Lev Parnas calls on Bill Barr to recuse — saying the attorney general may have 'caused actual harm' to his case
Attorneys for Lev Paranas, the associate of Rudy Giuliani who has become deeply enmeshed in President Donald Trump's impeachment scandal, wrote a letter to the Justice Department asking Attorney General Bill Barr to be recused from his case on Monday.
Parnas, along with his associate Igor Fruman, has been indicted by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York on conspiracy and campaign finance charges. His lawyers sent the letter on Monday and also filed it with the court.
Last week, Parnas spoke publicly for the first time about his involvement in the Ukraine scandal that led to Trump's impeachment, and the House investigators released texts and other documentary evidence that supports some of his claims. The evidence indicates that he was contacting Ukrainian officials, in coordination with Giuliani, to further the goal of getting the foreign government to investigate Trump's political enemies.
Barr, Parnas's lawyers argued, has a conflict of interest in the case and should have a special prosecutor appointed to oversee the matter.
"The public record is replete with requests for your recusal, the reasons for that request, and public outcry that you have not," they wrote to Barr. "Federal ethics guidelines bar federal employees from participating in matters in which their impartiality could be questioned, including matters in which they were personally involved or about which they have personal knowledge."
They noted that Barr was mentioned by Trump in his infamous July 25 conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, an event that helped spark the impeachment inquiry. And they also said that the whistleblower who sounded the alarm about the Ukraine scheme named Barr "as a participant in the President’s abuse of the power of his office to solicit interference with the government of Ukraine in connection with the 2020 election including pressuring Ukraine to investigate one of the President’s political opponents, Joe Biden."
The New York City Bar Association has already called for Barr to recuse himself "from all Department of Justice matters relating to the allegation that the President abused the power of his office to solicit political interference on his behalf by the government of Ukraine," the letter said.
Barr is also a long-time colleague of Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, the lawyers wrote, who provided legal services for Trump during Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation and appear to be involved in the Ukraine scandal. This apparent conflict of interest, they said, could "have caused actual harm to Mr. Parnas" in part because "prosecutors have, thus far, refused to meet with Mr. Parnas to receive his information regarding the President, Mssrs. Giuliani, Toensing, diGenova and others—all of which would potentially benefit Mr. Parnas if he were ever to be convicted and sentenced in his criminal case."
The concluded: "Given the totality of the circumstances, we believe it is appropriate for you to recuse yourself from the ongoing investigation and pending prosecution of Mr. Parnas, and to allow the then-Acting Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor from outside the Department of justice, so as to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest and to preserve the public trust in the rule of law."
Many observers and legal experts have argued that Barr should recuse himself from the case because of the apparent conflicts of interest and the public distrust his involvement will inevitably cause. But it seems exceedingly unlikely that Barr will comply with these demands. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions infuriated Trump by recusing from the Russia investigation, which eventually inspired the president to fire him. Barr knew this when he was hired and has consistently cast himself as the president's defender, so it's hard to imagine he would recuse from any investigation that could impact Trump. Of course, his refusal to comply with these reasonable requests just emphasizes how untrustworthy he is to be attorney general.