Impeachment inquiry: Giuliani, Nunes, WH in frequent contact

Records laid out in House report show extensive contact between Trump lawyer Giuliani, White House and Republican Nunes.

    Ranking member Devin Nunes listens to a former US diplomat during a public hearing of the House impeachment inquiry [File: Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]
    Ranking member Devin Nunes listens to a former US diplomat during a public hearing of the House impeachment inquiry [File: Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]

    A new report from United States Democrats compiling evidence on impeachment has revealed extensive contact between President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and California Representative Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the intelligence panel, bringing to light new allegations by Democrats about phone calls between Trump's allies. 

    The report released Tuesday includes phone records obtained from AT&T and Verizon that show Giuliani also was in frequent contact with the White House and with Lev Parnas, a Giuliani associate who is under indictment on charges of using foreign money to make illegal campaign contributions.

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    Prosecutors said the donations by Parnas and Igor Fruman, another Giuliani associate with Ukraine ties, were made while the men were lobbying US politicians to remove the US ambassador to Ukraine.

    Giuliani, who has said he knew nothing about illegal campaign donations, was trying to get Ukrainian officials to investigate the son of Trump's potential Democratic challenger, Joe Biden. Parnas and Fruman had key roles in Giuliani's quest.

    The records show that Parnas and Nunes were in frequent contact last April, when Giuliani was publicly calling for an investigation of Biden. 

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    House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, who sparred with Nunes during public impeachment hearings, said he was going to "reserve comment" on the Republican's appearance in the report. But he added that, while Trump was "digging up dirt" on Biden, "there may be evidence that there were members of Congress who were complicit in that activity".

    Schiff said it may be the role of others to investigate further, but did not elaborate.

    Joseph Bondy, a lawyer representing Parnas, said on Twitter that Nunes should have recused himself from the impeachment hearings. Parnas has been providing documents to the Intelligence Committee in compliance with a subpoena, the report says.

    Nunes's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    The call records also show Giuliani, Nunes and Parnas also were in frequent contact with John Solomon, a former columnist for the Washington news outlet, The Hill. Solomon published a series of opinion pieces criticising former US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch as part of "a coordinated effort by associates of President Trump to push ... false narratives publicly" in a bid to force Yovanovitch's removal, the Democratic report said, citing public statements, phone records, and contractual agreements.

    After Solomon published an article critical of Yovanovitch on April 7, phone records show numerous calls between Giuliani, Parnas, Nunes and Solomon. For instance, on April 10, Giuliani and Nunes talked on three short calls in rapid succession, followed by a text message, and ending with a nearly three-minute call. Later that day, Parnas and Solomon had a four-minute, 39-second call.

    The report also shows extensive contact between Giuliani and the White House. On April 24, Giuliani had three phone calls with a number associated with the Office of Management and Budget, and eight calls with a White House number.

    One of Giuliani's calls with the White House was four minutes, 53 seconds, and another was three minutes, 15 seconds. Later that night, the State Department phoned Yovanovitch and abruptly called her home because of "concerns" from "up the street" at the White House.

    'Overwhelming evidence'

    In the report, Democrats accused Trump of abusing power to win re-election in 2020, saying he solicited foreign interference, undermined national security, and ordered an unprecedented campaign to obstruct Congress.  

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    Democrats also accused Trump of an unprecedented effort to obstruct an impeachment inquiry that included categorical refusals to provide documents and testimony from his top advisers, unsuccessful attempts to block career government officials from testifying and the intimidation of witnesses.

    "President Trump's scheme subverted US foreign policy toward Ukraine and undermined our national security in favour of two politically motivated investigations that would help his presidential reelection campaign," the report said.

    "The evidence of the president's misconduct is overwhelming, and so too is the evidence of his obstruction of Congress. Indeed, it would be hard to imagine a stronger or more complete case of obstruction than that demonstrated by the President since the inquiry began," it added.

    Trump has denied any wrongdoing and accused Democrats of using the impeachment process to overturn the results of the 2016 presidential election. Opinion polls suggest Americans are bitterly divided over whether to impeach Trump.

    The House Intelligence Committee approved the report along party lines in a 13-9 vote later on Tuesday, the panel said in a statement. It added that Republicans will have two days to submit "Minority Views" and then Schiff will transmit the report and it appendices to the House Judiciary Committee. 

    The House Judiciary Committee is set to open its proceedings on Wednesday.

    If the full House eventually votes to approve formal impeachment charges, a trial would be held in the Republican-led US Senate, where a two-thirds majority of those present would be required to convict Trump and remove him from office.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies