/Schiff may have mischaracterized Parnas evidence, documents show – POLITICO

Schiff may have mischaracterized Parnas evidence, documents show – POLITICO

The word document contains a series of questions and answers, but doesn’t identify who is doing the asking or answering. Yet the questions center on the hiring practices at Burisma, while the responses include statements such as “we wanted to build Burisma as [an] international company” and “we also thought it would help in Ukraine to have strong international board figures,” which seems to point to Zlochevsky — not the Ukrainian president — as the respondent.

The apparent mischaracterization, however, does not undercut Democrats’ argument that Trump withheld critical military aid to Ukraine as a way to pressure Zelenksy into opening up investigations into the Bidens, including Joe Biden’s son Hunter, who was once a board member on Burisma, a Ukrainian natural gas company.

A Democratic official working on the impeachment trial didn’t dispute the suggestion that the initial interpretation was incorrect. But the official maintains that “z” was commonly used as short-hand for “Zelensky” by those involved in the Ukraine pressure campaign, and noted that the word document does not reveal its author or source.

The official also pointed out that there is little question that Giuliani and Parnas sought “high-level engagement with President Zelensky and his administration.”

“Beginning with Mr. Giuliani’s May 10 letter to President Zelensky two months earlier and leading up to Mr. Giuliani’s August 2 meeting with Mr. Zelensky’s representatives in Spain, Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Parnas actively sought high-level engagement with President Zelensky and his administration to carry out the President’s corrupt scheme,” the official said. “If Mr. Giuliani sought out dirt from other sources, that would be consistent with their overall effort.”

There are plenty of examples of Giuliani attempting to arrange a meeting with Zelensky, and he did in fact meet with top aides to the Ukrainian president — even though Parnas’ role in the whole matter is still unclear. And Democrats have not predicated their impeachment trial arguments on Parnas’ new allegations, making limited references to the former Giuliani associate in their brief.

But it appears that Democrats misjudged at least one instance where they thought they found an example of Parnas trying to arrange a meeting between Giuliani and Zelensky, according to the unredacted material. Democrats didn’t receive the Parnas evidence from the courts until last week and were scrambling to sort through all the materials ahead of the Senate impeachment trial.

A Republican aide said the assumption that “mr Z” is a reference to Zelensky is sloppy oversight work at best.

“The most charitable view of the situation is that [Schiff’s] staff committed the equivalent of Congressional malpractice by not looking more than an inch deep to determine the facts before foisting this erroneous information on his colleagues and the American public,” said one senior GOP aide.

“But given the selective redactions and contextual clues, it seems as though Chairman Schiff sought to portray an innocuous meeting with Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky as an insidious one with the President of Ukraine simply because both of their surnames start with the letter Z.”