As Accused Co-Conpirators, Donald Trump and Lev Parnas Should Be Treated with Same Skepticism

WaPo has a long profile of Lev Parnas that adopts the same approach with the accused influence-peddler that virtually the entire press corps does: raising cautions about his veracity because Parnas is has been indicted in a serious crime, with more charges promised.

Some of his most explosive claims that Trump, Vice President Pence and Attorney General William P. Barr knew of his activities remain unsubstantiated and disputed. The president’s allies say his assertions are not credible, noting the serious criminal charges he faces.

“These allegations are being made by a man who is currently out on bail for federal crimes and is desperate to reduce his exposure to prison,” White House press secretary Stephanie ­Grisham said this past week.


And some Democrats have counseled caution in the face of his allegations, noting that he is accused of serious felonies.

“Parnas is someone whose evidence, whose testimony should be questioned, challenged, like any other witness,” Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) told CNN, adding, “but he should be a witness.”

Prosecutors have hinted in court that more of Parnas’s activities have not come to light yet. This past month, they revealed that he received a mysterious $1 million loan in September from a lawyer for Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian gas tycoon facing bribery charges in the United States. In court, Bondy said the loan was made to Parnas’s wife and had been intended to help the couple buy a home. He said that Firtash had cut all ties to Parnas after it started to become clear Parnas intended to assist the impeachment probe. He and Parnas have declined to comment further.

The profile mentions Trump’s impeachment in the third paragraph, and describes the way Parnas’ media blitz undermines Trump’s defenses. But it treats Trump’s defenses, having been accused of high crimes and misdemeanors, as presumptively trustworthy.

The House of Representatives formally voted to send the Senate charges that Trump abused his office by pressuring Ukraine to help his reelection bid.


Still, the blizzard of new details in the documents Parnas had turned over raised a host of questions about Trump’s efforts in Ukraine — ratcheting up the pressure on Senate Republicans to allow witnessesto be called during the coming trial.


The materials sharply undercut the notion pushed by the president’s supporters that the activities in Ukraine were about U.S. anti-corruption policy — rather than defeating Biden.

The profile doesn’t make two things clear. First, Trump is an accused defendant every bit as much as Lev Parnas is, with the same incentive to lie. More importantly, from the very beginning of this impeachment process, Parnas has been described as a co-conspirator of Trump’s in his crimes.

The whistleblower complaint that first accused Trump of multiple crimes invokes Parnas and Igor Fruman at least four times. After describing Rudy’s trip to Madrid to meet with Andriy Yermak in the wake of the Trump-Zelensky phone call, the complaint notes that Rudy has reached out to other Zelensky advisors through the grifters.

Separately, multiple U.S. officials told me that Mr. Giuliani had reportedly privately reached out to a variety of other Zelenskyy advisers, including Chief of Staff Andriy Bohdan and Acting Chairman of the Security Service of Ukraine Ivan Bakanov.4

4 In a report published by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) on 22 July, two associates of Mr. Giuliani reportedly traveled to Kyiv in May 2019 and met with Mr. Bakanov and another close Zelenskyy adviser, Mr. Serhiy Shefir.

Then, when raising Yuriy Lutsenko’s confessed efforts to invent dirt targeting Marie Yovanovitch, the whistleblower raises Rudy’s public claims that John Durham was meeting with Ukrainians for his Bill Barr-led probe.

Mr. Lutsenko also stated that he wished to communicate directly with Attorney General Barr on these matters.9

9 In May, Attorney General Barr announced he was initiating a probe into the “origins” of the Russia investigation. According to the above-referenced OCCRP report (22 July), two associates of Mr. Giuliani claimed to be working with Ukrainian officials to uncover information that would become part of this inquiry. In an interview with Fox News on 8 August, Mr. Giuliani claimed that Mr. John Durham, whom Attorney General Barr designated to lead this probe, was “spending a lot of time in Europe” because he was “investigating Ukraine.” I do not know the extent to which, if at all, Mr. Giuliani is directly coordinating his efforts on Ukraine with Attorney General Barr or Mr. Durham.

The complaint provides further details laying out Rudy’s meetings with Lutsenko.

It was also publicly reported that Mr. Giuliani had met on at least two occasions with Mr. Lutsenko: once in New York in late January and again in Warsaw in mid-February. In addition, it was publicly reported that Mr. Giuliani had spoken in late 2018 to former Prosecutor General Shokin, in a Skype call arranged by two associates of Mr. Giuliani.10

10 See, for example, the above-referenced articles in Bloomberg (16 May) and OCCRP (22 July).

The complaint then moves on to describe Rudy’s outreach to Zelensky after the election, suggesting that Parnas and Fruman may have been the people he heard were leading that effort.

