House Democrats are poring through reams of material by indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas to see whether there's anything that could be used at the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.
Officials on the House Intelligence and House Oversight committees are trying to quickly assess the vast array of records that Parnas provided to Capitol Hill, including photos, dozens of text messages and thousands of pages of documents, according to the sources. Joseph Bondy, Parnas' attorney, hand-delivered the contents of an iPhone to the Intelligence panel's staff over the weekend.
The Senate trial is expected to begin next week, and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, is expected to lead the House's presentation of the case against the President. The House is expected to have to present exhibits and trial records ahead of time, according to the sources, which means Democrats need to see what, if anything, could be used in the trial on the front end — although the House has yet to see the formal resolution laying out the trial rules from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
"I think it's something we can't ignore," said Rep. Val Demings, a Florida Democrat on both the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees, told CNN when asked about Parnas' documents. "To what extent we can get through it before the Senate trial remains to be seen."
Schiff said Tuesday that "we don't know" if the House impeachment managers would be able to present in the Senate any new evidence that has emerged since the chamber impeached Trump in late December because they don't know what the trial procedures will look like under the resolution being drafted by McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.
"This is going to be a partisan resolution by Mitch McConnell, and I'm sure it will be drafted with the White House lawyers to give the President every advantage," Schiff said on MSNBC. "I will say this, though. It's going to be hard for the Senate to ignore information that comes into the public record and say we're not going to consider that, even though it's directly relevant, even though it's directly incriminating."
Parnas and Igor Fruman worked with Giuliani in Ukraine as part of the President's lawyer's efforts to oust the US ambassador to Ukraine and then push the country to investigate Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company which made up the core of the House's impeachment case.
One challenge for Democrats in deciding what to do with Parnas' documents is the source of the information, given that Parnas is under federal indictment and could face additional charges. The sources say Democrats want to make sure the information is rock solid before going forward with it, though they are racing against the clock with the trial expected to begin in earnest next week.
Parnas' document dump is one of several developments that have occurred since the House passed two impeachment articles against the President — and additional information could be released during the trial. The watchdog group American Oversight has already received documents from the State Department, thanks to Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, and is slated to receive Ukraine records from the Energy Department on January 28 — which is likely to be in the middle of the Senate trial.
If new documents come up in the trial, Chief Justice John Roberts could have to rule on whether they are admissible. Fifty-one senators could vote to overturn a chief justice's decision, senators said.
"We could" overturn Roberts' rulings, said Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of Senate GOP leadership. "Or if he doesn't admit (records), we could overturn the chief justice."
It's not yet clear how Schiff and other potential House impeachment managers would use any new information during the trial that wasn't available when the House voted to impeach the President, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has touted the new development as part of her argument that the strategy of withholding the impeachment articles for nearly a month was effective.