Laxalt takes stand, denies role in cannabis licensing scheme 

Memory fails on what he told FBI

By: - October 15, 2021 12:31 pm

Adam Laxalt, left, entering a federal courtroom in Manhattan Friday morning. (Screengrab of footage distributed by Nevada Democratic Victory campaign organization)

Republican U.S. Senate candidate and former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt testified Friday he doesn’t remember if he told the FBI he had dinner with Lev Parnas, Rudy Giuliani’s former colleague and a defendant in a federal corruption case in the Southern District of New York. Parnas is charged with making illegal campaign contributions. 

Laxalt, who was campaigning to be governor in 2018, and his deputy Wes Duncan, who was running for attorney general, both received campaign contributions from Parnas’ colleague Igor Fruman, who was seeking marijuana licenses in Nevada but had missed the application deadline, prosecutors contend. Fruman has already pleaded guilty to soliciting illegal contributions.  

“Do you recall meeting with Mr. (Wes) Duncan and Mr. Parnas, as you’re sitting here obviously now, but did you discuss that meeting at any point in time with the FBI?” Parnas’ attorney Joseph Bondy asked Laxalt, who took the stand as a government witness.

“I don’t recall,” Laxalt said of whether he told the FBI of the dinner meeting with Parnas.

Duncan told authorities he had dinner with Parnas at Piero’s in Las Vegas.

“How many meetings did you have with the prosecution team preparing your testimony?” Bondy asked.

“A handful,” Laxalt said.  

“Five?” Bondy asked.

“That sounds about right,” Laxalt responded.

Laxalt confirmed he had one meeting with the FBI at his home, another in October 2019, and several last month “in anticipation of this trial.”

“You had a lawyer with you during these meetings, correct?” Bondy asked. “And you signed a proffer letter.”

“A proffer letter? I don’t know if we’ve done that.”

“Did you sign any kind of agreement before those meetings started with the government?” Bondy asked.

Despite an objection, Laxalt answered no.

Bondy suggested Laxalt, who publicly campaigned in opposition to recreational marijuana, would not have helped anyone seeking assistance with a cannabis license.  

“Yeah, my opponent received over $700,000 from the marijuana industry. He was certainly the marijuana proponent candidate,” Laxalt said of Steve Sisolak, who prevailed against Laxalt in the 2018 race for Nevada governor.

Bondy asked Laxalt if the contributions came from corporations.

“I don’t know the source. I just know that there was a story that tabulated all of it, but I wouldn’t know where it all came from,” he said.

“You’re relying on a story and a paper you know nothing about the underlying facts, and tell us that your opponent got $700,000 from the cannabis industry, right?” Bondy asked.

“Let me, let me take a step back to say my opponent was certainly the person that voted for marijuana and he’s the candidate that a lot of people in the marijuana industry were  supporting his candidacy and hoping he would win the race,” Laxalt said.

“I certainly wasn’t the candidate that was supporting the expansion of recreational marijuana,” Laxalt said.

“And if someone had attempted to get you to assist in a cannabis venture, it would not work,” Bondy said.

“No,” Laxalt said.

Bondy noted evidence of texts presented in the trial in which a colleague of Parnas’ said the would-be marijuana license hopefuls had to get $250,000 to their person in Nevada.

Laxalt denied receiving the money.

“You never had any kind of a pledge to contribute $250,000?,” Bondy asked.

“Not that I recall,” Laxalt said.

“And certainly not to aid a cannabis venture, right?” Bondy asked.

“No,” Laxalt said.

“And anyone who said that was true would be mistaken, correct?” Bondy asked.

“That’s correct,” Laxalt replied.

Bondy went on to ask Laxalt about his failure to include on his bar applications his arrest as a teenager for an assault on a police officer.

“Did you have any interaction with the police when you were a teenager, drinking underage?” he asked Laxalt.

“I came to a party, and that’s my recollection,” Laxalt said of an incident in which he was arrested for underage drinking. “I don’t recall any specifics of the incident.”

But in 2018, Laxalt apologized for attempting to keep police from entering a woman’s home where he was drinking.

After police entered the residence, Laxalt said he “reacted the wrong way” and tried to keep police from coming into the home. “Today, as a law enforcement officer, I understand they were just doing their jobs,” he said in 2018.

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Dana Gentry
Dana Gentry

Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.