Around the same time, I also learned from a U.S. official that “associates” of Mr. Giuliani were trying to make contact with the incoming Zelenskyy team.11

11 I do not know whether these associates of Mr. Giuliani were the same individuals named in the 22 July report by OCCRP, referenced above.

In other words, Parnas’ efforts to reach out to Lutsenko and other corrupt prosecutors and then his role pressuring Zelensky to announce a Biden investigation has always been part of the necessary context in which to understand Trump’s comments on that phone call as the crime it is.

And while Trump has denied knowing Parnas (in the same way he denied knowing George Papadopoulos), his lawyers have not denied that he was working on Trump’s behalf.

The House Intelligence Committee already has legal proof of that — in John Dowd’s October 3 letter asserting that Parnas and Fruman’s work for Rudy was in connection with Rudy’s representation of Trump.

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.

Parnas has since presented further proof of that, in the email focusing on the import of ensuring Parnas and Fruman could not cooperate with Congress that preceded by hours the release of a Trump-penned letter accusing the entire impeachment proceeding of impropriety. He even provided proof that Trump knew of a perceived conflict involving John Dowd’s representation of Parnas and waived it.

Moreover, Parnas has provided text messages and other evidence more than substantiating the Ukraine outreached raised by the whistleblower, both with those named by him and those alluded to:

  • Yuri Lutsenko
  • Ivan Bakanov
  • Serhiy Shefir
  • Arsen Avakov
  • Andriy Yermak
  • Igor Kolomoisky

Trump and Parnas are both defending themselves against serious allegations of criminal wrong-doing.

But just one of them has released evidence to substantiate their defense. And the press ought to take that into account when deciding who is more credible.


37 replies
  1. Pete T says:

    Good points. Not only does Trump have every incentive to lie (like Parnas), but he also has a track record of provable lies about many things. So we KNOW Trump is a liar and worthy of scrutiny.

  2. John McManus says:

    Is the prosecutor ‘Bondi” in the WAPO article ( paywalled so I can’t read it ) one of Trump’s impeachment lawyers ? If so, isn’t there the appearance of conflict ?

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      You’re confusing Joseph Bondy, Parnas’s lawyer, with Pam Bondi, recipient of the illegal donation from the fake charity. Bondy even tweeted about the confusion.

      • bmaz says:

        Yes, think that is right. But Parnas is not currently even a live witness, so even if he was friends with Pam Bondi, don’t think there would be a conflict, and certainly not one that Trump couldn’t waive.

  3. BobCon says:

    Completely agree that there’s an unacceptable split in the way the press treats the implications of the indictment of Parnas and the impeachment of Trump.

    The bottom line is that they are still refusing to engage with the evidence on Trump, conflating evidence with accusations, all so that they can avoid reporting in the name of neutrality.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      The bottom line is that they find it impossible to say that The President Is Bad And A Liar Who Does Crimes: even the Leonnig/Rucker book on how he’s an arrogant, ignorant dipshit doesn’t go that far. Jay Rosen’s rationale is that the presidential press corps sees itself as part of the institution and its own reputation would take a hit.

      My take is a little different: the elite press can’t say the president is bad because that would mean the republic allows bad people to become president and remain president in spite (or because) of their badness. It’s an existential short-circuit.

      It’s on a par with how you get “racially charged” and other euphemisms: there’s broad consensus that it’s bad to be a racist, which means that calling someone a racist means saying they’re bad, and that’s a value judgement they’re not prepared to make.

        • timbo says:

          They seem to be good about making no good judgement calls and then reporting the foibles of others, not as crimes, but as a business cycle decision.

      • orionATL says:

        for the millenial ages of our species, it’s like this:

        we humans have an irrepressible tendency to adopt a worshipful, submissive attitude toward The One our social group happens to have elevated to the status of high priest, or living god – supreme leader.

        it is fundamentally fearful to doubt the designated supreme leadet. it is at this junction that an individual’s sense of evidence and logic collides with his brain’s social psychodynamics. the psychodynamics of human social groups generally subsumes individual judgement which is what makes the human social group the most dangerous, destructive (or foolish) living organism on earth.

