House Democrats are showing no interest in putting their faux articles of impeachment to rest, even if Trump is acquitted by the Senate. The fight over witnesses is set to intensify this week as the impeachment trial proceeds.
They keep introducing new evidence and new potential witnesses, the latest being Lev Parnas, a Soviet-born businessman with close ties to Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. He and another Soviet-born businessman, Igor Fruman, were arrested in October and charged in New York on unrelated campaign finance charges. Parnas is hoping to get a plea deal if he helps congressional Democrats supplement their evidence for the articles of impeachment.
The House impeached Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress based on claims in an anonymous whistleblower’s report. They say he improperly influenced Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July 25th phone call to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter. The younger Biden served on the board of an energy company in Ukraine for a hefty salary despite a shady career history.
Parnas supplied House Democrats with text messages and notes of conversations he had with Giuliani and other Trump officials about efforts to push out former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and dig up dirt on the Bidens. They include a May 10 letter from Giuliani to Zelensky asking for a 30-minute meeting — a request Giuliani said was made “with [Trump’s] knowledge and consent.”
They were already battling with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) over their request to call several administration officials to testify, namely Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff; Robert Blair, assistant to the president and senior adviser to Mulvaney; John Bolton, former national security adviser and Mike Duffey, a senior official in the Office of Management and Budget.
Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) panned Parnas Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press with host Chuck Todd. “This is a distraction. This is a person that’s been indicted right now,” said Perdue.
“He’s out on bail. He’s been meeting with the House Intel Committee. If the House felt this information was pertinent, I would think they would have included him and his testimony in this,” Perdue noted.
Senator Dick Durban (D-IL) told Todd, “Well, listen. I don’t know what the Republicans will suggest. But we’ve been told that, even within their caucus, there is a dispute as to whether or not that is really in their best interest, whether that’s more theater than it should be. But the bottom line is this. The four Republican senators who will initiate, could initiate calling witnesses will really open a negotiation between the Republicans and Democrats in the Senate. The bottom line, is there going to be a fair trial? Are we going to have evidence, documents, and witnesses? To this point, Senator McConnell has said, “No, not necessary.” He’s made up his mind long ago. But I think the American people expect a real trial to have real witnesses and evidence.”
Some Democrats are now urging the House to continue seeking the testimonies of these witnesses if they are unable to convince at least four senators to vote in their favor.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee said Thursday, “The obvious solution is for Parnas to testify over in the Senate. Parnas should testify over there.”
Raskin insisted “the House should use every means at its disposal to get all the relevant evidence on the record.”
Another House Judiciary Committee member Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) said, “We would be remiss in the House of Representatives not to follow this trail to its conclusion. And Parnas has emerged as an important figure in this criminal conspiracy to force or coerce a foreign government to help Trump’s reelection campaign.”
New York Rep. Eliot Engel, Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said “everything’s on the table.”
“We will not simply sit by and allow the truth to be buried under the rug,” he said.
Just when the public thought impeachment would be finally put to rest in a couple of weeks, like a sick puppy who gets a shot of a lethal injection, the specter of impeachment redux looms again.