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Lev Parnas dishes dirt on Rudy Giuliani and escaping the ‘Trump cult’ in madcap Biden impeachment hearing

Lev Parnas dishes dirt on Rudy Giuliani and escaping the ‘Trump cult’ in madcap Biden impeachment hearing

The House Oversight Committee’s latest attempt to hold an impeachment hearing on President Joe Biden took a bizarre turn on Wednesday when one of the three witnesses who gave evidence before the Republican-led panel began revealing unflattering information on former president Donald Trump’s disgraced ex-personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani.

Lev Parnas, a Ukrainian-American businessman who served time in prison for violating federal campaign finance laws and fraud charges, told committee members that he’d been a “key participant” in a scheme to dig up dirt on Mr Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.

He said Mr Giuliani had “tasked” him with “finding dirt on the Bidens so that an array of networks could spread misinformation about them” so Mr Trump and his allies could “damage the Bidens’ reputations and secure the 2020 election for Trump”.

But Parnas, who admitted to being on supervised release after serving prison time for his offences, told the panel that the allegations against the Bidens being peddled by the Republican majority were false.

“I have never wavered from saying that there was no evidence of the Bidens’ corruption in Ukraine – because there truly was none,” he said in an opening statement.

Lev Parnas, Ukrainian-American businessman and a former associate of Rudy Giuliani, sits to testify before a House Oversight and Accountability Committee (REUTERS)
Lev Parnas, Ukrainian-American businessman and a former associate of Rudy Giuliani, sits to testify before a House Oversight and Accountability Committee (REUTERS)

Continuing, Parnas said the theories on which Republicans have based their impeachment inquiry into Mr Biden are actually “predicated on a bunch of false information that is being spread by the Kremlin” and have no basis in fact.

“Throughout this entire situation, no credible source has ever provided proof of Joe or Hunter Biden’s alleged corruption in Ukraine ... no respectable Ukrainian official has ever said that the Bidens did anything illegal,” he said as he rattled off a list of Ukrainian officials and nations who have publicly said that the president and his son were not implicated in any criminal activity.

Parnas added that the CEO of Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company which employed Hunter Biden as a board member, had rejected a deal on criminal charges he faced “in exchange for information on the Bidens” but turned over no such information.

“The only information ever pushed about the Bidens and Ukraine has come from Russia and Russian agents, which everyone sitting here today knows,” he said, pointing to the recent indictment of ex-FBI informant Alexander Smirnov on charges of fabricating the derogatory information about the Bidens which figured prominently in an FBI form made public by the Republican majority.

“In my travels, I found precisely zero proof of the Bidens’ criminality. Instead, what I learned in that timeframe was the true nature of the conspiracy that the Kremlin was forcing through Russian, Ukrainian, American, and other channels to interfere in our elections. Ultimately this was meant to benefit Trump’s re-election, which would in turn benefit Vladimir Putin,” he said.

Parnas, who first came to public attention when he was arrested during the House’s first of two impeachment inquiries into Mr Trump, was just one of two convicted felons to give evidence before the Republican-led panel at a hearing that uncovered no new evidence but was heavy on unsubstantiated accusations by partisans with axes to grind.

One of the Republican witnesses, James Galanis, testified by a remote video hookup from a federal prison in Alabama, where he is known as inmate 80739-198.

Jason Galanis testifies on a video link from prison before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing (AP)
Jason Galanis testifies on a video link from prison before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing (AP)

In a transcribed interview last month, Galanis — a former business partner of Hunter Biden — told investigators that President Biden never held any role with any business entity connected to his son. He also said under oath that he had “no knowledge” of Mr Biden undertaking “any official action” to benefit the business venture in which he, Archer and Hunter Biden were involved.

But the convicted fraudster, who is part of a crime family whose head, his father, was prosecuted by Mr Giuliani in the 1980s, told the panel on Wednesday that the president had been slated to be involved in one of the companies after leaving the vice presidency in 2017, even though he never had any documented involvement in the venture at issue.

Under questioning from Republicans, the incarcerated felon described Hunter Biden as offering what he called a “Biden lift” to potential business deals through his father’s involvement, telling members that Hunter Biden had been actively trying to leverage his family name to bolster his business endeavours.

Yet in a 2018 court opinion, US District Judge Ronnie Abrams said it was Galanis — not Hunter Biden — who was leveraging Hunter’s family name for his own gain.

She wrote that Galanis had been attempting to use his business partner and co-defendant, Devon Archer, to gain access to Mr Biden, explaining how other co-defendants of Galanis had described Archer as “the biggest whale of anyone,” the “biggest show pony of all time,” and “a total fucking whale” in conversations that were recorded and admitted into evidence against them.

He also told another co-defendant that two of Archer’s respective partners were “Chris Heinz and Hunter Biden, the stepson of the Secretary of State John Kerry and the son of the Vice President Joe Biden, respectively”.

The other Republican witness was Tony Bobulinski, an ex-naval officer and ally of Mr Trump who first came into the public eye when he appeared at a Trump-sponsored press conference ahead of one of the ex-president’s 2020 debates with Mr Biden.

Tony Bobulinski testifies before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing (AP)
Tony Bobulinski testifies before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing (AP)

Mr Bobulinski, who was represented by an attorney from Elections LLC — a firm run by former Trump administration officials which has been paid by Mr Trump’s political action committee, repeatedly engaged in theatrics throughout his testimony, displaying visible contempt for Democrats on the panel and personally attacking two Democratic members, Ranking Member Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Representative Daniel Goldman of New York, in his opening statement.

He accused both — without offering evidence — of lying about him and his testimony, and consistently talked back to Democratic members and filibustered rather than answer their questions.

Another Democrat on the panel, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, left the former US Navy officer filibustering and attempting to shout over her when she pressed him, repeatedly, to say what, if any crime he was alleging President Biden to have committed.

Asked several times by the New York congresswoman, Mr Bobulinski could not say with any specificity which laws he was accusing Mr Biden of violating.

Although Republican members repeatedly cited photos of alleged text messages and emails on an allegedly broken BlackBerry belonging to Mr Bobulinski as evidence of President Biden’s involvement in Hunter’s businesses, the GOP voted down an explicit proposal from Mr Raskin to subpoena the old mobile phone to determine whether the messages were genuine or fabrications.

They also defeated by voice vote a separate motion to subpoena records from Jared Kushner, Mr Trump’s son-in-law and former White House senior adviser, who received $2 billion in investments in his new hedge fund from a Saudi sovereign wealth fund after the Trump administration came to an end.

The hearing was just the latest in a series of shambolic public sessions which House Republicans have used to further an investigation that has uncovered no evidence of wrongdoing by the president after more than a year of work under the GOP majority.

Much of the testimony offered and evidence presented was identical or nearly identical to what committee members have repeatedly put forth during previous public sessions, including one last year at which a Republican witness, George Washington University law school professor Jonathan Turley, admitted that the GOP had not found any evidence to justify an impeachment inquiry.

A spokesman for the White House Counsel’s Office, Ian Sams, told The Independent that Wednesday’s proceedings were “embarrassing for House Republicans”.

“They need to move on from this sad charade. There are real issues that the American people want them to address,” he said.

Kyle Herrig, the executive director of the Congressional Integrity Project, said in a statement that it was “far past time” for Mr Comer “to end this ridiculous charade and get to work for the American people”.

“To call this hearing a clown show would be an insult to hardworking clowns everywhere. There is nothing entertaining about watching Comer, Jordan, and MAGA Republicans make fools of themselves week after week, month after month, while they ignore the real concerns of the American people. Impeachment is dead, and it’s time to move on,” he said.

A Democratic member of the panel, Robert Garcia, told The Independent the hours-long session had been “another joke” in a long line of them.

“Obviously, we’re ready to move on with the impeachment. There’s no evidence,” he said.

Mr Garcia called the GOP’s witnesses “a collection of fraudsters and failed businesses and spies” while noting that Mr Bobulinski, in his estimation, had “lied multiple times” and couldn’t “get his story straight”.

“Even Republicans get the impeachment process is now a joke ... we should be focused on a bunch of other things and we’re completely wasting our time,” he said.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez, the New York congresswoman, expressed a similar opinion when pressed for her thoughts on the proceedings by The Independent.

“They’ve been a mess, they are a mess, they will always be a mess,” she said.

Despite the lack of actual evidence presented by the two pro-Trump partisans who testified for the Republican side, Mr Comer, the panel’s embattled chairman, said he would “invite” President Biden to give evidence before his committee in what appeared to be a last-ditch attempt to keep his year-long inquiry alive despite uncovering no evidence that Mr Biden committed any “high crime” or “misdemeanour” to justify impeaching him.

“We need to hear from the President himself. And I assure the American people that they will be able to evaluate for themselves, the President's honesty and fitness for the office he now holds,” said Mr Comer, who has no authority to compel the president to appear.