    • Rugger9 says:

      It’s about creating the horse race to sell ads, nothing more for the courtier press. That’s why the anti-HRC bias last time, and why the Dems in disarray theme keeps coming up over and over again. The Palace helps them sell ads so the Palace gets their free pass. As a bonus remember that most of the editorial boards are right wing greedy bastids (RWGB) and they will not turn off revenue source even when the country gets hammered for it. In addition, all of the years of GOP bitching about press bias means these cowards are too afraid of losing access and getting called out by Faux News and the hordes of flying monkeys on the internet to actually call a lie a lie.

      In any honestly reported world Individual-1 would have been frogmarched into oblivion long before reaching the Palace, but that’s not what happened.

    • Katherine M Williams says:

      There is no “press” as in the constitutionally defined “Free Press”. We have a media owned by massive international corporations, many of whom have foreign leaders & governments as major stockholders.

      We will never get truth From “the press” unless the truth is profitable To the “the press”.

  4. Reader 21 says:

    Maggie H wrote over 100 X’s re Hillary and emails and/or Benghazi. During that same critical 2015-16 time frame leading up to the election, Maggie saw fit to mention Individual-1’s long-standing, easily-documented (but for most Americans not in New York, well-hidden), ties to organized crime, first Italian, later Russian. Zero times. Not even a mention. Journalistic malfeasance.

  5. orionATL says:

    hey, fred hyatt and other wapoop ostrich butts!

    can we finally agree that president trump’s call to president zelensky was not merely an impulsive, spur-of-the-moment improvisation by our president, but the culmination of a lengthy conspiracy engineered by Himself to facilitate his reelection in the same mode and with the same slyness as his 2015-16 conspiracy with the russian president putin?

    • Katherine M Williams says:

      I think the purpose of the Ukraine Shakedown was to stop aid to Ukraine so Russia could complete their invasion. The rest is smokescreen, and the smokescreen is working very well. Of course a stupid & insane Trump believes it was about Biden, and his grifting henchmen didn’t care what the real purpose was. But Putin and his friends know. They almost got their wish, too. The whistleblower report revelation made directly to the House came in the genuine nick of time, didn’t it.

      • orionATL says:

        well, at no time should we ever discount the likelihood that our president is acting or has acted in a way that advantages russian goals, and perhaps deliberately. for example, when he withdrew from syria he had a meeting with erdogan and turned an American airbase over to the Turks who immediately turned it over to the russians. another, trump reneged on the american-iranian nuclear treaty thus strengthening the russian hand in iran. the kindest one can say of these actions is that they demonstrate incompetent presidential leadership. another, the unambiguous effort to weaken nato. advantaging russia in ukraine could certainly count though zelensky is not pro-russian and the ukrainians seem in no mood as a people to trust their fate to the russian federation.

        personally, and legalistic constitutional definitions of the term aside, i think president trump is the first truly treasonous president we have ever had, employing the general english language sense of that term. whether this is a fair assessment will only become clear when some years have passed and we can see how the russians and he interacted ex post (favors done), together with documents from the national archives and other sources that historians have assessed.

          • P J Evans says:

            Somewhere down the line, yeah, the historians may come to that conclusion. I think it will be at least 20 years, closer to 50 – if we survive that long.

            • bmaz says:

              Historians can do whatever they want. But until either the Constitution is amended (never going to happen) or case precedent in the courts changes, there simply is no treason out of this kind of stuff. And it is really disheartening to have people keep arguing that there is, because that is wrong, silly, and warps arguments and discussion.

              • orionATL says:

                i understand your point bmaz and am not at all interested in flaunting the term. but you must understand in turn that the law, the constitution, the bible, the dictionary, current usage, etc. does not set immutable limits on the accepted meaning or use of a word.

                as an example, take the contemporary computer slang term “hack”. initially it referred essentially to breaking into a computer program or computer-run setup, e.g., a payroll program. now one of its meanings has changed to a positive sense of “a fix” for a problem, and not even necessarily computer-related.

                definitions of treason:

                “… Dictionary Translate Grammar Cambridge Dictionary +Plus

                1. … Meaning of treason in English



                 (the crime of) showing no loyalty to your country, especially by helping its enemies or trying to defeat its government:



                treachery formal

                See also

                high treason

                 Thesaurus: synonyms and related words

                Disloyalty, betrayal & treason

                treason | AMERICAN DICTIONARY



                the crime of helping your country’s enemies or attempting to illegally remove  its government:

                (Definition of treason from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press…”

                • Rayne says:

                  Look, I’m going with bmaz on this because the term treason is being misused in the same way that collusion was used.

