California Representative Devin Nunes has spent the last two weeks holed up in a reality adjacent to our own, gushing debunked theories in conspiratorial shorthand during impeachment hearings that implicated much of the White House in President Trump’s activity in Ukraine. Soon he may be facing the comedown: On Friday, CNN reported that the flipped Giuliani associate Lev Parnas is willing to inform Congress of Nunes’s meetings with an ex-Ukrainian prosecutor in late 2018 in Vienna. On the agenda: looking for dirt on former vice-president Joe Biden.
“Mr. Parnas learned from former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin that Nunes had met with Shokin in Vienna last December,” Joseph Bondy, the attorney for Parnas, told CNN. (In 2015, Biden helped push for the ouster of Shokin, who served as the equivalent to the attorney general, because he abetted the robust Ukrainian oligarch class in efforts to operate outside the law.) Parnas claims that Nunes was looking for the same damning, but nonexistent, leads on Biden that he was with Rudy Giuliani. “Nunes had told Shokin of the urgent need to launch investigations into Burisma, Joe and Hunter Biden, and any purported Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election,” Bondy said on behalf of his client. Speaking with the Daily Beast, another Parnas lawyer claimed that Mr. Fraud Guarantee himself had arranged meetings and calls in Europe for Nunes’s hard-boiled search. And on Sunday, CNBC reported that Parnas alleges that Nunes cancelled a 2019 trip to Ukraine to “interview two Ukrainian prosecutors who claim to have evidence that could help President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign” when he realized he would have to inform Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff of the plan.
As CNN notes, there’s a reason that Giuliani’s (very public) and Nunes’s (alleged) efforts haven’t borne fruit: “There is no evidence that the Bidens acted inappropriately. Nor is there evidence to support the conspiracy theory that Ukraine worked with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 election.”
Prior to publication, Nunes wasn’t exactly cooperative with CNN: When reporter Vicky Ward asked the representative about the trip to Vienna, he interrupted, saying: “I don’t talk to you in this lifetime or the next lifetime.” As if the temporal limit wasn’t solid enough, he elaborated on the subject: “On any question.”
In an interview with Breitbart published on Friday, Nunes added:
“These demonstrably false and scandalous stories published by the Daily Beast and CNN are the perfect example of defamation and reckless disregard for the truth. Some political operative offered these fake stories to at least five different media outlets before finding someone irresponsible enough to publish them. I look forward to prosecuting these cases, including the media outlets, as well as the sources of their fake stories, to the fullest extent of the law. I intend to hold the Daily Beast and CNN accountable for their actions. They will find themselves in court soon after Thanksgiving.”
The threat of a longshot lawsuit is an old tactic from the former dairy farmer: Nunes has attempted to sue a Twitter parody account pretending to be his mother, a Twitter parody account pretending to be his cow, and the owner of the Fresno Bee following an unbecoming report on a winery in which he is an investor. Though it’s highly unlikely the suits will gain traction, it hasn’t stopped the congressman from hurling unsubstantiated claims in CNN’s direction:
It is likely, however, that Nunes will find himself before an ethics committee soon after Thanksgiving: On Saturday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith told MSNBC that it’s “quite likely, without question,” that Nunes will be investigated for the allegations from the well-connected, if not-quite-unimpeachable Parnas. Though it won’t be his first brush with an ethics committee, the claim is not a good look for the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, who used his time in last week’s hearings to push debunked theories that he may have actively played a part in — while funding the trip with taxpayer cash: