New Parnas evidence escalates impeachment witnesses fight

New evidence from indicted businessman Lev Parnas related to the White House pressure campaign in Ukraine is escalating a fight over whether to allow witnesses and additional documents in President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor NBA to contribute 1 million surgical masks to NY essential workers Private equity firm with ties to Kushner asks Trump administration to relax rules on loan program: report MORE’s impeachment trial.

Text messages, handwritten notes and official correspondence turned over under subpoena by Parnas, an associate of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiSunday shows preview: As coronavirus spreads in the U.S., officials from each sector of public life weigh in Biden campaign blasts Twitter for refusing to sanction retaliatory 'hoax' Trump ad Google to spend .5 million in fight against coronavirus misinformation MORE, paint a more detailed picture of the smear campaign allegedly sanctioned by Trump that targeted a U.S. ambassador.

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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse Judiciary Committee postpones hearing with Barr amid coronavirus outbreak House Democrats plead with key committee chairman to allow remote voting amid coronavirus pandemic Pelosi rejects calls to shutter Capitol: 'We are the captains of this ship' MORE (D-N.Y.), one of seven impeachment managers charged with prosecuting the case against the president in the Senate, said “there may very well be” more information from Parnas that is disclosed in the coming days and weeks.

The documents, released Tuesday evening, underscore how investigators continue to gather evidence from key players, despite the House voting last month to impeach Trump on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

It’s unclear whether Senate Republicans will allow new evidence in the first phase of the trial or if it will be considered after senators have the chance to question House managers and Trump’s defense team. Senators might also decide not to include the recently revealed documents.

 “There is news every day and that will likely be factored in,” Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOil giants meet at White House amid talk of buying strategic reserves GOP senators begin informal talks on new coronavirus stimulus Murkowski pushes Mnuchin for oil company loans MORE (R-Alaska) said of the documents provided by Parnas.

 “But what we know is that we will have an opportunity as senators to weigh in at that appropriate time, after the questioning phase, to determine if we need more information. So whether it is by witness, by documentation, or what it may be,” she added.

A senior administration official declined to comment Wednesday on the Parnas documents, saying it was not clear the files would even be part of the impeachment process.

 “We don’t have any comment on those documents at this point,” the official said. “That’s something that it’s not clear that it’s even going to be a part of this process and we’re not going to get out ahead of reacting on that right now.”

The trove of documents provided by Parnas offers additional, corroborating details over issues at the heart of Trump’s impeachment, including efforts to remove U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie YovanovitchMarie YovanovitchAmerica's diplomats deserve our respect House panel says key witness isn't cooperating in probe into Yovanovitch surveillance President Trump's assault on checks and balances: Five acts in four weeks MORE and create conditions to push for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSome Sanders top allies have urged him to withdraw from 2020 race: report Sunday shows preview: As coronavirus spreads in the U.S., officials from each sector of public life weigh in Trump defends firing of intel watchdog, calling him a 'disgrace' MORE and his son Hunter Biden to benefit Trump’s reelection prospects.

Text messages between Parnas and Robert Hyde, a Trump campaign donor and 2020 candidate in a Connecticut congressional race, refer to Yovanovitch in offensive and derogatory terms. They also suggest the two men had Yovanovitch under surveillance until her departure from Kyiv in May.

The documents say that Giuliani was acting with Trump’s “knowledge and consent” to pursue a shadow foreign policy, with a letter signed by Giuliani asking for a meeting with Zelensky and with the approval of Trump.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP senators begin informal talks on new coronavirus stimulus Five things being discussed for a new coronavirus relief bill Hillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike MORE (R-Mo.), chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, said admission of any new evidence is likely to be decided by senators and Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial.

“It sounds like a decision the chief justice and the Senate may have to make,” he said, while downplaying the significance of the Parnas documents.

 “My initial view of the evidence last night is, there’s nothing much there that hasn’t been already acknowledged, by either the president or Mr. Giuliani,” Blunt said Wednesday.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGOP senator: National shelter-in-place order would be an 'overreaction' Lawmakers already planning more coronavirus stimulus after T package Cuban says he'd spank daughter if she was partying during coronavirus pandemic MORE (R-Texas), an adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor Progressive group knocks McConnell for talking judicial picks during coronavirus Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill MORE (R-Ky.), said Senate Republicans have agreed to hold a vote over whether to call witnesses and consider additional evidence after the first phase of the trial.

 “What we’ve agreed to do is defer that decision, pending the vote of 51 senators, until after both sides have had a chance to have their say,” he said.

Democrats have seized on the Parnas papers to argue witnesses and documents are needed at the trial, which is slated to start next week.

“Each day that goes by, the case for witnesses and documents gains force and gains momentum,” Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerBiden calls on Trump to appoint coronavirus 'supply commander' Democrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots Schumer doubles down in call for Trump to name coronavirus supply czar MORE (D-N.Y.) said on the floor Wednesday. “Last night, a new cache of documents, including dozens of pages and notes, text messages and other records shed light on the activities of the president’s associates in Ukraine.”

The fight over calling witnesses will pit Democrats against Republicans, not just over who to call but also whether any witnesses should testify. Former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonChina sees chance to expand global influence amid pandemic Trump ignores science at our peril Bolton defends decision to shutter NSC pandemic office MORE and acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyOne year in, Democrats frustrated by fight for Trump tax returns Meadows joins White House in crisis mode Meadows resigns from Congress, heads to White House MORE are viewed as key witnesses by Democrats.

Bolton, one of a few members of the president’s team with firsthand knowledge of the Ukraine pressure campaign, has been described in testimony as referring to Giuliani as “a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up” and his dealings in Ukraine as a “drug deal.”

But Democrats would have to weigh calling Bolton with the potential for Republicans to push for testimony from Joe Biden or Hunter Biden.

Republicans have also called for testimony from the anonymous whistleblower, who filed the complaint alleging Trump acted inappropriately on a July 25 phone call with Zelensky to launch investigations into the Bidens.

 “I agree the president’s defense lawyers should have the opportunity to suggest witnesses that need to be called,” said Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinDemocratic senator asks Pompeo to stop saying 'Wuhan virus' Small-business rescue package expected to swell to 0 billion or more McConnell sets Friday night deadline for bipartisan deal on stimulus MORE (D-Md.). “I think that we recognize bringing in Hunter Biden has no relevancy to the articles of impeachment. It would try to distract — I’m not sure that’s helpful for trial. I’d like to see the president’s lawyers make the relevancy argument.”

Scott Wong, Morgan Chalfant and Jordain Carney contributed.