Democrats to in­ves­ti­gate ‘alarm­ing’ Ukraine texts

Mes­sages sug­gest am­bas­sador was be­ing watched

Orlando Sentinel - - NATION & WORLD - By Mary Clare Jalonick and Eric Tucker

WASHINGTON — A House com­mit­tee chair­man said his panel will in­ves­ti­gate what he says are “pro­foundly alarm­ing” text mes­sages that have raised ques­tions about the pos­si­ble sur­veil­lance of for­mer Am­bas­sador to Ukraine Marie Yo­vanovitch be­fore she was ousted by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion last spring.

House Democrats on Tues­day night released a trove of doc­u­ments they ob­tained from Lev Par­nas, a close as­so­ciate of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s per­sonal lawyer, Rudy Gi­u­liani. The mes­sages show that a Trump donor named Robert Hyde dis­par­aged Yo­vanovitch in mes­sages to Par­nas and gave him up­dates on her lo­ca­tion and cell­phone use.

Rep. Eliot En­gel, a New York Demo­crat who chairs the House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, said Wed­nes­day that the mes­sages are

“pro­foundly alarm­ing” and “sug­gest a pos­si­ble risk” to Yo­vanovitch’s se­cu­rity in Kyiv be­fore she was re­called from her post.

“These threats oc­curred at the same time that the two men were also dis­cussing Pres­i­dent Trump’s ef­forts, through Rudy Gi­u­liani, to smear the am­bas­sador’s rep­u­ta­tion,” En­gel said.

He said the com­mit­tee staff flagged the in­for­ma­tion for the State Depart­ment’s Bu­reau of Diplo­matic Se­cu­rity and is seek­ing assurances that proper steps have been taken to en­sure the se­cu­rity of Yo­vanovitch and com­mit­tee staff. He said he also wanted to know what, if any­thing, the State Depart­ment knew about the sit­u­a­tion.

“This un­prece­dented threat to our diplo­mats must be thor­oughly in­ves­ti­gated and, if war­ranted, pros­e­cuted to the fullest ex­tent of the law,” En­gel said.

Democrats released the files Tues­day as they pre­pared to send ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment to the Se­nate for Trump’s trial. The doc­u­ments add new con­text to their charges that Trump pres­sured Ukraine to in­ves­ti­gate Democrats as he with­held mil­i­tary aid — and could add pres­sure on the Se­nate as it de­bates whether to hear wit­nesses in the trial.

They show Par­nas com­mu­ni­cat­ing with Gi­u­liani be­fore Yo­vanovitch’s re­moval, and that he ap­peared to be push­ing un­founded claims that Demo­crat Joe Bi­den and his son Hunter Bi­den were some­how en­gaged in cor­rup­tion in Ukraine. The doc­u­ments in­clude a hand­writ­ten note that men­tions ask­ing Ukraine’s pres­i­dent to in­ves­ti­gate “the Bi­den case.”

Among the doc­u­ments is a screen­shot of a pre­vi­ously undis­closed let­ter from Gi­u­liani to Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Volodymir Ze­len­skiy dated May 10, 2019, which was shortly af­ter Ze­len­skiy was elected but be­fore he took of­fice. In the let­ter, Gi­u­liani re­quests a meet­ing with Ze­len­skiy “as per­sonal coun­sel to Pres­i­dent Trump and with his knowl­edge and con­sent.”

One of the doc­u­ments released by Democrats is a hand­writ­ten note on sta­tionery from the Ritz-Carl­ton Ho­tel in Vi­enna that says “get Zalen­sky to An­nonce that the Bi­den case will be

In­ves­ti­gated.” Trump asked Ze­len­skiy in a July 25 call to in­ves­ti­gate the Bi­dens. Hunter Bi­den served on the board of a gas com­pany based in Ukraine.

Democrats said Par­nas’ at­tor­ney con­firmed that Par­nas wrote the notes.

The doc­u­ments — in­clud­ing phone records, texts and flash drives turned over by Par­nas — were sent to the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee by three other House pan­els “to be in­cluded as part of the of­fi­cial record that will be trans­mit­ted to the Se­nate along with the Ar­ti­cles of Im­peach­ment,” ac­cord­ing to a state­ment.

Par­nas and his busi­ness part­ner, Igor Fru­man, both U.S. cit­i­zens who em­i­grated from the for­mer Soviet

Union, were in­dicted last year on charges of conspiracy, mak­ing false state­ments and fal­si­fi­ca­tion of records. Pros­e­cu­tors al­lege they made out­size cam­paign dona­tions to Repub­li­can causes af­ter re­ceiv­ing mil­lions of dol­lars orig­i­nat­ing from Rus­sia. The men have pleaded not guilty.

In sev­eral of the doc­u­ments, Par­nas com­mu­ni­cated with Gi­u­liani about the re­moval of Yo­vanovitch. The am­bas­sador’s ouster, or­dered by Trump, was at the cen­ter of the Democrats’ im­peach­ment in­quiry. Yo­vanovitch tes­ti­fied in the House im­peach­ment hear­ings that she was the vic­tim of a “smear cam­paign.”

Trump on the July call told Ze­len­skiy that Yo­vanovitch was “go­ing to go through some things.”

Par­nas also re­ceived mes­sages from Hyde, who re­ferred to Yo­vanovitch as a “b——.” Hyde is now run­ning for a U.S. House seat in Con­necti­cut.

Af­ter tex­ting about the am­bas­sador, Hyde gave Par­nas de­tailed up­dates that sug­gested he was watch­ing her.

In one text, Hyde wrote: “She’s talked to three peo­ple. Her phone is off. Her com­puter is off.” He said she was un­der heavy se­cu­rity and “we have a per­son in­side.”

Hyde at one point texted Par­nas that “they are will­ing to help if we/you would like a price,” and “guess you can do any­thing in Ukraine with money is what I was told.”

HYDEFORCON­GRESS.COM

Trump donor Robert Hyde and Pres­i­dent Trump. At­ten­tion is on Hyde, whose mes­sages with Lev Par­nas seem to re­flect an at­tempt to track then-Am­bas­sador Marie Yo­vanovitch.

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