Yet another dubious figure whom Donald Trump barely knows. This time it’s Lev Parnas, the Michael Cohen of 2020. ‘I don’t believe I’ve ever spoken to him,’ Trump said on Thursday. He added, ‘I don’t know him at all. Don’t know what he’s about. Don’t know where he comes form. Know nothing about him. I can only tell you this thing is a big hoax.’ Whether Parnas spoke directly with Trump about the Ukraine caper, remains a matter of dispute.
But it was commencement day for the impeachment trial as 100 senators swore an oath to carry out impartial justice, an act that was somewhat vitiated by Martha McSally’s petulant outburst at CNN reporter Manu Raju. She deemed him a ‘liberal hack’ for having the temerity to ask whether the Parnas statements should be included in the Senate’s deliberations. As Greg Sargent points out in the Washington Post, ‘Note that it is now seen as “liberal” to merely ask a Republican senator whether she feels any obligation to consider the full set of facts before exercising her constitutional duty to vote on whether articles of impeachment — passed by the elected representatives in the other chamber of Congress — merit removal.’ For her part, McSally is trying to become a poster child for the pro-Trump right in the hopes of fundraising off of her testy exchange with Raju.
For Trump, who dilated, among other things, about the abysmally low water flow of modern toilets during his recent rally in Wisconsin, the objective is to flush away the whole impeachment trial. He sent out a rather plaintive tweet, ‘I JUST GOT IMPEACHED FOR MAKING A PERFECT PHONE CALL!’ Would it have been better to be impeached for an imperfect one? Meanwhile, Trump is also flogging on his Twitter feed a forthcoming book by Peter Schweitzer called Profiles In Corruption, which purports to uncover the ‘abuse of power by America’s progressive elite.’ It has reached the number one spot on Amazon even before its release in little over a week. At a minimum, it will provide another conservative tu quoque talking point about the defalcations of the American left.
The problem for Trump, of course, is that if Parnas or others can show that he was aware of any surveillance of Marie Yovanovitch, the former American ambassador to Ukraine, then he really is in what George H.W. Bush liked to call ‘deep doo-doo’. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was clearly up to his eyeballs in scheming with Ukrainian prosecutor Yuri Lutsenko to oust Yovanovitch in exchange for inculpatory information about Joe and Hunter Biden.
For now, leading Republicans are pooh-poohing the notion that much credence should be reposed in Parnas’s statements. Speaking on Fox’s Brian Kilmeade Show, for example., Sen. Mike Braun scoffed at Parnas’ statements. ‘The Lev Parnas stuff. That looks orchestrated, that looks planned…people can see through that,’ he declared. The whole impeachment proceeding, we were told, was concocted simply to bring down a virtuous president, the sole fellow who has the mettle to take on the Washington establishment.
Kilmeade called the trial ‘a joke’. Braun assented. But as more information emerges about Trump’s machinations, who will have the last laugh?