rumors that Yovanovitch and other U.S. officials were blocking the meetings, he grew increasingly resentful. Lutsenko said that one of his subordinates at the prosecutor general’s office told him in the fall of 2018 that an associate of Giuliani’s, Lev Parnas, a Ukrainian-born, Florida-based businessman and Trump supporter who worked as a fixer in Kyiv, wanted to set up a meeting between Lutsenko and Giuliani. Giuliani had been rooting around in Ukraine for information that could help Trump deflect allegations stemming from an investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. He was looking for witnesses who were willing to lend credence to dubious reports that Ukrainians colluded with the Hillary Clintoncampaign.

    In January, 2019, Giuliani spoke by phone with Viktor Shokin, the previous prosecutor general, about alleged misconduct by the Bidens, which set him on a new path of inquiry. That month, Lutsenko flew to New York, and, in the course of several days, spoke with Giuliani at his Park Avenue office. Parnas and his associate Igor Fruman were there, too. Lutsenko knew what would interest Giuliani, so he had brought along financial information purportedly drawn from bank records, which, he said, proved that Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company, had paid Hunter Biden and his business partner to “lobby” Joe Biden. “Lutsenko came in with guns blazing,” Parnas told me. “He came in with records showing us the money trail. That’s when it became real.” Giuliani seized on Lutsenko’s claims, offering to help him secure high-level meetings in Washington and encouraging him to pursue investigations beneficial to Trump… “.

    independent of its relevance to the hot, hot politics cooking in washington these days, this is a fine portrait of a man who lost his way, perhaps because, while he had been an admired leader and and activist, he was politically indecisive and without a moral core.

    and of course you get to enjoy the cartoons!

    • timbo says:

      He’s a grifter, not a mob boss per se. He understands mobs and bosses though, clearly. And the people around him act like a mob, of course—it’s the cachet. Frankly, though, what Trump is better at is entertaining with his antics. He’s convinced many allegedly mature adults that he, Trump, is the devil you want. Which makes me wonder what exactly it is that those allegedly mature adults fear…

  5. Mister Sterling says:

    We’re getting really close to confirming another devastating quid pro quo: that Barr would have the DOJ drop its pursuit of Firtash in exchange for a public announcement of a Biden investigation, and probably some arrangement of business deals that would financially benefit Giuliani and his two goons.

    • jplm says:

      Surely Firtash must feel he is sitting pretty. He finds himself in another advantageous quid pro quo in that to escape his extradition and current charges he can trade whatever information he has on Rudy, Nunes et al?

      • timbo says:

        I’d say that the Russians are sitting pretty here. As for Firtash, he’ll take his grift to the highest bidder.

        • Frank Probst says:

          I’m sure I’ll get smacked down if any of this is inaccurate (justifiably so), but Firtash’s Wikipedia page says that he’s out on a 125 million euro bail in Austria. Pre-Zelensky Ukraine did not appear to want him back. I can’t imagine Post-Zelensky Ukraine would want him unless it was to charge him with a crime. Spain and the US are both trying to extradite him. His movements within the EU appear to be restricted somewhat by the fact that if he goes to another country and gets caught there, he could probably face extradition from wherever he’s caught, and he may end up forfeiting his 9-figure bail.

          He may just be loving life in Vienna, and he’s perfectly happy to bide his time there while his legal dramas play out, but I kind of doubt it.

          He’s being represented by Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing, which has just become a huge political liability. Any possible deal he had in the pipeline (and frankly, I don’t really see him as being able to “flip” on anyone in the US) just got blown up by Parnas.

          He’s almost certainly able to call the shots on a wide variety of operations all over the world, but he’s probably radioactive when it comes to all of the “big fish”. Little fish like Parnas and Fruman will probably still take his money and do dirty deeds for pay, but my guess is that he fallen out of the billionaire boys’ club he used to be in. He’s probably more of a grift-ee than a grift-er at this point.

          (Total WAGs on my part. Feel free to knock them all down. I haven’t done a “deep dive” into the guy, so I could be totally off-base here.)

        • timbo says:

          I think you’re maybe misapprehending the scale of the graft involved here. Certainly Trump and his cadre didn’t mind gettin some of his money… is a “nine figure” bail forfeiture a big hit for Firtash or just “the cost of doing business”? In any case, this has all benefitted the Russians so far.

          Now, let’s get on to speculating who are the Russian moles in the administration. I’m thinking it’s Mulvaney at this point. Or possibly the whole lot of them. What say you?

        • Frank Probst says:

          I’m pretty sure it’s a “no” on the new Russian expert who just got marched out of the White House. Other than that, who knows?

        • timbo says:

          So it’s still Mulvaney then…I mean, if I were a Russian spy, there ain’t much better than Director of OMB and acting chief of staff to the US President. Heck, come to think of it, that might be an interesting position even if one wasn’t a Russian spy… like if one were keen on violating the Hatch Act left, right, and center to help my Leader get re-elected by any means necessary.

  6. Doug Reaves says:

    You probably know that Victoria Toensing’s son, Brady, was the cause of an FBI investigation into Jane Sanders’ (Bernie’s wife) role in the closing of Burlington College. (She was exonerated.) It seems these people turn to dirt, whenever their candidate can’t win an honest election.

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