Once again, Trump reiterated his insistence that he doesn't know Lev Parnas, doesn't know where he's from, doesn't know anything about him. Yes, there are photos of him with Parnas, quite a few, but (for the sake of argument) it's certainly possible that all those are just quick, random "Here, take a photo with this guy" things. No, it's not likely or probable, given how many of them are, but -- just to bend over backwards for argument's sake -- sure, it's possible.
But then last night on Rachel Maddow's interview with Parnas with see what crushes that argument completely into dust. It's an email from Trump's lawyer Jay Sekulow to his former lawyer John Dowd who had said he probably had a conflict defending Parnas since he (Dowd) had been Trump's lawyer. And so Dowd asked Sekulow if there was, in fact, a conflict.
There you have it. Not only does that show Trump knows Lev Parnas, but well-enough to give approval to his former lawyer to represent him.
There was also something related to all this that leaped out loudly yesterday.
Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway was on Jake Tapper's show on CNN and said something that Trump defenders have been saying for a long time time, but yesterday it took on especially-substantive meaning given that it was the day the Articles of Impeachment were signed and officially transferred to the Senate, where Chief Justice John Roberts swore all senators in for the trial of "Donald John Trump."
In the interview, Ms. Conway said two two things of note. The first was to remind everyone that Lev Parnas had been federally indicted, something that was a talking point by Trump spokespeople all day. And as I wrote yesterday, Parnas is not a good guy. Indeed, he has a seedy past. But what is important to point out, just to be fair, is that being indicted is not the same as being convicted. It is reasonable for anyone to say that someone has under indictment when they are. It is equally proper to make clear that in the United States, a person is innocent until proven guilty. Furthermore, it is fair to respond that while "He is under federal indictment" is an accurate charge, it is not a denial that what the person said isn't true.
But it was the other thing she said that I think stands out far more. Not just because we've heard it so often from Team Trump in the past, but especially since (as I noted) today was the beginning of Trump's trial. And that's when Ms. Conway's response to Jake Tapper was that we all have to remember that everything Lev Parnas had been saying was not under oath in a court of law.
And here's the thing -- as much as she and all Trump defenders want to properly stand on this reality as something the American public should consider profoundly important, they are digging their own hole, because what is equally true is that that point, that what Lev Parnas say is not under oath so we should be skeptical about believing him, is exactly just as true for Trump.
And Mike Pompeo. And William Barr. And Rick Perry. And Mick Mulvaney. And Mike Pence. And -- yes, Kellyanne Conway. And indeed every single person in the Trump administration who Trump has been blocking from testifying under oath.
If we are not to take as absolute fact that what Lev Parnas as said was the truth because he was not under oath, then we cannot take as the absolute truth the denials of any of these people who are not under oath.
For that matter, by that very argument of Trump's spokesperson, the only way we can determine if what Lev Parnas is saying is the truth is to have him testify under oath. And it follows that the only way we can determine if the denials of Trump officials are true is to have them all testifying under oath, as well.
It is not to be expected that this latter will happen.
But it's good to know that the Trump administration's lead spokesperson wants us to know that it should. Because whether or not she said that -- it is exactly what she was saying.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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