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Dutch Trump fan says messages about U.S. ambassador’s movements were sent in jest

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 2020-01-18 Jon Swaine

Marie L. Yovanovitch wearing glasses talking on a cell phone: A Dutch supporter of President Trump said there was “no credibility” in texts he sent purporting to know the whereabouts of then-Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. © Matt McClain/The Washington Post A Dutch supporter of President Trump said there was “no credibility” in texts he sent purporting to know the whereabouts of then-Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. A Dutch supporter of President Trump said Saturday that he supplied a Republican candidate with purported intelligence on the movements of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine last year, taking responsibility for text messages that raised concerns the diplomat was placed under surveillance.

But the supporter, Anthony De Caluwe, said in a statement that he was not involved in any surveillance of then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and that the messages were merely “ridiculous banter” with the congression­al candidate, Robert F. Hyde, who in recent days became entangled in the impeachment case against Trump.

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“My engagement in this exchange with Rob is something that has no credibility,” De Caluwe said in the statement, which was emailed to The Washington Post by a spokeswoman. The spokeswoman, Karyn Turk, said that De Caluwe had never been to Ukraine and had no contacts in the country. 

Text messages released Tuesday by the House Intelligence Committee showed Hyde passing purported details on Yovanovitch’s whereabouts in March of last year to Lev Parnas, a Ukrainian American associate of Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani. Parnas is under federal indictment for ­alleged campaign finance crimes.

Additional material released late Friday by the committee indicated that the claims about Yovanovitch’s movements originated from a Belgian cellphone number. Some digits of the number were redacted, but the visible digits matched a number previously listed online as belonging to De Caluwe. An avatar accompanying the Belgian number in the released materials matched a photograph on De Caluwe’s Facebook page.

Yovanovitch was ousted from her job in Kyiv in May following an aggressive smear campaign against her involving Giuliani, which was amplified on conservative media. Giuliani has said he viewed Yovanovitch as hindering his efforts to secure helpful investigations by Ukrainian authorities.

Trump and Giuliani were pushing Ukraine to investigate a company that employed Hunter Biden, the son of former vice president Joe Biden, a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination to challenge Trump for the presidency this year.

In a July telephone call with Ukraine’s president, Trump said Yovanovitch was “bad news” and that she would “go through some things.” The call was at the center of a whistleblower complaint from a U.S. intelligence official that led ultimately to Trump’s impeachment.

Yovanovitch called for an investigation after the messages were released last week. Ukrainian authorities said they were opening an inquiry into whether she was under surveillance.

Hyde, who is running for his party’s nomination for Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District, has suggested in recent days that he was joking in his WhatsApp messages to Parnas. Parnas has said he did not take the messages seriously and did not believe Hyde was in fact tracking Yovanovitch’s movements.

De Caluwe, 54, has claimed on social media to live in Palm Beach, Fla., where Parnas has also lived. Turk, the spokeswoman, said De Caluwe embarked on a “playful exchange” of messages about Yovanovitch with Hyde last year after seeing posts about the ambassador on Hyde’s Facebook page.

“Anthony understands how these the exchanges released into media yesterday look,” Turk said in the emailed statement. “He has never had any contacts in the Ukraine. He is a citizen of the Royal Netherlands. He doesn’t know Lev Parnes [sic]. He stated that he was not involved in any surveillance of any Americans at any point in time.”

De Caluwe’s background could not immediately be verified. Past online postings indicate that he has worked on business ventures related to finance and renewable energy in Central America, and has gone by the names Anthony Hemelrijk or Heavenrich. Turk confirmed that he has used the name Hemelrijk but said his legal name is De Caluwe. She did not respond to questions about the Heavenrich name.

De Caluwe said in the statement that he was “apologetic for contributing to any confusion” by sending the messages about Yovanovitch.

“My friendship with Rob was jovial and this exchange was just a part of a ridiculous banter,” he said. “Sometimes Rob’s behavior was odd, nonsensical and often comical. I wasn’t really sure what to make of this whole thing back then or now.”

jon.swaine@washpost.com

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