Lev Parnas’ Failed Attempt to Flip

With a non-cooperation guilty plea earlier this month from co-conspirator Igor Fruman, a trial scheduled next month for Lev Parnas’ laundering of money from a Russian national into the politics of marijuana, another trial scheduled next year for Parnas’ Fraud Guarantee with Rudy Giuliani, and an investigation into Rudy’s foreign influence peddling in a very active phase, it’s a complex time to be prosecuting Parnas. That’s reflected in the government’s motion in limine filing submitted on Tuesday, which argues what and how evidence should be admissible at the October trial.

Since we talk a lot about the hearsay exception under charged conspiracies (as the October trial is), the filing is interesting for the complex ways the government proposes the statements of the participants can be admitted at trial:

  • Out of court statements — including narrative descriptions of past events — from Parnas, Fruman, David Kukushkin (the other defendant who will face trial), David Correia (who pled guilty in a non-cooperation plea last year), and Andrey Muraviev, the Russian who funded all this, can be entered against each other
  • The out of court statements made by Parnas employee Deanna Van Rensburg can be admitted for their truth against Parnas, but not against Kukushkin
  • The government wants to limit questioning of three FBI witnesses to matters affecting their credibility and not other matters (such as why Agent Jacob Balog, who will testify about some charts showing the government’s version of the timeline of events, would be added to the team just recently)
  • Both defendants have already advised they won’t mount an advice of counsel defense and so the involvement of a lawyer doesn’t help them (though none of the lawyers in question are named Rudy Giuliani)
  • The defendants’ attempts to clean things up in 2019, including after they got charged, should not be treated as evidence about their intent in 2018
  • Parnas shouldn’t be allowed to attempt to nullify the jury (and has apparently already committed not to argue to the jury that this matter arose out of vindictive prosecution based on his cooperation in Trump’s 2019 impeachment)
  • Parnas should not be allowed to argue that Adam Laxalt must be batshit crazy given his more recent public statements in support of Trump’s attempt to steal the 2020 election (or about a matter that the government redacts in their filing)
  • The government should be allowed to introduce evidence of how Parnas spent Muraviev’s money on lavish spending benefitting himself, but Kukushkin should not be able to argue that Parnas’ skimming is proof the two of them did not conspire
  • The court should decide ahead of time what damning details it will let Parnas and Kukushkin introduce to incriminate each other
  • Parnas should be held to the claims he made in a March 5, 2020 proffer to the government

It’s the last of these that I find particularly interesting.

Lev Parnas spent much of January 2020 claiming to want to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry — though those claims were often suspect. At the same time, SDNY seemed to want to stall those efforts. The Senate acquitted Trump in February.

Only after that, on March 5, 2020 (and apparently just March 5), did Parnas proffer testimony in what he had been publicly claiming for some time was an interest in cooperating. But apparently after making statements that support the government case against him at trial next month, nothing came of the proffer.

On March 5, 2020, Parnas and his counsel met with members of this Office and the FBI, to proffer Parnas’s potential testimony about the charges at issue here and other matters. In advance of the proffer, the Government provided a written proffer agreement to Parnas’s counsel, setting forth the terms under which statements Parnas made during the proffer could and could not be used against him.


During a lengthy proffer, Parnas made several statements that tend to prove the charges at issue here, or facts underlying those charges. An FBI agent took detailed notes of the proffer, and later produced a formal report memorializing it (the “302”). Those notes, and the 302, have been provided to Kukushkin and Parnas.


Under the terms of the Proffer Agreement, therefore, defense counsel is free to present a defense and to argue, for example, that the Government has failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt (or failed to present “credible” evidence).


Counsel cannot do so, however, in a matter that directly or indirectly contradicts facts elicited during the proffer without triggering the waiver provision of the agreement.

As the Proffer Agreement and the above law make clear, Parnas may not present evidence or make arguments that are contrary to his own statements in the proffer session without permitting the jury to assess those assertions in light of his contradictory proffer statements. Among the statements that appear most likely to be relevant with respect to the Foreign Donor Scheme, Parnas admitted that the purpose of the money Parnas, Fruman, and Correia obtained from Muraviev was to make campaign contributions to U.S. political candidates. With respect to the Straw Donor Scheme, Parnas admitted that Fruman, rather than Parnas, paid for the donations made to the campaign of Congressman Pete Sessions in Parnas’s name, and that Parnas did not reimburse Fruman for those payments. Allowing Parnas to suggest otherwise, when he had in fact admitted those facts as true, would deceive the jury and subvert the truth-seeking purpose of trial. See Gomez, 210 F. Supp. 2d at 472.

Basically, this means that Parnas can now be held to what he told the government during his proffer. If he tries to deviate from that, they can then used his proffered testimony to disprove his claims. The government explains that they can avoid using this against Kukushkin by having the agent who would testify about the proffered testimony simply not mention Parnas’ inculpatory statements against Kukushkin.

