No wonder Donald Trump wants the Senate to quickly short-circuit his impeachment trial: New evidence is constantly coming out about his campaign to extort Ukraine into helping him in the 2020 election. Tuesday, the House Intelligence Committee released documents from Lev Parnas, the Rudy Giuliani associate who’s already been indicted for funneling foreign money to political campaigns, and they contain bombshell after bombshell. Coming as the House prepares to send the impeachment articles to the Senate, this puts additional pressure on wobbly Republicans to vote to call witnesses in the trial—and it’s information that would not have been out in time for a trial if Speaker Nancy Pelosi hadn’t held the articles since December.
The newly released documents include a letter from Giuliani to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky making it very clear that he’s working for Donald Trump, not the United States government—literally “I am private counsel to President Donald J. Trump. Just to be precise, I represent him as a private citizen, not as President of the United States”—before asking for a meeting with Zelensky in very interesting language. “I have a more specific request. In my capacity as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent, I request a meeting with you.” With Trump’s knowledge and consent.
They include Giuliani promising to revive a visa for former Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin that had been turned down due to his corruption, with Giuliani specifically telling Parnas that “I have no 1 in it.” (Shokin did not end up receiving a visa.)
Parnas also took handwritten notes saying “Get Zalensky to Annouce that the Biden case will be Investigated,” of which former top government lawyers Neal Katyal and Joshua Geltzer write that it shows that “the real goal here” was “not to prompt an investigation of Hunter Biden, but to score an announcement of a Biden investigation. Pursuing an announcement, rather than an investigation, makes sense only if Trump’s objective was to dirty the reputation of a leading political rival, Joe Biden.” Actual investigations, they point out, happen in secret.
All of these documents are bombshells because they confirm things we already knew, things that are implicit in the White House summary of Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky but that Republicans have claimed were innocent or somehow unproven. That’s huge. But Parnas also turned over documents that reveal something new: As Parnas was in contact with Giuliani and working to get Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch removed from her post in Ukraine, another of his associates apparently had her under surveillance. Robert Hyde, a Republican congressional candidate in Connecticut, told Parnas he was in touch with a “private security team” and that, at one point, “She’s talked to three people. Her phone is off. Computer is off.” At another point, “They will let me know when she’s on the move.”
”They are willing to help if we/you would like a price,” Hyde even wrote. “Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money . . . what I was told.” In other words, you don’t have to get very many steps removed from Trump himself before people involved in the campaign to pressure Ukraine into trashing Trump’s political opponents were actually suggesting violence against a United States government official.
And if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had his way, the Senate would already have acquitted Trump in a speedy trial with no witnesses. If he has his way, the Senate will still acquit Trump in a speedy trial with no witnesses, even with this information available and former national security adviser John Bolton having said he would testify under subpoena. It’s not just Donald Trump. The Republican Party is a corrupt enterprise throughout its leadership.