It is pretty interesting. He was asked about this at the tail end of today’s presser announcing the release of the full House Intelligence Committee report on impeachment. There are call logs scattered throughout the report featuring a lot of names you’d expect — the White House, Giuliani, Rudy’s crony Lev Parnas — and one you might not.
Schiff calls revelations about Nunes in his committee's report "deeply concerning" pic.twitter.com/lHj1M89Ifu
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) December 3, 2019
Here’s a log from mid-April, two weeks before Marie Yovanovitch was recalled by the White House as ambassador to Ukraine. The Democratic theory is that Trump yanked Yovanovitch at Giuliani’s urging because she wasn’t part of the team and couldn’t be trusted to keep quiet once she inevitably found out Rudy was leaning on Zelensky’s government for an investigation of Burisma and the Bidens.
Rudy playing phone tag with … Devin Nunes? Two days later:
What the hell is Nunes doing in the mix? One can imagine that his (brief) chats with Giuliani on the 10th might relate to other business but then there’s an eight-minute call with Parnas, one of Rudy’s aides on the Ukraine matter, two days later. If they weren’t discussing Ukraine, what could they have been discussing?
Nunes is the ranking member on the committee that’s been investigating this matter in the House. How can he investigate a matter in which he’s — possibly — involved? There’s not much of a pretense of objectivity in American politics anymore, to the extent there ever was, but it’d be next-level to have someone with inside information about what went on with Yovanovitch sitting not at the witness table but on the panel, as if he’s any other disinterested party.
That’s not the only interesting call log. Here’s one from April 24, the day Yovanovitch was recalled. Rudy and Trump (or someone else in the White House) are in touch a lot, but so is another party:
OMB? That’s Mick Mulvaney’s agency. It’s also the agency that ended up placing the hold on Ukraine’s military aid. One of the arguments made against believing that there was a quid pro quo is that Giuliani isn’t a government official and therefore lacked the power to order OMB to delay the aid. That’s not a strong argument since of course either Trump or Mulvaney could have placed the hold at Rudy’s request, in coordination with him. But now we have evidence that Giuliani, the point man on the pressure campaign, actually was in direct contact with someone at OMB way back in April. Who was it? What business did the president’s private attorney have with the Office of Management and Budget?
Two more logs. These are all calls involving Rudy, and they all come much later in the process, on August 8. These were in the afternoon:
Note the 12-minute-long call to OMB again. One might dismiss the significance of the April call on grounds that the agency hadn’t yet placed a hold on Ukraine’s military aid at that point. But the hold had been placed by August 8. Was that the subject of Rudy’s call that day? Again, if there was NO QUID PRO QUO!, it’d be odd to have Trump’s chief liaison to Ukraine on Burisma in touch with the agency that was holding back the aid at a moment when Ukraine was already aware that the money was being blocked.
Here’s the Rudy log for that same day, late at night:
The “-1” number is an unknown number, but in context it seems quite probable that that’s Trump’s cell phone number. Rudy called the White House line during the daytime and then, it seems, reached Trump on his personal phone later. Did he update him on what he’d discussed with OMB?
Lotta questions, few answers. Well, some answers: The Daily Beast had already reported last month that Parnas helped arrange meetings and calls for Nunes in Europe in 2018. Could that be what he and Parnas spoke about on April 12 of this year — more scheduling? Parnas’s lawyer, Joseph Bondy, implied otherwise in this tweet this afternoon:
— Joseph A. Bondy (@josephabondy) December 3, 2019
Another lawyer for Parnas was more specific in an interview with the Wall Street Journal today:
In their calls on April 12, one of which lasted more than eight minutes, Messrs. Parnas and Nunes discussed investigations into corruption in Ukraine, according to Ed MacMahon, a lawyer for Mr. Parnas. At that point, Mr. Parnas had been assisting Mr. Giuliani for months on his push for investigations into the Bidens and alleged election interference in Ukraine.
“They weren’t talking about where to find sushi in Kyiv,” Mr. MacMahon said. He added: “Lev is in a position to fill in all these blanks and explain what actually happened with all these phone calls. But he remains under indictment in the Southern District of New York, and he needs protections to tell his story. He needs immunity.”
How much can anyone trust Parnas, though? He’s already under indictment and doubtless hoping to make himself useful to Schiff in hopes of getting leniency from the court when he’s sentenced. Not only that, a different claim made by Parnas’s legal team has already resulted in Nunes filing a $435 million defamation suit against CNN. The network recently reported that Parnas, per his lawyer, says that Nunes met a year ago in Vienna with Viktor Shokin, the Ukrainian prosecutor who was fired due to pressure from Joe Biden and other western countries. He’s the one whom Trump seems to believe was keen on investigating Burisma until Biden got the Ukrainians to terminate him. Minor problem: Nunes says he was never in Vienna at that time. He was in Libya and Malta. He complained in his lawsuit that Parnas is “a renowned liar, a fraudster, a hustler, an opportunist with delusions of grandeur, a man in financial extremis laboring under the weight of a $500,000 civil judgment, and an indicted criminal defendant with a clear motive to lie,” and therefore CNN should never have trusted him. Why Nunes himself was in touch with a renowned liar, fraudster, hustler, and opportunist with delusions of grandeur on April 12 of this year remains unknown for now. Stay tuned.
Exit question: Are Senate Republicans going to subpoena Schiff’s phone records now too? If Schiff can investigate Nunes, presumably Lindsey Graham can investigate whether Schiff was in touch with the whistleblower.