Timeline: Rep. Devin Nunes and Ukraine Disinformation Efforts

Rep. Devin Nunes (R.-Ca) and his top aide, Derek Harvey, have allegedly been working in part with Rudy Giuliani and his associates, including indicted businessman Lev Parnas, to get dirt from Ukraine on Joe Biden and to pursue other discredited conspiracy theories that would benefit President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, according to a series of news reports in recent days (CNN, NBC, Washington Post, CNBC, and Daily Beast). The information largely comes from two of Parnas’s lawyers, Joseph Bondy and Ed MacMahon, who say their client is prepared to provide testimony under penalty of law to Congress.  Representative Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee conducting the probe, says he will decide whether to call Parnas based on a review of what Bondy says are thousands of pages of records Parnas has provided to the panel under subpoena.

Because of Parnas’s interest in securing a potential immunity deal with Congress, it is important to consider his lawyers’ statements to the press in that context, as Marcy Wheeler has cautioned.

The following Timeline will be updated as new information becomes available. (Note: updated as of Dec. 3, 2019, with new information from the House Intelligence Committee’s Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report.) Please contact us if there are items, favorable or unfavorable to Rep. Nunes, that you believe should be added to the Clearinghouse.

July 25, 2018: Worried about Biden candidacy

Axios’ Mike Allen publishes a story that “Trump fears Biden” as his most formidable opponent in 2020. 

Aug. 1, 2018: Polls show Biden would beat Trump

A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows Biden would beat Trump in a head to head general election, with 44 percent of voters saying they’d choose Biden and 37 percent saying that they’d vote for Trump.

August 2018: Lev Parnas’s company, Boca Raton, Florida-based Fraud Guarantee (its website says it aims to “reduce and mitigate fraud”) hires Giuliani Partners, the former mayor’s management and security consulting firm, to advise on technology and regulatory issues. The company ultimately pays Giuliani’s firm $500,000.

Late 2018: Nunes-Parnas connection, and designation of Harvey as intermediary

“Following a brief in-person meeting in late 2018, Parnas and Nunes had at least two more phone conversations, and…Nunes instructed Parnas to work with Harvey on the Ukraine matters,” according to Parnas’s attorney Bondy, CNN reports. 

Nov. 6, 2018: Midterm elections – Democrats win a majority of seats in the House

November 2018: Parnas helps arrange meetings and calls in Europe for Nunes and his aide, Derek Harvey, the Daily Beast’s Betsy Swan reports.

Nov. 30 to Dec. 3, 2018: Nunes, Harvey reportedly meet Shokin secretly in Vienna

Nunes and three aides, including Harvey, travel to Europe, according to congressional travel records.

The timing of the trip was designed to keep its details secret from Congress, Lev Parnas’ attorney Bondy told CNN. “Mr. Parnas learned through Nunes‘ investigator, Derek Harvey, that the Congressman had sequenced this trip to occur after the midterm elections yet before Congress’ return to session, so that Nunes would not have to disclose the trip details to his Democrat colleagues in Congress,” said Bondy.

Nunes meets with the highly corrupt former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin in Vienna to dig up dirt on Biden, according to Parnas, who says he is willing to provide congressional testimony under penalty of law (CNN). Parnas helps arrange the meeting.“Nunes had told Shokin of the urgent need to launch investigations into Burisma, Joe and Hunter Biden, and any purported Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election,” Bondy tells CNN.

(Asked during a Nov. 24, 2019, interview on Fox News whether he met with Shokin in Vienna, Nunes refused to answer.)

The Washington Post cites “an individual close to Shokin” as saying the prosecutor has never heard of Nunes and that no such meeting took place.

Sometime in December: Giuliani has a Skype conversation with Shokin, who relays his allegations against Biden (according to what Giuliani told CNN, and a joint investigation by the nonprofit Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and BuzzFeed News, as published by OCCRP).

