Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, arrives on Capitol Hill, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, in Washington, as she is scheduled to testify before congressional lawmakers on Friday as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

GOP candidate had Ukraine ambassador under “physical surveillance," new impeachment evidence shows

"This sure sounds like a mob hit was being planned on a public servant," former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah says


Igor Derysh
January 15, 2020 6:20AM (UTC)

New evidence released by the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday shows that indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas and a Republican candidate for Congress had Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch under "physical surveillance," Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., revealed.

Text messages between Parnas and Robert Hyde, a Trump donor who is running for a U.S. House seat in Connecticut, suggest that Hyde had associates surveil Yovanovitch in Ukraine while Parnas led an effort to oust her.

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Parnas was indicted last year on charges that he illegally funneled foreign money to Republicans, including a donation to then-Rep. Pete Sessions in an effort to get him to lobby the Trump administration to recall Yovanovitch. Giuliani later told The New Yorker that he needed Yovanovitch "out of the way" in order to pursue his pressure campaign on Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, which ultimately led to Trump's impeachment.

The text messages were released as part of a trove of documents turned over to the committee by Parnas' attorney. They also included a text message exchange, in which a former Ukrainian prosecutor offered Parnas and Giuliani damaging information on former Vice President Joe Biden in exchange for their help in removing Yovanovitch, who had criticized his office.

Text messages sent in March show that Hyde reported details of Yovanovitch's location to Parnas.

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"Mr. Hyde … sent a series of text messages suggesting that he had Ambassador Yovanovitch under physical surveillance in Kyiv and that 'They are willing to help if we/you would like a price,'" Schiff said in a letter accompanying the new evidence.

"Wow. Can't believe Trumo [sic] hasn't fired this bitch. I'll get right in that," Hyde wrote to Parnas.

Hyde later wrote that Yovanovitch was "under heavy protection outside Kiev." "They are moving her tomorrow," he said. "The guys over they [sic] asked me what I would like to do and what is in it for them," he added.

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"She talked to three people. Her phone is off. Computer is off," he wrote. "She's next to the embassy," he said. "Private security. Been there since Thursday," he continued.

The texts suggest that Hyde had Yovanovitch actively monitored.

"They will let me know when she's on the move," he wrote. "They are willing to help if we/you would like a price," he added. "Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money."

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It is not clear from the messages how Hyde learned the details, though he refers to his "guy" and "they" throughout the exchange.

Hyde is a major Republican donor. He contributed more than $56,000 since October 2016, most of which went to the Republican National Committee. He also donated to Trump's re-election campaign, The Hartford Courant reported. He is currently running in the Republican primary in a bid to challenge freshman Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn. But many Republicans in the state have disavowed his campaign and called for him to quit the race, according to the outlet.

Hyde's social media accounts are filled with photos of him alongside Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and convicted Trump adviser Roger Stone, The Daily Beast reported.

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Hyde was taken into police custody at the Trump National Doral Miami last May before being involuntarily admitted to a medical facility, Mother Jones reported. Police said in a report that Hyde, "fearing for his life," claimed a "hit man was out to get him."

Hyde said on social media that the messages were just meant as jokes.

"How low can liddle Adam Bull Schiff go?" Hyde wrote. "I was never in Kiev. For them to take some texts my buddy's and I wrote back to some dweeb we were playing with that we met a few times while we had a few drinks is definitely laughable. Schiff is a desperate turd playing with this Lev guy. Have fun with your witch-hunt liddle Schiff."

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Trump ultimately recalled Yovanovitch in May. He later told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July that she would "go through some things." Yovanovitch testified to Congress that she received a 1 a.m. phone call in April warning her to "get on the next plane home," because there were concerns about her "security."

Former U.S. diplomat Dana Shell Smith said Hyde's messages to Parnas show an "American plot against the security of a U.S. ambassador."

"State must turn over what it has and what steps were taken to protect her AND end the plot," she tweeted. "You don't pull the Ambassador because an American is threatening her. You have the threat arrested."

Former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah said the messages sounded "like a mob hit was being planned."

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"As a former mafia prosecutor, this sure sounds like a mob hit was being planned on a public servant in a foreign country by associates of the POTUS," she wrote on Twitter. "A POTUS who said she was 'going to go through some things.' This takes Trump's lawlessness & misogny to new level."

Yovanovitch's attorney issued a statement calling for an investigation into the messages.

"Needless to say, the notion that American citizens and others were monitoring Ambassador Yovanovitch's movements for unknown purposes is disturbing," the statement said. "We trust that the appropriate authorities will conduct an investigation to determine what happened."


Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is a staff writer at Salon. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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