House files: Dirt on Bi­den of­fered for en­voy’s ouster

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY PAUL SONNE, ROS­ALIND S. HEL­DER­MAN AND TOM HAM­BURGER

New ma­te­ri­als re­leased by House Democrats ap­pear to show Ukraine’s top pros­e­cu­tor of­fer­ing an as­so­ciate of Pres­i­dent Trump’s per­sonal at­tor­ney, Ru­dolph W. Gi­u­liani, dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion re­lated to for­mer vice pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den if the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion re­called the U.S. am­bas­sador to Ukraine.

The text mes­sages and doc­u­ments pro­vided to Congress by for­mer Gi­u­liani as­so­ciate Lev Par­nas also show that be­fore the am­bas­sador, Marie Yo­vanovitch, was re­moved from her post, a Par­nas as­so­ciate now run­ning for Congress sent men­ac­ing text mes­sages sug­gest­ing that he had Yo­vanovitch un­der sur­veil­lance in Ukraine. A lawyer for Yo­vanovitch said Tues­day that the episode should be in­ves­ti­gated.

The cache of ma­te­ri­als re­leased by House investigat­ors late Tues­day ex­posed a num­ber of pre­vi­ously un­known de­tails about ef­forts by Gi­u­liani and his as­so­ci­ates to ob­tain ma­te­rial in Ukraine that would un­der­mine Trump’s Demo­cratic op­po­nents.

Its emer­gence on the eve of the Se­nate impeachmen­t trial spurred Democrats to re­new calls for the White House to turn over doc­u­ments re­lated to the Ukraine pres­sure cam­paign that it has re­fused to

share with Congress.

Among the rev­e­la­tions in the doc­u­ments re­leased Tues­day: a mes­sage from Gi­u­liani to Par­nas say­ing he had in­volved a per­son he called “no 1” — pos­si­bly Trump him­self — in an ef­fort to lift a U.S. visa ban on a for­mer Ukrainian pros­e­cu­tor who was plan­ning to come to the United States to make claims about Bi­den.

The ma­te­ri­als also in­clude a let­ter Gi­u­liani wrote to Ukraine’s then-pres­i­dent-elect, Volodymyr Ze­len­sky, re­quest­ing a May 14 meet­ing with the new leader in Gi­u­liani’s “ca­pac­ity as per­sonal coun­sel to Pres­i­dent Trump and with his knowl­edge and con­sent.” Gi­u­liani scrapped his planned trip, and the meet­ing never took place.

An­other document re­leased by the House investigat­ors ap­pears to show Par­nas di­rectly in­volved with ef­forts to get Ze­len­sky to an­nounce in­ves­ti­ga­tions re­lated to Bi­den.

In hand­writ­ten notes on a piece of sta­tionery from the Ritz-carl­ton Ho­tel in Vi­enna, Par­nas wrote, “get Zalenksy [sic] to An­nouce [sic] that the Bi­den case will be In­ves­ti­gated.”

“All of this new ev­i­dence con­firms what we al­ready know: the Pres­i­dent and his as­so­ci­ates pres­sured Ukrainian of­fi­cials to an­nounce in­ves­ti­ga­tions that would ben­e­fit the Pres­i­dent po­lit­i­cally,” the chairs of the House In­tel­li­gence, Over­sight, Ju­di­ciary and For­eign

Af­fairs Com­mit­tees said in a joint state­ment. “There can­not be a full and fair trial in the Se­nate with­out the doc­u­ments that Pres­i­dent Trump is re­fus­ing to pro­vide to Congress.”

Gi­u­liani did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment. The White House de­clined to com­ment.

The ma­te­ri­als show that Par­nas, a Rus­sian-speaker who helped co­or­di­nate Gi­u­liani’s out­reach to Ukrainian sources, was di­rectly com­mu­ni­cat­ing with an ar­ray of top Ukrainian of­fi­cials. Among them was Yuri Lut­senko, at the time Ukraine’s top pros­e­cu­tor and a close po­lit­i­cal ally of then-ukrainian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko, who was run­ning for re­elec­tion.

Lut­senko wanted to get rid of Yo­vanovitch, the U.S. am­bas­sador, in part be­cause she had been crit­i­cal of his of­fice and sup­ported a quasi-in­de­pen­dent anti-cor­rup­tion bureau he de­spised.