Sometime shortly after Dec. 3, 2018: Harvey meets Parnas at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, where they discuss claims about the Bidens as well as allegations of Ukrainian election interference, according to Bondy (CNN). In a follow-up communication, “Bondy said that in a phone conversation Nunes told Parnas that he was conducting his own investigation into the Bidens and asked Parnas for help validating information he’d gathered from conversations with various current and former Ukrainian officials, including Shokin,” CNN reports.

Dec. 5, 2018: Giuliani brings Parnas with him to the state funeral service for former President George H.W. Bush at the National Cathedral in Washington.

Dec. 6, 2018: At the White House annual Hannukah party, Parnas and Fruman hold a private meeting with President Trump and Giuliani, where Trump tasks Parnas and Fruman to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate the Bidens, according to associates Parnas told around the time and in the ensuing days, CNN reports.

Jan. 23, 2019: Giuliani, with Parnas and Fruman, conduct a phone or Skype interview with Shokin, after the State Department refuses Shokin a visa to travel to New York, allegedly because of corruption allegations against him. They transcribe Shokin’s allegations against Biden and later include these in a package of what amounts to disinformation on Biden, Burisma and the 2016 election, intended for Pompeo (FOIA release).

A fourth person on the call is George Boyle, a former NYPD detective who works for Giuliani Partners.

Ambassador Yovanovitch later testifies that Giuliani unsuccessfully tried to appeal the routine visa decision on Shokin to Pompeo and the White House. 

Feb. 1-May 10, 2019: Nunes or Harvey, or in one case Kash Patel, a National Security Council official who previously served on Nunes’ staff on the Intelligence Committee, engage with Giuliani or Parnas in at least 16 calls documented by the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment inquiry under Schiff. The calls include Parnas and Harvey on Feb. 1, 4 and 7, and six calls between Nunes and Giuliani on April 10, though timing information on each indicates it’s possible only one of those resulted in a conversation.

 

Jan. 25-26, 2019: Giuliani and Ukraine Prosecutor General Lutsenko meet for first time in New York, getting together several times over two to three days. Bloomberg News paraphrased Lutsenko later saying Giuliani asked about investigations into the owner of Burisma, Mykola Zlochevsky, as well as whether then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was “not loyal to President Trump.” The meetings include Giuliani, Parnas, Fruman, and Boyle. Accompanying Lutsenko are Glib Zagoriy and Gyunduz Mamedov FOIA release). Giuliani also includes “interview notes” from Lutsenko in the disinformation packet later sent to Pompeo (FOIA release).

Feb. 16, 2019: Biden “very close” to announcing presidential run 

In an interview, Biden says he is “very close” to a final decision on whether to run, and that his family approvest. “There is a consensus that they want me to run,” he says.

Late February 2019 Parnas and Fruman’s quid pro quo to President Poroshenko

At Giuliani’s behest, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman press then-President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko to initiate an investigation of Hunter Biden and a debunked theory of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, the Wall Street Journal reported. They said the action would be rewarded by a state visit at the White House for Poroshenko, who was fighting a tough campaign for re-election against Zelenskyy. Prosecutor General Lutsenko also attended the meeting.

Spring 2019: The creation of a “team”: Giuliani, Parnas, Fruman, Solomon, diGenova, Toensing and, occasionally, Nunes’s top aide Harvey

“Parnas became part of what he described as a ‘team’ that met several times a week in a private room at the BLT restaurant on the second floor of the Trump Hotel. In addition to giving the group access to key people in Ukraine who could help their cause, Parnas translated their conversations, Bondy said,” according to CNN.

The team includes six regular members: Giuliani, Parnas, Fruman, John Solomon, Joe diGenova, and Victoria Toensing. Nunes’s top aide, Harvey, occasionally joins the meeting as Nunes‘ proxy, according to Parnas (CNN; Washington Post)

Solomon confirmed the meetings to CNN, but said calling the group a team was a bit of a mischaracterization because the connections happened more organically.

When did the group start? Solomon told CNN that diGenova and Toensing introduced him to Parnas in early March.

