Attorneys for two indicted associates of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani are quarreling over a decision by one of the defendants to turn over reams of emails, correspondence and other data to a House committee, newly released court records show.
The unusual decision by Lev Parnas to cooperate with House investigators despite pending criminal campaign-finance charges against him appears to be grating on his co-defendant, Igor Fruman, letters sent to the federal judge handling their case indicate.
Fruman’s attorney Todd Blanche complained to U.S. Circuit Court Judge Paul Oetken, of the Southern District of New York, that some of the large volume of material Parnas sent to the House Intelligence Committee contained attorney-client privileged communications that Parnas did not have the right to share with the House and should have been shielded from prosecutors assigned to the criminal case.
Blanche also threw some shade at Parnas and his attorney Joseph Bondy over their recent high-profile media outings, which rocked the Trump impeachment trial with claims that the president was well aware of Giuliani’s efforts to instigate investigations in Ukraine that could be damaging to former Vice President Joe Biden.
“My obvious concern is that Mr. Bondy’s hasty efforts to find a forum (beyond MSNBC and CNN) for someone — anyone — to listen to his client’s version of events caused him to irresponsibly produce privileged material” to the House panel, Blanche wrote in a Jan. 22 letter made public by the court on Tuesday.
Blanche said in a follow-up letter on Monday that he was not aware of precisely what documents Parnas had or what he’d turned over, but that some of the information might include attorney-client communications related to a Federal Election Commission investigation into a company that Parnas and Fruman co-owned, Global Energy Producers.
Blanche also said other Parnas records might be entitled to confidentiality, including any relating to work he did as a translator for lawyers Joseph DiGenova and Victoria Toensing as they tried to quash a separate U.S. prosecution of the Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash.
“Mr. Fruman is not the only one whose privileged information is at risk,” Blanche wrote as he raised the Firtash example, while adding, “That privilege would be held by Mr. Firtash, the client, not Mr. Parnas.”
Blanche asked that any privileged documents be “clawed back” from the House panel and that the judge deny Parnas permission to share anything further until a thorough privilege review was complete.
Bondy, Parnas’ lawyer, said the House does not recognize attorney-client privilege as a basis for withholding subpoenaed records. He also said Congress needed Parnas’ materials quickly because of the ongoing impeachment proceedings, which left no time to sift through the records for privileged material
“The reality of this case is that a Congressional committee investigating the President’s impeachment required the information contained in Mr. Parnas’ iPhone 11, sooner rather than later, and that civil and criminal enforcement and third-party material filtration processes did not allow for such production with alacrity,” Bondy wrote, before suggesting that Blanche’s complaint might be aimed at benefiting Trump. “Mr. Blanche’s request, if granted, would have the effect of suppressing the flow of materials to Congress that are detrimental to the President and his attorneys.”
Oetken, the judge, has scheduled a hearing on the matter for Thursday afternoon.
Parnas and Fruman were arrested at Dulles International Airport outside Washington in October on charges they orchestrated illegal contributions to U.S. political committees and a former congressional candidate’s campaign as part of an effort to wield influence on behalf of a Ukrainian government official and a Russian businessman.
Both men have pleaded not guilty, as have two other defendants charged with related offenses.
Giuliani has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged in the case, although POLITICO and other news outlets have reported that his activities with Parnas and Fruman have come under investigation by federal prosecutors in New York and Washington.
Prosecutors did not object to Parnas’ earlier disclosures to the House, but are opposing a new request because they say it goes beyond records Parnas had access to at the time of his arrest.
Blanche noted in one letter that some of the information Parnas turned over to the House was unknown to prosecutors in the case at the time, but might now be known as a result of the records being sent to Congress.
Prosecutors have said they are using a “taint” or “filter” team to review materials seized from the defendants, web services and other sources that may contain privileged information, but it’s hard to see how the prosecution team could be shielded from information made public by the House, particularly in news reports.