Derek Harvey was known as a retired Army colonel and respected military intelligence analyst — a Middle East expert who predicted the growing threat from al Qaeda.
He worked tirelessly with retired Gen. David Petraeus to bring stability to post-war Iraq and landed a spot on the National Security Council in the early days of President Donald Trump’s administration.
But now Harvey has been thrust into the middle of the Trump impeachment drama — and may have drawn his boss, Rep. Devin Nunes, further into the controversy as well.
Late Friday, House Democrats released documents showing Harvey, an aide to Nunes, R-Tulare, exchanged dozens of text messages with indicted businessman Lev Parnas about efforts to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden. Those efforts, allegedly orchestrated by Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani, are at the heart of the House vote to impeach the president. Trump’s trial begins Tuesday in the Senate.
On Saturday, Adam Parkhomenko, a Democratic strategist who worked for Nunes’ 2018 opponent, said the Parnas-Harvey text messages further implicate Nunes in the alleged conspiracy that got Trump impeached.
“It’s truly unbelievable he’s in the position that he’s in given the fact that he sat there in these impeachment hearings and was totally compromised because he was part of the truth that was being sought,” Parkhomenko told The Sacramento Bee.
Nunes was among Trump’s most vocal defenders during the House Intelligence Committee impeachment hearings in November, referring to the impeachment proceedings a “Ukraine hoax.”
The text messages were released about six weeks after House Democrats divulged phone records showing Nunes spoke with Giuliani and Parnas last April. Parnas, one of four men indicted last fall in a scheme to funnel foreign donations to political candidates in the United States, recently told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow he coordinated meetings for Harvey and that Nunes was involved in efforts to get Biden investigated.
A Nunes spokesman didn’t return a message Saturday seeking an interview with Harvey or comment from Nunes.
Meeting Parnas at Trump hotel
The text messages released by the Democrats on Friday span from February through May 2019, and show Harvey asking Parnas for documents apparently obtained by John Solomon, a conservative former columnist at The Hill newspaper. Solomon reportedly shared documents about Biden with Parnas, according to ProPublica.
Solomon’s columns at the time raised questions about U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Removing her from office was among Parnas’ and Giuliani’s objectives when they reached out to Ukrainian authorities on Trump’s behalf, Parnas has said.
On April 12, Harvey texted Parnas: “Solomon needs to get me the material.” A month later, on May 7, Parnas asked Harvey to meet with him, Solomon and Giuliani at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.
“We are at trump with Rudy and John Salomon (sic) … in private room,” Parnas texted. “Can you come now.” Harvey agreed to meet them, according to the texts.
Nunes had previously said he didn’t recall ever talking with Parnas. Last Wednesday the Central Valley congressman acknowledged, in an interview with Fox News, that he remembered a phone call with Parnas: “It was very odd, random, talked about random things. I said, ‘Great, just talk to my staff.’”
Harvey had a stellar career in Army intelligence. Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s 2008 book “The War Within” said Harvey wrote an intelligence briefing, months before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, on the “strategic threat” posed by al Qaeda.
In the late 1980s, he traveled hundreds of miles through Iraq “interviewing locals, sleeping on mud floors” to assess Saddam Hussein’s grip on the country, Woodward wrote.
Years later, after the U.S. toppled the Iraqi dictator in the second Gulf War, Harvey worked with Gen. Petraeus to tamp down the insurgency that was threatening to destabilize the post-Saddam government. Gen. Jack Keane, a former Army vice chief of staff, told the Weekly Standard newspaper in 2008 that Harvey was “hands down the very best intelligence analyst that the United States has on Iraq.”
Harvey, 65, became a professor at the University of South Florida and spent years consulting on national security issues. He was often interviewed by national media outlets on military matters. Online property records list his current residence in Washington County, Maryland.
Joined Nunes after Michael Flynn’s downfall
In 2017, Harvey was appointed to the National Security Council, coming into office with Ret. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
Flynn resigned from his office in February 2017 following reports that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about communications he had with Russia’s ambassador after Trump’s election. Flynn is awaiting sentencing on a charge that he lied to the FBI.
Harvey was ousted from the National Security Council by Flynn’s successor, Ret. Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster in July 2017.
At the time, Harvey told The Washington Post “that he was “leaving to take advantage of a new opportunity to continue serving our President and the United States of America in an important capacity.”
Harvey joined the Republican staff at the House Intelligence Committee in September 2017, according to The Atlantic.
Nunes was the committee’s chairman at the time, and he used its oversight role in part to dig into the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference with the 2016 election and actions it took to monitor the communications of Trump campaign officials suspected of having ties to Russia.
Nunes’ staff referred to their work as “Objective Medusa,” according to a recent book by conservative author Lee Smith.
“Nunes assembled a number of distinct and complementary talents: former intelligence officials who knew how to find and identify evidence of corruption; lawyers deeply knowledgeable about esoteric congressional procedures; experts on the history of intelligence,” Smith writes in the book, “The Plot Against the President: The True Story of How Congressman Devin Nunes Uncovered the Biggest Political Scandal in U.S. History.”
Will texts hurt Nunes’ re-election bid?
Democrats pounced on the new text messages.
After Nunes’ lawyer sent a letter threatening to sue Rep. Ted Lieu for publicly linking Nunes with Parnas, the Los Angeles Democrat shot back with a letter of his own late Friday, telling Nunes’ attorney to “go read the documents and text messages” Parnas provided.
“I welcome any lawsuit from your client and look forward to taking discovery of Congressman Nunes,” Lieu wrote. “Or, you can take your letter and shove it.”
Nunes has filed multiple lawsuits in the past year. He’s suing McClatchy, the parent company of The Sacramento Bee, over a 2018 story by the Fresno Bee describing an employee’s lawsuit against a winery in which Nunes holds a limited partnership. The employee claimed she was asked to work at a charity cruise around San Francisco Bay, an event that turned uncomfortable when the guests appeared to be using cocaine and were “drawing straws” for prostitutes.
Nunes says the story libeled him. McClatchy stands by its reporting and is asking for a judge to dismiss the suit. A ruling on McClatchy’s motion is expected next month.
Nunes is still considered a favorite to win re-election in his deeply Republican Central Valley congressional district this fall. Phil Arballo, a Democrat who’s challenging Nunes, told The Fresno Bee he has raised more than $1 million for his campaign, with much of it coming during and after the impeachment hearings.
Arballo said in an email that the text messages are “deeply concerning and have continued to show Devin’s true colors.”
“It is clear folks are aghast at what they’ve seen,” he said. “It is important that there is a full investigation into Devin’s actions, his constituents and the American people at the very least deserve to know the full extent of his misconduct.”
An advocacy group called the Democratic Coalition filed a complaint against Nunes in November with the House Ethics Committee over a trip the congressman took to Europe in late 2018. CNN reported that Parnas arranged meetings with Ukrainian officials during the trip. Harvey accompanied Nunes on the trip, according to House travel records.
Nunes is suing CNN over the report, alleging it was false and the news outlet defamed him.