House Intelligence Chairman and lead impeachment manager Adam Schiff (D-CA) may have mischaracterized a text message exchange between Lev Parnas and Rudy Giuliani, according to a report in Politico.
The news outlet called it “a possible error the GOP will likely criticize as another example of the Democrats’ rushed effort to impeach President Donald Trump.”
Last week, Schiff sent a letter to fellow impeachment manager House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), summarizing documents from Parnas, a former Giuliani associate.
In the letter, Schiff write that Parnas “continued to try to arrange a meeting with President Zelensky” — citing a specific text message exchange where Parnas tells Giuliani: “trying to get us mr Z.”
According to Politico, the remainder of the exchange, attached to Schiff’s letter, was redacted.
However, an unredacted version of the exchange shows that several days later, Parnas sent notes to Giuliani of an interview with Mykola Zlochevsky, the founder of Burisma, followed by a text message to Giuliani that states: “mr Z answers my brother.” The unredacted version suggests Parnas meant Zlochevsky, not Zelensky.
The interview centers on hiring practices at Burisma, while the responses include statements such as “we wanted to build Burisma as [an] international company” and “we also thought it would help in Ukraine to have strong international board figures,” which also point to Zlochevsky — not the Ukrainian president — as the respondent.
A Democrat official did not dispute to Politico that Schiff’s assertion to Nadler was incorrect, but maintained that “z” was commonly used to refer to Zelensky.
[I]t appears that Democrats misjudged at least one instance where they thought they found an example of Parnas trying to arrange a meeting between Giuliani and Zelensky, according to the unredacted material. Democrats didn’t receive the Parnas evidence from the courts until last week and were scrambling to sort through all the materials ahead of the Senate impeachment trial.
A Republican aide told Politico the assumption that “mr Z” is a reference to Zelensky is sloppy oversight work at best. One senior GOP aide told the outlet:
The most charitable view of the situation is that [Schiff’s] staff committed the equivalent of Congressional malpractice by not looking more than an inch deep to determine the facts before foisting this erroneous information on his colleagues and the American public.
But given the selective redactions and contextual clues, it seems as though Chairman Schiff sought to portray an innocuous meeting with Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky as an insidious one with the President of Ukraine simply because both of their surnames start with the letter Z.
It would not be the first time Schiff has been guilty of mischaracterizing information. He famously created a fake dialogue between Trump and Zelensky, which he read at the opening of a hearing. After he was slammed by Republicans, he admitted it was meant to be a “parody.”