Spring 2019: Nunes aides plan a trip to Ukraine in the spring to speak with two Ukrainian prosecutors who claimed to have evidence to help Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, CNBC reported, citing Bondy on information that Parnas is willing to provide in congressional testimony. But Nunes staff allegedly call off the trip when they realize Schiff would get wind of the plan. Instead, Nunes’s office asks Parnas to set up telephone or Skype calls with Harvey.

Early March 2019: The State Department asks Ambassador Yovanovitch to extend her term in Ukraine until 2020, according to her prepared remarks to the House impeachment investigation. 

March 4, 2019: Worried about Biden candidacy

Trump huddles with closer advisors in a private meeting where he “seemed to indicate to some of his confidants that he is concerned about the prospect of facing Biden,” CNBC reports.

March 20, 2019: Solomon’s interview with Lutsenko published

Solomon publishes an interview with Ukrainian Prosecutor General Lutsenko in which Lutsenko says he has opened two investigations — one into the 2016 U.S. presidential election and a second into Burisma and Biden. Solomon airs the part related to Biden and Burisma, in which Lutsenko says he wants to present his information to Attorney General William Barr.

President Trump tweets in response to Solomon’s report and cites the headline: “As Russia Collusion fades, Ukrainian plot to help Clinton emerges.” Giuliani tweets: “keep your eye on Ukraine.”

The text accompanying the video says Lutsenko also alleged that Ambassador Yovanovitch had given him a “do not prosecute” list at their first meeting in 2016. The State Department says the claim is “an outright fabrication.” 

(Months later, Lutsenko will withdraw his claims in interviews with Bloomberg News (in May 2019) and the Los Angeles Times (in Sept. 2019).) 

March 24, 2019: Donald Trump Jr. tweets criticism of Yovanovitch, calling her a “joker” and linking to a conservative media outlet’s article about calls for her ouster. 

March 26, 2019 morning: Giuliani and Pompeo have a conversation shortly before 10AM according to State Department records (FOIA release).

March 26, 2019 afternoon: At 12:52PM, Solomon sends an email to Parnas, Toensing, and diGenova, with a preview of a full draft of an article that Solomon would later publish that day in The Hill. The article includes an interview with Lutsenko as part of an effort to smear Yovanovitch. 

Late March: Nunes’ senior aide Harvey speaks with Kulyk and Kholodnytsky (arranged by Parnas)

After the trip to Ukraine is scrapped, Parnas arranges for Harvey to speak by phone and Skype with two Ukrainian officials who said they had evidence that could help Trump’s reelection campaign, Bondy told CNBC. The late-March conversations included one over Skype with Ukraine prosecutor Nazar Kholodnytsky. The second was a phone call Parnas arranged for Harvey with Kostiantyn Kulyk, a deputy in the Ukraine Prosecutor General’s office. Both Kulyk and Kholodnytsky have been accused of corruption and pursuing politically motivated prosecutions. The New York Times has reported that Kulyk created a seven-page dossier on Biden in late 2018 filled with disinformation and theories that played a role in ousting Ambassador Yovanovitch. 

March 28, 2019: Giuliani hands off disinformation packet to Pompeo

Giuliani provides a packet of what amounts to disinformation on Biden, Burisma, the 2016 election, and Yovanovitch that he intends for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Giuliani later tells NBC News that he handed the packet “directly to the Secretary of State,” but CNN has cited a source saying Giuliani had given the packet to the White House so that it could be “routed” to Pompeo. The packet includes notes from interviews that Giuliani and his team conducted with Viktor Shokin and Yuriy Lutsenko (see entries in Jan. 2019). 

Giuliani’s packet also includes Solomon’s March 26 email to Parnas, Toensing, and diGenova with the draft of the March 26 article, as well as a copy of Solomon’s March 20 article in The Hill. 

