Lev Parnas, a Ukrainian-born former associate of Rudy Guiliani, has asked a federal judge to turn over documents that he says will show that his arrest was orchestrated to protect the president during the impeachment inquiry.
Mr Parnas’ attorney Joseph Bondy argued in court documents that the arrest of his client fits into a pattern of litigation pushed by the Justice Department under the leadership of Attorney General William Barr, who left the post on December 23 after refusing to indulge Mr Trump’s baseless election theft conspiracy theories.
Mr Barr has previously been criticised for using his powers to help Mr Trump and push his personal interests, something he has denied.
The motion filed by Mr Bondy argues that the campaign finance charges against Mr Parnas should be dismissed and that the Southern District of New York chose to investigate his client because of his “national origin and his support for President Trump”.
It also says that after interference by Mr Barr, the indictment and arrest of Mr Parnas was timed to “thwart him from being able to provide evidence to Congress during the Impeachment Inquiry of President Donald J Trump”.
The motion argues that “unanticipated events” sped up “an urgent interest in silencing Parnas from providing information adverse to President Trump”. One of these events was the whistleblower letter sent to the chairmen of the congressional intelligence committees which said that Mr Trump had used “the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 US election”. This was referring to the infamous phone call between Mr Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he pressured his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate then-candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Mr Parnas pleaded not guilty last month in a case that alleges that he defrauded investors in his company Fraud Guarantee, which professed to supply protections against fraud to other companies. An associate of Mr Parnas has already pleaded guilty, The Washington Post reported.
He provided a recording to congressional investigators on which Mr Trump can be heard demanding the removal of Ms Yovanovitch. The inquiry led to the impeachment of Mr Trump by the House controlled by the Democrats, who argued that Mr Trump had withheld military assistance to Ukraine to force an investigation into the Bidens.
The Republican-controlled Senate later dismissed the charges against the President.
The 55-page motion goes on to claim that Mr Barr has “abused the power of his position to further the political interests of the President repeatedly,” citing the cases of former Trump advisor Roger Stone and former national security advisor Michael Flynn.
Mr Barr pushed for a more lenient sentencing recommendation in the case of Mr Stone and the Justice Department decided to drop the case against Mr Flynn. Both Mr Stone and Mr Flynn have recently been pardoned by Mr Trump as the president tries to undo what he sees as judicial overreach against his former associates.