By KATHLEEN PARKER
Thanks to President Trump, we are living in a world of sleaze.
It’s tough enough keeping count of the former Trump associates who’ve been indicted, convicted or imprisoned. With startling regularity, new names emerge on what seems a bottomless list of scoundrels and grifters.
We began this presidential caper, after all, with revelations of a porn star paid off to keep silent about an alleged affair with Trump shortly after Melania Trump had given birth to their son. Never wonder why so many Americans are disgusted by this president. But what finally brought Trump down were not alleged sins of the flesh but abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — the two charges laid out in articles of impeachment now before the U.S. Senate.
Last week, following the slow tortures of the House impeachment inquiry, a new character emerged in the nick of time to bestir the swamp. In a perverse deus ex machina, this time surfacing from the bowels of the stage, Lev Parnas was last week’s man of the moment.
You remember ol’ Lev. He and Igor Fruman are the two Rudy Giuliani “associates” who were arrested last October as they were about to board a flight to Europe with one-way tickets. Parnas, who pled not guilty to charges of conspiracy, false statements and falsification of records, is now suddenly the voice of reason and moral authority as he makes the cable-TV rounds. During an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, he nearly glowed with virtue as, referring to Trump, he helpfully intoned, “He’s not king,” as if America required someone of Parnas’ elevated stature to illuminate the masses.
Yes, he told Cooper, he would be willing to testify if the Senate should call him as a witness. Yes, he would definitely connect all the dots. What a genuine, humble guy, no one was thinking.
Parnas must have taken acting lessons during his hiatus. Soft-spoken and almost contrite, it was briefly hard to remember that he was the same guy who says he traveled abroad on behalf of Giuliani and Trump to convey to President Zelensky that there would be no military-aid funds until he announced an investigation into Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter.
The funds, of course, were held up and released only after Trump learned of the whistleblower complaint that triggered the impeachment inquiry. After so many months of proceedings, posturing and the usual political hokey-pokey on the Hill, one is almost tempted to query: Is that all you got? Not to minimize the seriousness of essentially inviting a foreign country to join the Trump campaign or bartering military aid for personal gain. But the answer, if we’re honest, is that Democrats will do whatever it takes to eradicate The Don and his minions.
Trump has inflicted his own crude, self-aggrandizing pathologies on the nation, and he brought along a revolving cadre of sycophants and criminals to enable his delusional ambitions. Parnas is but the latest. Parnas was sent abroad to make an offer Zelensky presumably couldn’t refuse, plausibly delivered with the finesse of a gangster — Giuliani- if not Corleone-style.
If Parnas is going down, he apparently doesn’t plan to be lonely. He has also implicated Attorney General William Barr and Vice President Mike Pence, who, Parnas says, were all in the now-storied “loop.” Both Barr and Pence deny it. And, of course, there’s Giuliani, who has been tangled in his own web of weirdness for some time. Whatever legacy he once had as America’s mayor following 9/11, he has surrendered it to ego and a rapacious appetite for relevancy.
Whether Parnas will be invited to tell his tale under oath before the Senate seems doubtful, but he’ll find plenty of company among his predecessors in the presidential purgatory he has now entered. In Trump’s underworld, disloyalty is usually rewarded with some fresh, new hell.