I Wouldn't Let Lev Parnas Park My Car. But He's a Witness.

Charles P. Pierce
Photo credit: Drew Angerer - Getty Images

From Esquire

Let me be perfectly clear. I would not buy an apple from Lev Parnas, Rudy Giuliani’s running buddy in the Ukraine and (apparently) a former unofficial emissary from El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago. He is indeed under federal indictment. All of this is true now that he’s doing this very odd media tour as The Man Who Kept Receipts. I wouldn’t let him park my car.

But I believe most of what he’s been saying. Why? Because this is an administration full of crooks and grifters, and we got more independent corroboration of that simple fact Thursday morning from none other than the Government Accountability Office, from which I would buy an apple. From the Washington Post:

The Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan agency that reports to Congress, found the Trump administration violated a law that governs how the White House disburses money approved by Congress. The GAO decision comes as the Senate prepares for the impeachment trial of President Trump, a process set to begin Thursday.

"Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” the decision states. “OMB withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act.”

This, of course, was in reference to the administration*’s withholding of vital military aid from Ukraine unless that country’s president agreed to help this country’s president* ratfck the 2020 presidential election. That aid was the biggest club the claque of extortionists in the White House sought to wield. It also gives the White House something else to cover up, which is both another crime and another abuse of power. And it’s one more crucial piece of evidence on the side of the case that says this administration* is capable of almost anything—including, it must be said, relying on a skeevy international bagman like Lev Parnas.

Now, as for Lev himself, the fact-witness with the struggling combover and the David Ferrie eyebrows, I’d say that, by and large, he’s been dealing straight with his interviewers, although Charlie Savage’s cautions on MSNBC Thursday morning are well-taken. On the events for which he already has provided documents, he seems to be telling the truth, and much of what he said were backed up by previous witnesses like Bill Taylor and Fiona Hill. He did crack open a new line of inquiry when he told kindly Doc Maddow that holding up the military aid was, in fact, the second quid pro quo demanded by the administration*. The first, he said, involved a visit that Vice President Mike Pence was supposed to make to Ukraine that was cancelled, according to Parnas, when Ukraine held off on investigating the Bidens as the White House demanded. This also seems completely consonant with what we already know.

Photo credit: Paul Hennessy - Getty Images

The most conspicuously dodgy part of Parnas’s interview was the way he handled the matter of surveillance (or worse) of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. It is more than clear that removing Yovanovitch was central to the White House scheme. But Parnas went vague on the involvement of Robert Hyde, the Connecticut Republican whose messages to Parnas seemed to indicate a knowledge of Yovanovitch’s movements and also ominously claimed you can get anything done in Ukraine “for a price.” Parnas dismissed Hyde as an obnoxious drunk—which, to be fair, he seems to be—but on the substance of Hyde’s claims, Parnas went into a fog.

I don’t believe it’s true. I think he was either drunk or he’s trying himself bigger than he was. I didn’t take him seriously -- and you’ll see I didn’t even respond to him most of the time and when I did, it was something like “LOL” or “Great!”... I didn’t want him to get rowdy the next time I saw him.

No, Lev. I don’t want that apple. However, we do know that Yovanovitch eventually was hustled out of Ukraine for “security reasons” virtually overnight. This was the only part of the interview in which Parnas sounded clearly like he was covering his own hindquarters. I fear there is more to this, and it will have to come from somewhere else.

One thing is certain: Parnas’s sudden visibility is heating up Republican senators. Arizona’s Martha McSally, who is one of several senators whose reelection is very uncertain, went a little bananas at CNN’s Manu Raju on Thursday morning. (You will note that David Perdue of Georgia didn’t exactly seem comfortable there, either.) Lev Parnas is nobody’s idea of a hero. But he’s everybody’s idea of witness.

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