The House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment report released Tuesday includes call records showing that the committee’s own ranking member, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), was privately in contact with key players in President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine that led to the impeachment inquiry.
The report, which came after several long days of hearings last month, contains phone logs from AT&T that show Nunes had multiple calls in April with Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Giuliani’s now-indicted business associate Lev Parnas. John Solomon, then a right-wing contributor with The Hill who helped push Ukrainian conspiracy theories, also had calls with Parnas and Giuliani at the same time Nunes was in contact with them.
While most of the information in the report was already known thanks to public witness hearings and increased transparency over obtained documents, the call records involving Nunes are new. All three of those players Nunes was involved with had an important role in Trump’s attempt to pressure Ukraine’s government to investigate his 2020 political rival former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden and a widely debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.
The contacts occurred after Solomon published a column on April 7 that smeared Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Yovanovitch was abruptly removed from her position in May after Trump allies and conservative media ― specifically Solomon ― falsely accused her of conspiring with Democrats to influence the 2016 presidential election and release damaging information against Trump. Most of Solomon’s sourcing came from Yuriy Lutsenko, a former Ukrainian top prosecutor who originated the lies about Yovanovitch after clashing with her about corruption in his own office.
“Over the course of the four days following the April 7 article, phone records show contacts between Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Parnas, Representative Devin Nunes, and Mr. Solomon. Specifically, Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Parnas were in contact with one another, as well as with Mr. Solomon,” the report stated. “Phone records also show contacts on April 10 between Mr. Giuliani and Rep. Nunes, consisting of three short calls in rapid succession, followed by a text message, and ending with a nearly three minute call. Later that same day, Mr. Parnas and Mr. Solomon had a four minute, 39 second call.”
The report also included phone logs of several calls between Nunes and Parnas on April 12, including one that lasted more than eight minutes. On May 10, Giuliani spoke with former Nunes aide Kash Patel for about 25 minutes, just after Trump’s personal attorney spoke to key impeachment player and former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker about Giuliani’s upcoming, and ultimately canceled, trip to Ukraine. Patel was on the National Security Council at the time of the May 10 call.
A spokesperson for Nunes did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. As the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Nunes has been one of the White House’s most reliable allies in Congress, repeatedly pushing the conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election and accusing committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) of knowing and hiding the identity of the intelligence community whistleblower whose bombshell complaint sparked the impeachment investigation.
Parnas is an American businessman who was recently indicted on federal campaign finance violations and one of Giuliani’s cronies who helped with Trump’s dealings in Ukraine. His attorney, Joseph Bondy, said last month that Parnas was prepared to tell Congress that he has information on a 2018 meeting between Nunes and former Ukrainian top prosecutor Victor Shokin, who was ousted for corruption in 2016 before Lutsenko took over. Bondy said that Parnas learned of the meeting directly from Shokin and that the purpose of the meeting was for Nunes to get dirt on Biden.
Nunes has dodged questions about whether he actually met with Shokin in Austria to get information on Biden, but congressional records appeared to corroborate Parnas’ claim by showing that Nunes flew to Europe at the same time he’s accused of meeting with Shokin. On Tuesday, Nunes filed a $435 million defamation lawsuit against CNN in Virginia federal court based on the network’s Nov. 22 story about the Parnas allegations, thereby following through on a threat he made on Fox News last month.
Parnas has also alleged that he helped Nunes set up meetings via Skype and over the phone with two other Ukrainian prosecutors who claimed “to have evidence that could help [Trump’s] reelection campaign.” Nunes was going to speak with the prosecutors in Ukraine, but reportedly canceled the trip after realizing he would have to inform Schiff of his plans, according to Bondy.
After being asked about the call logs highlighting Nunes, Schiff stressed to reporters his concern over lawmakers who were potentially involved in the Ukraine case.
“It is, I think, deeply concerning that at a time when the president of the United States was using the power of his office to dig up dirt on a political rival, that there may be evidence that there were members of Congress complicit in that activity,” Schiff said. “Our focus is on the president’s conduct first and foremost. It may be the role of others to evaluate the conduct of members of Congress.”
Bondy tweeted after the Intelligence Committee report’s release that Nunes “should have recused” himself “at the outset of the” committee’s impeachment hearings. He also told “PBS NewsHour” that Nunes “was definitely part of an attempt to gather information about the Bidens. He was definitely involved in Ukraine. He definitely had involvement in the GOP shadow diplomacy efforts in Ukraine, contrary to his claims.”
At a Tuesday press conference held by House Republicans following the report’s release, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that he doesn’t “have a problem with Devin talking to individuals,” and that Nunes “has a right to talk to anybody.”
The story has been updated with details of Nunes’ defamation lawsuit against CNN and McCarthy’s remarks about Nunes.