On Wednesday in a Manhattan federal courthouse, two “associates” of Rudy Giuliani — Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — pleaded not guilty to four counts of election fraud. Specifically, as The Daily Beast notes:
“A four-count indictment that accused them of funneling money through straw donors into U.S. elections in an effort to gain influence. Prosecutors also allege the pair petitioned U.S. politicians, including a congressman, to have the ambassador to Ukraine removed from her post.”
But what was supposed to be a routine arraignment wound up taking a very odd turn when an attorney for Parnas raised the issue of executive privilege as it relates to evidence he may have on the Ukraine scandal.
In other words, Parnas made it clear that he wasn’t just working for Giuliani. He was employed by the White House and Donald Trump.
Courthouse News Service reports on the arraignment and invoking of executive privilege:
“Emphasizing that he could not personally assert privilege, (Parnas’ attorney Edward) McMahon said: ‘Only the president or the White House can invoke that.’
“The comment underlined the White House’s proximity to a case accusing Parnas and Fruman of illicitly funneling Russian money into U.S. elections.”
Parnas is now directly tied to Trump. And the only way that Trump can possibly sever that tie is to say he won’t exert executive privilege and urge Parnas (or others involved) to testify fully as part of the discovery phase that is now underway.
There was also a mention of “privileged” information that Parnas might have:
“’There are issues that we need to be very sensitive to,’ MacMahon said, not going into detail what those issues are. He continued, adding that he doesn’t ‘know who is looking at all this evidence. If information gets out that we determine it is all privileged, we’ve got a problem,’ MacMahon said in court.”
What could that information be? It could involve U.S. foreign policy regarding Ukraine, Russia, or some other country. Or it could be something as basic as attorney-client privilege.
And there was one other tidbit from the arraignment that should terrify Trump and the Republican Party:
“Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebekah Donaleski, offered a glimpse into the ‘voluminous’ evidence that prosecutors have recovered so far on the two men who have become figures in the Trump impeachment proceedings, through ‘dozens of search warrants,’ property searches, and subpoenas. The information includes emails and social media accounts and financial records from more than 50 bank accounts.”
Those “more than 50 bank accounts” may well provide the financial link between Giuliani, the president, and others involved in the Ukraine scandal, including political figures.
This was no ordinary arraignment. Instead, it was yet another direct line that leads back to the Oval Office. This has now gone way beyond quid pro quo. It has become a conspiracy that threatens to take down dozens of people who have connections to the inner workings of the Ukraine scandal.