Important note: The disinformation packet contained information that closely overlapped with Kulyk’s dossier of disinformation on Biden. “Lutsenko, the former prosecutor general, said in an interview that he never gave Mr. Kulyk’s dossier to Mr. Giuliani. But notes taken by Mr. Giuliani during their meeting in January mirror the ideas laid out in Mr. Kulyk’s memo,” the Times reported (on Oct. 15). 

March 28, 2019Giuliani’s and Nunes’ phone calls with Pompeo

On Thursday, March 28, two phone calls are added to Pompeo’s calendar: a 20-minute phone call with Giuliani on Friday, March 29, and a 20-minute phone call with Nunes on Monday, April 1, according to State Department records (FOIA release). 

March 31, 2019: First round of Ukraine’s presidential election takes place, which results in runoff between Zelenskyy and Poroshenko scheduled for April 21.

April, 7, 2019: Solomon publishes an interview with Kulyk airing his disinformation.

April 21, 2019: Volodymyr Zelenskyy is elected president of Ukraine, to succeed Petro Poroshenko. Zelenskyy ran on a “zero tolerance” anti-corruption agenda.

April 24, 2019: Yovanovitch, a diplomat of more than 30 years, is “abruptly” told by the State Department to “come back to Washington from Ukraine `on the next plane,’” she later tells the impeachment inquiry. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan tells her that her term in Kyiv is being curtailed because the President had “lost confidence” in her.

“He [Sullivan] added that there had been a concerted campaign against me, and that the Department had been under pressure from the President to remove me since the Summer of 2018. He also said that I had done nothing wrong and that this was not like other situations where he had recalled ambassadors for cause,” Yovanovitch testified. In testimony, Sullivan confirmed these facts, and said that Giuliani’s efforts sought to “smear Ambassador Yovanovitch, or have her removed,” and that Giulaini’s disinformation packet “didn’t provide, to me, a basis for taking action against our ambassador.”

April 25, 2019: Joe Biden formally announces his campaign for President. 

Sometime in May: Parnas and Fruman press incoming Zelenskyy administration to announce investigations on Biden, threatening aid suspension and Pence withdrawal from inauguration

Lev Parnas tells a Ukraine representative in a small meeting in Kyiv sometime in May that “the United States would freeze aid” and Pence would not attend the inauguration if Ukraine does not announce an investigation into the Bidens, according to what Parnas’s lawyer tells the New York Times his client will tell Congress. “Parnas’s lawyer … said the message to the Ukrainians was given at the direction of Mr. Giuliani, whom Mr. Parnas believed was acting under Mr. Trump’s instruction.”

The other three participants in the meeting, Fruman, Giuliani, and Serhiy Shefir deny Parnas’s account. The Times‘s description of Shefir’s denial is unusual: “Mr. Shefir acknowledged meeting with Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman. But he said they had not raised the issue of military aid;” and at the same time,  the Times reports, “the statement from Mr. Shefir, issued in response to an inquiry from The New York Times, did not directly address Mr. Parnas’s claims that he had delivered an ultimatum about American aid in general and Mr. Pence’s attendance at the inauguration.”

On May 13, 2019 — President Trump instructs Vice President Mike Pence to not attend President Zelenskyy’s inauguration, according to Pence’s aid Jennifer Williams’ testimony.

Late June 2019: Giuliani group joins up with Kremlin-linked Dmitry Firtash

At Giuliani’s direction, Parnas and Fruman offer Dmitry Firtash, a fugitive Ukrainian oligarch living in Vienna, help with the Justice Department in exchange for dirt on the Bidens, according to the New York Times which cited Firtash and Bondy. Firtash has been fighting extradition to the United States on federal bribery and racketeering charges related to an Indian titanium mining project.

Giuliani’s proposal is that Firtash hire Toensing and diGenova as his lawyers. The married couple were already working with Giuliani on his effort to find dirt on the Bidens.

“Mr. Parnas reasonably believed Giuliani’s directions reflected the interests and wishes of the president, given Parnas having witnessed and in several instances overheard Mr. Giuliani speaking with the president,” Bondy told the Times.

