First on CNN: Oversight Committee Democrats invite Giuliani associate Lev Parnas as witness for Biden impeachment hearing

House Democrats on the Oversight Committee have selected an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, who played a role in former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial, to be their witness at the panel’s hearing on Wednesday, a source with Oversight Committee Democrats told CNN.

Lev Parnas, a Ukrainian-American, worked with Giuliani in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election on behalf of Trump to try and unearth damaging information about then-presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in Ukraine. Parnas was sentenced to 20 months in prison in connection with convictions on campaign finance, wire fraud and false statements.

House Republicans had embraced the dirt Parnas was peddling but he has since called it out as nonsense.

“Lev Parnas can debunk the bogus claims at the heart of the impeachment probe and, in the process, explain how the GOP ended up in this degraded and embarrassing place,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight panel.

In a statement provided to CNN, a Republican Oversight Committee spokesperson said, “It’s telling the Democrats didn’t call any of Hunter Biden’s business associates who claim his father’s innocence because they know their testimony won’t withstand public scrutiny.”

Parnas will be testifying alongside Tony Bobulinski, a former Biden family business associate who has levied critical but unproven allegations against the Bidens, and Jason Galanis, who is currently in federal prison for his role in multiple fraudulent schemes and will be appearing remotely.

Committee Republicans are expected to also have a seat labeled for Hunter Biden at their witness table during the hearing even though the president’s son is not expected to appear, a source familiar with the planning told CNN. Hunter Biden declined the invitation from Republicans. The decision to have an empty seat for the president’s son signals that the hearing is gearing up to be a spectacle.

After much back-and-forth, the president’s son appeared for a closed-door deposition last month, which failed to deliver the smoking gun against the president that Republicans were hoping for, leaving the inquiry at a standstill. House Oversight Chairman James Comer, a Kentucky Republican, has also sent a letter asking Biden to reconsider not appearing.

Republicans had also invited Biden family business associate Devon Archer to testify, but he also did not accept the committee’s invitation, according to a letter obtained by CNN.

Wednesday’s hearing is only the second of its kind since Republicans launched their investigation into the Biden family and comes as the flailing inquiry into Biden stalls with impeachment becomes less likely.

Trump used the conspiracy theories brought forth by Giuliani and Parnas to falsely claim that as vice president, Joe Biden corruptly abused his powers to pressure Ukraine to fire a top prosecutor who was investigating Ukrainian energy company Burisma as a way to protect Hunter, who served on the firm’s board at the time.

The Biden-Burisma conspiracy theory formed the basis of the Republican pushback to Trump’s 2019 impeachment and remains fundamental to the ongoing GOP-led impeachment inquiry into Biden.

Even before a former FBI informant was charged for lying about the president and his son’s involvement in business dealings with Ukrainian energy company, Oversight Committee Democrats used previous testimony from Parnas to contradict the allegations made by the ex-informant.

Last year, Parnas sent House Oversight Chair James Comer a letter discrediting the many theories peddled by Republicans and called on Comer to end his investigation into the Biden family.

“With all due respect, Chairman Comer, the narrative you are seeking for this investigation has been proven false many times over, by a wide array of respected sources,” Parnas wrote in July 2023. “There is simply no merit to investigating this matter any further.”

Prior to selecting Parnas, Democrats had been considering Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen to be their witness.

Explaining why Democrats ultimately chose Parnas, another source familiar with their decision told CNN, “Cohen could have spoken directly to how Trump used the White House to enrich himself, but Parnas can speak directly to how Trump used sketchy sources to fabricate dirt on Biden.”