Rep. Devin Nunes on Sunday ramped up his attack on allegations in CNN and Daily Beast stories, saying he will file a lawsuit in federal court accusing them of being accessories to a conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Both news outlets reported that Mr. Nunes, while serving as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, traveled to Vienna in 2018. He supposedly met with former Ukrainian chief prosecutor Viktor Shokin in search of dirt on former Vice President Joseph R. Biden.
“None of this is true,” Mr. Nunes told Fox News.
The allegation comes from indicted Lev Parnas, a Soviet-born U.S. citizen, by way of his attorney in New York, Joseph A. Bondy. Mr. Parnas, a onetime associate of Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, was charged by federal prosecutors with making illegal campaign donations. He is under house arrest in Florida.
Mr. Nunes, California Republican, said Saturday that the CNN and Daily Beast stories were “demonstrably false.”
On Sunday, he said Mr. Parnas and his attorney committed obstruction of justice to hamstring him as he leads House Republicans in a defense against Democrats’ drive to impeach President Trump. He called on CNN and the Daily Beast to cooperate in his announced lawsuit.
“We are going to take CNN and the Daily Beast likely into federal court,” he said. “And we hope they cooperate because we are also going to be working with the appropriate law enforcement agencies because it is not OK to work with someone who has been indicted on serious federal crimes to build a media narrative and dirty up a member of Congress.”
Mr. Bondy has called on Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat and chairman of the House intelligence committee, to hear Mr. Parnas.
On CNN Sunday, Mr. Schiff said the Vienna allegation involves official travel, or codel, and would be handled by the House Ethics Committee.
The Democratic Coalition, a pro-impeachment group, tweeted Friday that it filed such a complaint based on the CNN and Daily Beast stories.
Mr. Bondy told The Washington Times, “I read Rep. Nunes’ remarks with close care. I remind him that, in addition to a free press, one of the cornerstones of our democracy is that a person is presumed innocent unless and until — if ever — they are proven guilty by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Mr. Parnas has been charged in New York with Federal Election Act violations, and his indictment is not a conviction.”
Mr. Parnas was been subpoenaed by the House intelligence committee before he made the Nunes allegation to talk about his association with Mr. Giuliani.
“His evidence and potential testimony is nonpartisan and not intended to be part of a battle between the left and the right, but rather an aid in the determination by our government of what is in the best interests of our nation,” Mr. Bondy said.
A CNN spokesman declined to comment. A message to Daily Beast public affairs was not returned.
Among Mr. Nunes’ comments on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” with Maria Bartiromo:
• “I’ve been used to this the past three years. We continue to expose Democrat corruption over and over again. And what always happens, right when we exposed them, what do they do? They go out to kill the messenger. So this week another fake news story. The problem with this week’s fake news story is we actually caught them. And we caught them badly, and it also involved criminal activity.”
• “We are going to take CNN and the Daily Beast likely into federal court. … We hope they cooperate because we are also going to be working with the appropriate law enforcement authorities because it is not OK to work with someone who has been indicted on serious federal crimes to build a media narrative and dirty up a member of Congress.”
• “We hope that CNN and the Daily Beast will cooperate with the court. They should comply with the subpoenas once we file them and go through depositions. It will be fun. … Everyone is going to know all the facts.”
• “I can’t compete by trying to debate this out with the public media when 90% of the media are totally corrupt. Because this is criminal in nature. It is so bad, it is so slanderous, we’ve got all the facts on our side. … I will win in court and they’ll have a chance to cooperate and they’ll have to show how they work with someone who has been indicted, which is likely conspiracy to obstruct justice … or an accessory to it.”
Conservatives on Twitter began comparing the CNN and Daily Beast’s Vienna report to the Prague story in which Mr. Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen supposedly traveled to the Eastern European city in 2016 to participate with Kremlin figures in an election conspiracy.
The story was pushed by former British spy Christopher Steele’s dossier and Democratic opposition research firm Fusion GPS. Cohen always denied traveling to Prague, and special counsel Robert Mueller’s report said he did not.
Mr. Nunes has been the target of a number of liberal media articles. He has filed suit against the McClatchy newspaper chain for defamation. His former close aide Kash Patel filed a libel lawsuit Nov. 8 against Politico for depicting him as having hijacked Ukraine policy inside the White House National Security Council staff. Politico said the lawsuit is baseless.
In the hallways of Congress, Mr. Nunes refuses to speak with CNN reporters.
In an increasingly complicated Ukraine-U.S. storyline, Mr. Parnas became a source for Mr. Giuliani. The president tasked him to investigate any Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election on behalf of Hillary Clinton.
In a number of press interviews, Mr. Giuliani has accused former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter of corruption. While Mr. Biden was the Obama administration’s diplomatic point man on Ukraine in 2014, Hunter Biden won a lucrative spot on the board of directors of Burisma Holdings. State Department officials describe the Kyiv-based natural gas firm as corrupt.
Mr. Biden, a Democratic candidate for president, denies wrongdoing and has called on TV networks to stop booking Mr. Giuliani.
Mr. Bondy, Mr. Parnas’ attorney, is the main conduit for the CNN and Daily Beast stories that say Mr. Nunes met with Mr. Shokin in Vienna. Mr. Parnas said he got the information from Mr. Shokin himself.
On Twitter, Mr. Bondy is winning support from Michael Avenatti, who has been indicted on charges of stealing clients’ money and shaking down the billion-dollar Nike sports apparel company for cash. Mr. Avenatti once represented adult actress Stormy Daniels, who was paid hush money by Mr. Trump. She claims they had a one-night affair.
Federal prosecutors charged Mr. Avenatti with stealing Miss Daniels’ book advance. He then sued her for legal fees of $2 million.
“Thank you,” Mr. Bondy tweeted Friday to Mr. Avenatti, who had tweeted, “Nunes must be criminally prosecuted.”
Mr. Bondy tweeted to Mr. Schiff, “Please arrange for [the committee] to hear Lev Parnas.”
Mr. Bondy’s Twitter profile describes himself as a “preeminent criminal defense attorney.”
During two weeks of impeachment hearings, Mr. Schiff tried to prove that Mr. Trump delayed military aid to Ukraine from July to September until officials agreed to investigate the Bidens. Mr. Trump maintains that the military aid and the request for an investigation were not related.
It was Mr. Shokin whom Vice President Biden demanded be fired by Ukraine’s president as a condition for the Obama administration’s release of $1 billion in aid. Mr. Biden’s allies said he made the demand not to protect his son but because Mr. Shokin was not investigating corrupt Ukrainian politicians.”
• Gabriella Muñoz contributed to this report.
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