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2020-01-16 18:33:251 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Marie Yovanovitch (Image source: Public domain)
As is the case with most evidence in Donald Trump's impeachment, the documents from Lev Parnas that were released this week are proving to lead to even more trouble for all involved. Not only do they indicate that the president knew about his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani requesting meetings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but they also suggested that former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was being surveilled. This news led Ukraine to begin investigating the situation.
Yovanovitch was the ambassador to Ukraine until she was forced out this spring. Evidence in the impeachment inquiry showed that she was pushed out by Trump and Giuliani simply because they wanted someone in that position who was more supportive of Trump.
The documents that were released are copies of communication between Parnas, Giuliani, a congressional candidate, and others. And now not only is Ukraine investigating, but the FBI is as well. The candidate, Republican Robert F. Hyde from Connecticut, was messaging Parnas in the documents talking about Yovanovitch's physical whereabouts.
These documents did many things. They implicated Trump even further in the Ukraine scandal, just when his Senate impeachment trial is set to begin, and they also have people talking about Ukraine again after a whistleblower initially filed a complaint about Trump's phone call with Zelensky asking him to investigate his political rivals in exchange for a White House visit and military aid.
Ukraine was staying out of it until now, not wanting to damage the relationship with a powerful Western ally, but "Ukraine cannot ignore such illegal activities" in its own territory, said a statement by Ukraine's Interior Ministry.
Additionally, FBI agents descended on Hyde's Connecticut home and business, said an official, though what exactly they were doing there was not immediately known. Neighbors saw no obvious signs an FBI search was going on.
Federal prosecutors already had Hyde's messages as part of their unrelated criminal case against Parnas and his associate Igor Fruman. After they were returned to him, Parnas's attorney turned them over to the U.S. House.
Parnas said in an interview that aired on MSNBC on Wednesday that he didn't take Hyde's claims seriously. But apparently, the Interior Ministry in Ukraine did. Its statement said Ukrainian police "are not interfering in the internal political affairs of the United States," according to the statement.
"However, the published messages contain facts of possible violations of Ukrainian law and of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, which protect the rights of diplomats on the territory of another state," continued the statement.
House Democrats want to know from the State Department whether anyone inside the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv disclosed information about Yovanovitch's whereabouts. House Foreign Affairs Chair Eliot Engel (D-NY) indicated the department's' head of diplomatic security assured his staff that officials would be investigating and sharing the findings with the Justice Department and the FBI.
Separately, Ukraine investigators are looking into the possibility Russians may have hacked into the computers at Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company where Hunter Biden worked which was tied up in the investigations Trump was requesting.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov met with an FBI representative based in Ukraine on Thursday and requested the help of the U.S. in both cases, according to a Ukraine government official.
Hyde suggests in WhatsApp messages with Parnas that he's in contact with people in Ukraine who were monitoring the ambassador's movements. "They are willing to help if we/you would like a price," he wrote, then added, "Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money ... what I was told."
This isn't Hyde's first trouble. He told Parnas he was with a "private security" team in Kyiv. But he was also involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital last year after police were called to Trump's Doral resort. Police said Hyde insisted his life was in danger and that he believed painters and landscape workers were trying to harm him. One week later, a political consultant obtained a temporary order of protection against him because of "constant harassment and stalking, alleging incidents at the Trump International Hotel in the District.
Hyde said in a television interview on Wednesday that he was joking in the WhatsApp messages to Parnas. Asked if he had monitored Yovanovitch, he answered, "Absolutely not. You kidding me?"
In his call last summer with Zelensky, Trump said Yovanovitch was "bad news" and that she was "going to go through some things" in Washington, and this was a few months after she had been removed as ambassador.
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