In a 2017 court filing, federal prosecutors stated that Firtash and his co-defendant in the alleged scheme, Andras Knopp, `have been identified by United States law enforcement as two upper-echelon associates of Russian organized crime.’“ Senator Roger Wicker, (R-Miss.) wrote in an April 2018 letter to then-Attorney General Sessions that Firtash had served as a “direct agent of the Kremlin.”

July 2019: Firtash hires Giuliani associates and sets to work on getting dirt on Bidens

Firtash hired Toensing and diGenova and says he has paid the couple $1.2 million as of November, including a referral fee for Parnas. The Times reports that “a person with direct knowledge of the arrangement said Mr. Parnas’s total share was $200,000.” Bloomberg reported in October that Firtash paid the couple around $1million, and that “Firtash’s associates began to use his broad network of Ukraine contacts to get damaging information on Biden.” 

It’s unclear whether the activities involving Firtash intersect with Nunes. The same cast of characters who met regularly as a group — Giuliani, Fruman, Parnas, Solomon, Toensing and diGenova — were involved in the Firtash scheme, and Nunes repeatedly amplifies their work including Solomon’s articles, which Nunes read into the congressional record during the impeachment hearing. 

Late August: Toensing and diGenova meeting with Barr on Firtash’s behalf

Toensing and diGenova score a meeting directly with Attorney General Barr on behalf of Firtash, according to the New York Times. Firtash told the newspaper that Barr advised the lawyers to instead approach the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago, which had brought the case against Firtash. The lawyers’ contract with Firtash has been extended at least through the end of 2019.

Sept. 4, 2019: Shokin provides an affidavit for Firtash

Shokin provides a new affidavit that he attests occurred “at the request of lawyers acting for Dmitry Firtash for use in legal proceedings in Austria.” In the affidavit, Shokin says he was “was forced out because I was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe into Burisma Holdings, a natural gas firm active in Ukraine and Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was a member of the Board of Directors.” 

Sept. 26, 2019: Solomon article in The Hill on Shokin affidavit

John Solomon publishes a piece in The Hill amplifying the Shokin affidavit, without noting that Solomon was also a client of Toensing and diGenova.

Giuliani subsequently cites the affidavit and Solomon’s work as evidence against Biden. Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking site Politifact produced a complete takedown of Giuliani’s claims.

Oct. 2, 2019: State Department Inspector General Steve Linick provides the Giuliani disinformation packet to Congress and briefs members in an unusual urgent session that he had called to discuss the documents. The packet includes emails from acting assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs, Phil Reeker and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, that shows “when State Department officials saw the disinformation campaign, they attempted to ring alarm bells and strategized to correct the record,” NBC reports.

Oct 3. 2019: John Dowd confirms Parnas and Fruman work with Giuliani on behalf of President Trump

In a letter to Congress, Parnas and Fruman’s then-attorney John Dowd writes that the two men “assisted Mr. Giuliani in connection with his representation of President Trump.” He adds, “They also assisted Joseph DiGenova and Victoria Toensing in their law practice. Thus, certain information you seek in your September 30, 2019, letter is protected by the attorney—client, attorney work product and other privileges.” In a federal court hearing on Oct. 23, Parnas’s lawyer tells the judge that some of the evidence may be subject to “executive privilege” due to the connection to President Trump.

Nov. 13-21, 2019: During testimony from U.S. officials in the House impeachment inquiry, Nunes repeatedly refers to the discredited allegations about Joe Biden and Burisma, as well as the conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election. “At no point did Nunes ever mention that he or his staffers met with the three Ukrainian officials, some of whom were mentioned by name during testimony,” CNBC noted.

  

About the Author(s)

Ryan Goodman

Co-Editor-in-Chief of Just Security, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Professor of Law at New York University School of Law, former Special Counsel to the General Counsel of the Department of Defense (2015-2016). Follow him on Twitter (@rgoodlaw).

Viola Gienger

Washington Editor for Just Security and research scholar at NYU School of Law. Follow her on Twitter (@violagienger).