Offering Parnas’s proffer statements to rebut specific claims he may make at trial will not infringe Kukushkin’s rights. Parnas discussed Kukushkin during his proffer, and if read in its entirety the report of Parnas’s proffer plainly inculpates Kukushkin. But the individual admissions that might be relevant to rebutting improper argument by Parnas—such as that Muraviev’s money was sought and used for donations—did not mention Kukushkin. Moreover, because the Government would offer Parnas’s statements through a testifying agent (rather than, for example, a recording), the relevant admission can easily be elicited without mentioning Parnas’s statements about Kukushkin.

All that’s the technicalities and hazards of what happens when someone contemplates a cooperation agreement but then — for whatever reason — doesn’t go through with it.

What I find interesting is the timing and circumstances of this proffer. Parnas had been claiming to want to cooperate far earlier than March 2020. In the interim, however, the government learned certain things (such as what files he had deleted from his iCloud and when) that would have made it easier to identify any lies Parnas told in his bid to convince prosecutors he wanted to cooperate. Plus, as we saw with Michael Cohen, SDNY requires cooperators to cooperate on everything they know, not just the crimes they’ve already been charged with.

Also in the interim, of course, Jeffrey Rosen sharply limited SDNY’s ability to investigate any new leads that Parnas may have given, without first getting approval from EDNY.

And then after Parnas went on the record describing (in part) the crimes for which he’ll go on trial next month, something happened to — quickly, given the single proffer session — make it clear a plea deal was not going to happen. In the 18 months since then, and especially in the five months since Lisa Monaco seems to have authorized SDNY to resume this investigation, DOJ would have been permitted to use Parnas’ proffer to develop new leads in SDNY’s investigation: This investigation, but also the investigation into Parnas’ influence peddling with Rudy.

49 replies
  1. Silly but True says:

    Parnas & Fruman are slimy influence peddlers which no one needs around.

    Parnas made his bed and will lie in it (ba-dum tish).

    If he lied during proffer to try to curry favor, then the jury needs to consider that in his overall credibility, either in his implicating others or in his claims of innocence.

  2. skua says:

    Just speculation: A quick way for a SDNY proffer to end would have been for Parnas to refuse to talk about additional crimes that SDNY presented good evidence of.

  3. Rugger9 says:

    So why would AG Barr walk away from this deal? It would seem to me that accepting it would have allowed Barr and his minions to neutralize the threat of Parnas’ testimony in open court or filings to the castle of cards DJT constructed around anything to do with Russia. It’s also interesting in combination of Fruman’s deal without the cooperation piece. Is DoJ now offering a new deal for Parnas?

  4. Savage Librarian says:

    Some background info on Andrey Muraviev:

    “Cannabis — Knowing Your Customer” – Martin Sheil, 12/5/19
    “By prohibiting banks from doing business with cannabis companies law enforcement is losing a valuable partner and source of information. There is regulatory value in having financial institutions enforce KYC rules regarding their clients and sharing that information with their law-enforcement associates. Monies can be monitored. A frame of reference is available to the banking industry with regard to financing information and the IRS can track revenues via bank deposits.”

    “Our current legal system lends itself to corruption and offshore banking maneuvers….”


  5. TooLoose LeTruck says:

    Good lord…

    Lev Parnas cannot even flip competently?

    This is the kind of hired help, and outcome, you end up when you continually lowball every crooked scheme you try to execute…

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Parnas probably has a laundered list of reasons why he would never want to flip and tell authorities what he knows. Pretend flipping might be OK, but it would be dangerous unless he could assure his patrons that it wasn’t real.

      • rip says:

        The eternal life of a con once the con starts. I was going to say “con artist” but part of that doesn’t work here.

        It’s a treacherous edge of a very sharp knife. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, and riven in two for staying in the middle.

        • ducktree says:

          Cooking is also considered both Art and Science . . .

          Close your eyes, and open your mouth and you will get a Big Surprise!

        • Alan Charbonneau says:

          Yep, these guys are stupid. Parma’s is a bad spot through his incompetence and greed.

          I worked at Wells Fargo headquarters in San Francisco. They have a museum on the first floor. They had a display in the museum with dome real gold nuggets. One night, robbers drove a stolen vehicle through the glass doors and brandished automatic weapons. The guards didn’t resist and the bad guys got away. Their haul? At the highest estimate, it would be $50,000 for four men. That’s $12,500 each in the best case. The penalties for getting caught? Huge. The reward? Paltry.

          Criminals are generally a bunch of idiots. Parnas is in deep and for what? Is he with $25 million? Nope-he’s just a small-time grifter.

      • TooLoose LeTruck says:

        Honestly, I’m surprised no one’s somehow managed to cut their own throat from ear to ear while shaving with an electric razor, then slip and fall out an eighth story window and manage to land in front of a passing train… all by accident, mind you… all by accident…

      • Norskeflamthrower says:

        “Parnas probably has a laundered list of reasons he would never flip…”

        Yes, beginning with an allergy to nuclear cocktails.

