Rep. Devin Nunes is disputing claims made by the lawyer of an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani regarding an alleged trip he made last year.
The lawyer, Joseph Bondy, said his client, Lev Parnas was told by a former Ukrainian prosecutor about a meeting with Nunes in Vienna last year to discuss efforts to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden.
Nunes, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, denied the claim in a defamation lawsuit filed in federal court in Virginia against CNN, which first published the assertions made by Bondy. The suit was filed on the same day that the House Intelligence Committee issued a report on its impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Parnas was indicted this fall for making false statements, falsifying campaign records and conspiracy to funnel foreign money into US campaigns. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
CNN had first reported last month that, according to his attorney, Parnas was willing to tell Congress about what he says were Nunes’ efforts to dig up dirt on Biden, including that Nunes met with Viktor Shokin, a former Ukrainian prosecutor. Shokin has been at the center of the interactions between Giuliani and Parnas as they sought ways to push for an investigation into Biden, the Democratic presidential front-runner.
Shokin was ousted from his position in 2016 after pressure from Western leaders, including then-vice president Biden, over concerns that Shokin was not pursuing corruption cases.
Bondy has publicly pushed for his client to find ways to help House impeachment investigators as he fights criminal charges in New York.
But in the lawsuit, Nunes refuted the story of meeting Shokin, asserting that he never went to Vienna in December 2018, has never met Shokin, and hadn’t talked to Parnas around that time in late 2018. Instead, Nunes says he was on a trip to Libya and Malta. As part of his lawsuit, Nunes provided photographs of himself meeting officials in those countries between November 30 and December 3, 2018. He says he never traveled to Vienna, where Bondy says, according to his client, Nunes met Shokin.
Congressional travel records show that Nunes and three aides traveled to Europe from November 30 to December 3, 2018. The records do not specify that Nunes and his staff went to Vienna or Austria, and Nunes was not required to disclose the exact details of the trip.
Nunes also claims he has “never met Parnas.” He also says he “never worked with Parnas, other Ukrainians, or anyone else to dig up dirt on Biden or other Democrats in Ukraine,” according to his complaint.
On Tuesday, Bondy stood by his client’s account, telling CNN that if called as a witness, “Lev would testify that Shokin told him he had met with Devin Nunes.”
Nunes filed his lawsuit the same day that the House Intelligence Committee released its report on the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump’s attempts to secure Ukraine’s aid in digging up dirt on his political opponents. That report includes phone records that include evidence of calls between Nunes and Parnas in April 2019, in addition to Giuliani and others involved in spreading conspiracy theories about the Bidens in Ukraine.
The committee report alleges that the calls were part of a wider coordinated effort by Giuliani and others to push “false narratives” in news stories about Ukraine.
Nunes’ complaint on Tuesday is the latest in a string of lawsuits the California Republican congressman has filed against news organizations and other entities. Nunes filed lawsuits earlier this year against the newspaper chain McClatchy, Hearst Magazines, and Twitter.
Before publishing the story and airing a TV segment about it, CNN approached Nunes twice on Capitol Hill, and reached out to him and his office for comment multiple times through his spokesman. Nunes responded to questions telling a CNN reporter, “I don’t talk to you in this lifetime or the next lifetime,” and reiterated later he would not acknowledge questions from CNN.
After the story published, Nunes disputed Bondy’s claims to the right-wing news website Breitbart.
In his lawsuit filed Tuesday, Nunes says that Parnas is not a trustworthy source, calling him a “fraudster and a hustler.”
CNN has not yet responded in court to Nunes’ complaint. A CNN spokesperson declined to comment for this story.
Federal prosecutors in New York on Monday said they are “likely” to file additional charges in the case against Parnas, and his associate Igor Fruman.
In court on Monday, Parnas’ attorney told the judge his client “has indicated that he wishes to comply with the House Intelligence subpoena,” and asked prosecutors to give him copies of material they took from Parnas for their case, so that he can turn it over to Congress.