The mes­sages, writ­ten in Rus­sian, show Lut­senko urg­ing Par­nas to force out Yo­vanovitch in ex­change for co­op­er­a­tion re­gard­ing Bi­den. At one point, Lut­senko sug­gests he won’t make any help­ful pub­lic state­ments un­less “madam” is re­moved.

“It’s just that if you don’t make a de­ci­sion about Madam — you are call­ing into ques­tion all my dec­la­ra­tions. In­clud­ing about B,” Lut­senko wrote to Par­nas in a March 22 mes­sage on What­sapp.

It’s un­clear if ‘B’ refers to Bi­den or

Burisma, the Ukrainian gas com­pany on whose board Hunter Bi­den served from 2014 to 2019.

Four days later, Lut­senko told Par­nas that work on the case against the owner of the gas com­pany is pro­ceed­ing suc­cess­fully and ev­i­dence of the money trans­fers of “B” had been ob­tained.

“And here you can’t even re­move one fool :(” Lut­senko laments, again ap­pear­ing to push for Yo­vanovitch’s ouster.

“She’s not a sim­ple fool[,] trust me,” Par­nas re­sponded. “But she’s not get­ting away.”

Par­nas, days later, told Lut­senko that “soon ev­ery­thing will turn around and we’ll be on the right course.” Lut­senko re­sponded that he had copies of pay­ments Burisma made to the in­vest­ment firm co­founded by Bi­den’s son Hunter.

The next month, Yo­vanovitch was re­moved from her post at Gi­u­liani’s urg­ing. Lut­senko later said pub­licly that he found no ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing un­der Ukrainian law by Hunter or Joe Bi­den.

A spokes­woman for Lut­senko did not re­spond to a mes­sage re­quest­ing com­ment.

The new doc­u­ments also in­tro­duced a new char­ac­ter in the drama over the am­bas­sador’s ouster: a Re­pub­li­can con­gres­sional can­di­date in Con­necti­cut who as­serted to Par­nas in mes­sages that he had Yo­vanovitch un­der phys­i­cal and elec­tronic sur­veil­lance.

“Wow. Can’t be­lieve Trumo [sic] hasn’t fired this b----,” Robert F. Hyde wrote in an en­crypted mes­sage to Par­nas on March 23. “I’ll get right [on] that.”

Hyde de­scribed hav­ing con­tact with a “pri­vate se­cu­rity” team lo­cated near the em­bassy that was ap­par­ently mon­i­tor­ing the am­bas­sador’s move­ments.

“She’s talked to three peo­ple. Her phone is off. Com­puter is off,” he wrote in one mes­sage.

“They will let me know when she’s on the move,” he said in an­other. Later, he alerted Par­nas that he had been told Yo­vanovitch would not be moved to a “spe­cial se­cu­rity unit.”

“They are will­ing to help if we/ you would like a price,” he said in one note. “Guess you can do any­thing in the Ukraine with money . . . what I was told.”

Hyde did not ex­plain how his team might “help” Par­nas, who re­sponded only with “lol.”

When asked for com­ment by The Wash­ing­ton Post in a text mes­sage, Hyde replied: “Sorry I can’t talk right now.”

Late Tues­day, Hyde tweeted that he was “never in Kiev,” call­ing the mes­sages a joke that he and his friends wrote “to some dweeb we were play­ing with that we met a few times while we had a few drinks.”

Hyde is one of three Repub­li­cans run­ning to un­seat an in­cum­bent Demo­crat in the 5th Con­gres­sional District in Con­necti­cut. He fre­quently tweets about his sup­port for Trump and posted pho­tos of him­self with the pres­i­dent.

Lawrence S. Rob­bins, a Yo­vanovitch at­tor­ney, said in a state­ment: “Need­less to say, the no­tion that Amer­i­can ci­ti­zens and oth­ers were mon­i­tor­ing Am­bas­sador Yo­vanovitch’s move­ments for un­known pur­poses is dis­turb­ing. We trust that the ap­pro­pri­ate au­thor­i­ties will con­duct an in­ves­ti­ga­tion to de­ter­mine what hap­pened.”

SU­SAN WALSH/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ru­dolph W. Gi­u­liani, right, with Lev Par­nas, third from right, in Wash­ing­ton in 2018. Records given to House investigat­ors by Par­nas ap­pear to show a cam­paign to un­der­mine the U.S. am­bas­sador to Ukraine.

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