                  Trump’s behavior can be labeled as traitorous; there’s a possibility that undermining the operation of the government with foreign assistance where military elements have been employed could even be seditious and still fit the legal definition of that particular word, sedition (18 USC 2384).

                  But the term treason only applies when an enemy has been formally identified, usually through a declaration of war, or in cases where attacks on U.S. military have been encouraged with specific intent to wage war on the U.S.

                  See 18 USC 2381 Treason:

                  Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

                  Being a malignant narcissist likely suffering from increasing cognitive impairment, Trump’s motive in any action he’s taken isn’t about the U.S. but about him. His specific intent at any time is seeking personal gain and/or covering his ass and everything else that damages others as a result is merely collateral damage as far as he’s concerned.

                  ADDER: I went back and fetched the link to the primer bmaz has pointed to in the past.
                  Americans have forgotten what ‘treason’ actually means — and how it can be abused, by Prof. Steve Vladeck, University of Texas School of Law.

                  Americans should be more twitchy about using the term treason given its use in British history and the role it played in U.S. independence.

        • orionATL says:

          i should add that in any discussion/guess of our president’s internal decision making process – as those who try to assess his mental processes note – one can never be sure he is not acting out impulsively in the manner of an angry teenager. that tendency may become more evident during these impeachment times. it is not inconceivable that trump will take actions not at all in american nation interests as a matter of spite at criticism or political punishments he receives for conduct like the ukrainian extortion caper, which he professes to believe was well-intentioned (his martyr complex kicks in).

      • Mitch Neher says:

        I think it would be consistent with your thoughts above to say that Manafort is still trying to deliver to Russia the Ukrainian peace plan that the Ukrainians cannot ever accept.

        That would explain Downing’s role with Parnas just as well as anything else.

  6. Badger Robert says:

    Wouldn’t Parnas want to minimize his exposure by giving evidence against the conspirators with greater authority? And wouldn’t Trump want to say whatever Parnas did was organized by Guiliani without Trump’s approval?
    To me it seems like an unwaiveable conflict, which seems to be Parnas’ conclusion.
    How would anyone come up with a joint defense agreement if Parnas’ information wasn’t threatening and credible?

    • Rugger9 says:

      Well, like Ken Starr, he will need to answer questions from the Ds and that will not be pretty even behind closed doors (if MMMcT gets his way) because of positions staked out in the Clinton impeachment under oath at the trial (for Starr) and the positions staked out in the press (for Dersh). Lindsey may get to explain himself as well.

      • P J Evans says:

        It’s funny when he tweets about Larry Tribe trying to sensor [sic] his arguments.

        Tribe is trying to sensor my arguments . The headline of Tribe’s article says it all: “Trump’s lawyer shouldn’t be allowed to use bogus arguments on impeachment.”

        You know, Dersh, if you weren’t using bogus arguments (the kind that even second-year law students would avoid), you wouldn’t be getting flamed like this.

  7. Frank Probst says:

    The extent of the President’s obstruction is so mind-blowing that I think you’re necessarily underselling your argument here, because nothing like this has ever happened before. The number of witnesses instructed to ignore subpoenas and the refusal of multiple people and agencies not to co-operate with subpoenas for documents is just staggering. Pelosi’s chart comparing the Clinton impeachment to the Trump impeachment helps illustrate it, but even then it’s just hard to wrap your brain around.

  8. Peterr says:

    Gotta love John Dowd’s reliance on the Transitive Property of Attorney-Client Privilege.

    Sorry, but this is like a game of telephone. You can’t claim A-C privilege just because the last person in the chain of conversations is a lawyer.

  9. JameJoyce says:

    “But just one of them has released evidence to substantiate their defense.
    And the press ought to take that into account when deciding who is more credible.“

    Who needs “Deep Throat”

    “Question every fact and every opinion.”

    -Thomas Jefferson-

    Lev violated the number one rule. “He got caught.”

    Next is the “fall off the wall.”

    Foreign interests seeking influence outcome of an election X2 would not get away with such manipulations at a “Town Meeting” where all the same issues come into play.

    They might be chewing on a musket ball instead.

    Sadly at a massive national level with newer tech than “planes” the “internet” has permitted “outreach” at sub light speed to those who like dead Marlboro Men, don’t check or care about facts…

    Trump like all prior “tobacco commercials” is a lie. They are all liars.

    Not the Nil-Wheel.

Comments are closed.