    • John Colvin says:

      If you want to get in bed with the government, you have to be willing to go completely naked. Some, like Parnas, are apparently unwilling to do that …

  6. Rugger9 says:

    OT but telling… It seems the Human Bowling Jacket (h/t Charlie Pierce) Paul LePage wants to be governor of Maine again. He did get elected twice by bare pluralities because the Ds split their votes. I do not see that situation happening this time because the current governor is a D and not likely to have competition for re-election. But, so much the better for showing us the true nature of Susan Collins, “moderate” Senator has already jumped in to endorse the proto-Trump LePage (he hits the DJT trifecta of arrogant, incompetent and offensive) in spite of being sooooo concerned about the women of Maine (not a peep either about the TX law… Hmmm…..), just ask her. Charlie Pierce for his part got a lot of inspiration from LePage’s antics as Governor.

    Digby has more here: https://digbysblog.net/2021/09/23/susan-collins-is-no-longer-concerned/

    • phred says:

      Doesn’t Maine have ranked choice voting now? If I remember correctly, they were one of the first states to adopt it, specifically because of LePage’s previous split vote wins. So, I don’t see how he has a snowball’s chance this time. Am I misremembering?

        • phred says:

          Thanks P.J. : )

          Apparently Maine’s legislators complained after the law passed and a judicial review led to it only being used as follows (even though LePage’s wins were a big motivation for passing it, sigh). From a pdf put out by the Maine Secretary of State:

          “6. Why don’t we use RCV in the governor’s race or legislative races in the general election?

          The Justices of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court issue a unanimous advisory opinion at the request of legislators in May 2017, concluding that the parts of the ranked-choice voting law that apply to general elections for State Representative, State Senator and Governor were unconstitutional under the Maine Constitution because the Maine Constitution requires the winners of those offices in a general election to be decided by a plurality. Primary elections in Maine and elections for federal offices are governed by statute and not by the Maine Constitution.

          Beginning with the November 3, 2020 General Election, the U.S. Presidential race is also conducted using ranked-choice voting, per the law passed in 2019: Ch. 539, Public Laws of 2019, “An Act To Implement Ranked-choice Voting for Presidential Primary and General Elections in Maine.””

          • P J Evans says:

            Sigh. The winner of a ranked-choice election should have a plurality, if it’s counted properly. (See: The Hugo Awards, which have been using RCV for at least 50 years. Sometimes “No Award” wins, but always with a plurality. Results are available.)

                • phred says:

                  Yep, it absolutely represents a plurality. I’m a big fan of the idea. There have been some attempts to introduce it locally, but it’s still a work in progress.

                  It’s telling that members of the legislature brought the suit. They count on first past the post to split the competition. I think RCV offers a better representation of what the electorate prefers (mitigates the lesser of two evils problem and whatnot). I don’t understand how the judge decided it conflicted with the Maine constitution, but IANAL and I don’t live in Maine ; )

                  (Hiya bmaz!)

                  • P J Evans says:

                    Judge doesn’t understand it, I think. (It’s not intuitive.) The explanation on the Hugo site is good, but that has some bells and whistles you don’t need for voting (unless your ballot includes “none of the above” as an option!)

                    • phred says:

                      That seems likely (that the judge doesn’t understand it). I have always found it completely intuitive but have had to explain it to others who didn’t. I like to use as an example a vote to choose one flavor of ice cream for a large group of people. That works to clear things up every time ; )

                      And thanks for the link to the Hugo rules. I am also in favor of including none of the above. The electorate should always have the right to reject undesirable candidates party leadership tries to foist upon them.

                    • P J Evans says:

                      phred says:
                      September 26, 2021 at 9:01 am

                      You can get an idea of how it works from the published results (found in awards by year)

  7. d4v1d says:

    Fatrucking his prosecutors. Where does he think he is? Might work in Ukraine, but here in America… uh…hmmm.

  8. mospeck says:

    Igor and Lev are little criminals – just simple distracts (going by Randy Newman’s Baltimore, Simon’s Wire and the official KGB, rules). But over here we swing by the blues train and you just get trained up to expect for the worst possible thing, like the modern GOP challenging our election results all over the place.
    TX Judge Hidalgo warns “playing politics with the integrity of our elections threatens our democracy.”
    So don’t disappoint us. Moscow Mitch, default on the debt, since you so want to be like your big brother United Russia and rule over a failed state in elegant style, just like vlad.

  9. P J Evans says:

    Trash talk addition: The Broncos stampeded the Jets-Jets-Jets, 26-0. All the other games today were less lopsided.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        Apologies for late, and OT.
        But the Financial Times has an interview of Alice Cooper that is just absolutely a treat.
        Should be easy to locate on the main site.

        • bmaz says:

          Excellent! Thank you. Haven’t seen him around in a bit, but Covid. I cannot throw a rock at that house, but the dog gets walked by it all the time. His politics are not mine, but he and Sheryl are genuinely decent people and do truly a ton here in the community. For others, here is a link.

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