WASHINGTON – Evidence unveiled Tuesday in the impeachment proceeding against President Donald Trump shows an associate of his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, worked to get the Ukraine government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
The documents appear to show that Giuliani and Lev Parnas, who faces unrelated campaign finance charges, knew the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine would be removed the day before it happened last year.
The materials, provided to Congress by Parnas' lawyer on Monday, were released Tuesday by four House committees.
They include Parnas' handwritten notes on stationery from the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Vienna, the committees said. One page refers to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky: "get Zalensky to annouce that the Biden case will be Investigated."
House Democrats impeached Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for withholding military aid and a White House visit in order to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden. That included Trump's personal request to Zelensky for an investigation, made in a July 25 call.
Evidence released Tuesday shows Zelensky was aware of accusations against Biden in May, well before that call, according to the committees.
U.S. officials have discredited accusations about Ukraine and the Bidens as conspiracy theories. U.S. officials testified in the impeachment inquiry that accusations that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 presidential election are Russian propaganda, and it wasn’t credible Biden would influence policy for financial or personal motives.
A statement from the Democratic chairmen of four committees that investigated Trump said the documents “demonstrate that there is more evidence relevant to the President’s scheme, but they have been concealed by the President himself.”
“All of this new evidence confirms what we already know: the President and his associates pressured Ukrainian officials to announce investigations that would benefit the President politically,” the statement said.
The three committees that investigated Trump's dealings with Ukraine – Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight and Reform – submitted the evidence to the Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee plans to submit it to the Senate along with the articles of impeachment.
The House is expected to vote Wednesday on sending the articles to the Senate, where the trial is expected to begin Tuesday.
Trump said he was justified in fighting corruption in Ukraine and predicted he would be exonerated at trial.
The committees that led the Ukraine investigation subpoenaed Parnas on Oct. 10 for the evidence, a day after he was arrested. Parnas won approval from a federal judge in New York to share documents and evidence from devices seized by investigators, including two phones and an iPad.
The committee chairmen – Reps. Adam Schiff of California at the Intelligence Committee, Jerry Nadler of New York at Judiciary, Carolyn Maloney of New York at Oversight, and Eliot Engel of New York at Foreign Affairs – had said they would continue to investigate Trump after the Dec. 18 vote to impeach the president.
Trump's lawyers agreed to represent Parnas and an associate before they were arrested
The evidence includes an Oct. 2 email showing contact between Jay Sekulow, a member of Trump's legal team, and former Trump lawyer John Dowd about the topic of "representation" for Parnas and one his co-defendants, Igor Fruman.
"I have discussed the issue of representation with the President," Sekulow wrote to Dowd. "The President consents to allowing your representation of Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman."
The day after that email was sent, the committees said, Dowd wrote to the Intelligence Committee to clarify that he was representing Parnas and Fruman, and that they "assisted Mr. Giuliani in connection with his representation of President Trump."
Those messages were sent a week before Parnas and Fruman were arrested at Dulles International Airport with one-way tickets to Europe.
A federal indictment unsealed in October charged Parnas, 47, and Belarus-born associate Fruman with conspiring to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars in foreign money to buy influence with U.S. political candidates and campaign committees. Evidence in the case includes $325,000 allegedly contributed under a false name to a political action committee supporting Trump.
Two other associates, David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin, are charged separately with contributing foreign funds to candidates in Nevada and other states in a bid to win support for a planned cannabis business. Some of the money allegedly was supplied by a Russian businessman who was not identified in the indictment.
The four men have pleaded pleaded not guilty.
Parnas tried to arrange meetings between Giuliani and Ukrainian officials
Messages translated by the committees showed communication between Parnas and top Ukrainian officials during the campaign to pressure that country to open investigations.
In May, Parnas communicated by instant message with Ivan Bakanov, the head of Ukraine's Security Service, and Serhiy Shefir, a top aide to Zelensky. Parnas tried to arrange meetings between the aides and Giuliani. He sent them articles about Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a New York Times story about Giuliani's investigative goals in Ukraine.
"If you are currently on vacation please connect someone else who is close to President Voldomyr [and] who can call me back so I can connect them with Giuliani," Parnas wrote to Bakanov on May 2.
Bakanov responded that he "shared the information he [Parnas] provided with Mr. President via the established channel," though he did not schedule a meeting with Giuliani.
The Intelligence Committee said those messages documented that Zelensky knew of the Biden allegations in May.
The evidence includes a photograph of a previously-undisclosed letter from Giuliani to Zelensky on May 10. “In my capacity as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent, I request a meeting with you on this upcoming Monday, May 13th, or Tuesday, May 14th,” Giuliani wrote.
House investigators wrote that the letter “makes clear that his trip, which he publicly described at the time as an effort to 'meddle in in investigation, was undertaken with the knowledge and support of President Trump.”
Trump ally claimed U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was under surveillance
WhatsApp messages obtained by the Intelligence Committee show Parnas was in contact with Robert F. Hyde, a pro-Trump congressional candidate in Connecticut who claimed to have Yovanovitch under surveillance.
In March, Parnas sent Hyde articles critical of Yovanovitch, to which Hyde responded, "Wow. can't believe Trumo [sic] hasn't fired this b****."
Hyde sent a series of messages suggesting he had hired people in Ukraine to surveil the ambassador, alluding to "the guys over there," and updating Parnas on what he said was Yovanovitch's location.
"Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money...what I was told," Hyde told Parnas.
Yovanovitch's attorney Lawrence Robbins called the alleged surveillance "disturbing" and called for an investigation.
"Needless to say, the notion that American citizens and others were monitoring Ambassador Yovanovitch’s movements for unknown purposes is disturbing," Robbins said in a statement.
Giuliani, Parnas knew ambassador would be removed before it happened
The Intelligence Committee also obtained messages between Giuliani and Parnas about Yovanovitch's firing — the day before she was told to come back to America.
"He fired her again," Giuliani texted Parnas on April 23. Parnas responded, "I pray it happens this time. I'll call you tomorrow my brother."
Yovanovitch told House investigators she learned Giuliani was communicating with people in Ukraine in late 2018.
She said people in the Ukrainian government told her Giuliani was in touch with a former Ukrainian prosecutor general, "and that they had plans, and that they were going to, you know, do things, including to me."