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Robert Hyde: Giuliani associate discussed surveilling Marie Yovanovitch

CNN logo CNN 4 days ago By Erica Orden and Kara Scannell, CNN
Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie standing in front of a curtain © Robert Hyde for Congress

An associate of Rudy Giuliani appeared to discuss with another man the surveillance of US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch before she was ousted from her post last year, according to a tranche of documents made public Tuesday as part of the House impeachment inquiry.

The documents introduced a colorful new participant -- Connecticut congressional candidate Robert F. Hyde -- in the push by Giuliani and his allies to remove Yovanovitch, an effort that is at the center of impeachment proceedings in Washington and federal investigations in New York.

In a series of text messages with Giuliani associate Lev Parnas in March 2019, Hyde, an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump who has donated thousands of dollars to Republican politics and the Trump campaign, discussed Yovanovitch's whereabouts in Ukraine.

Using coarse language, Hyde suggested to Parnas that Yovanovitch should be removed from her position, and Hyde implied he or his allies were monitoring her.

"F**k that bitch," Hyde told Parnas on March 22, 2019, in response to a series of articles and tweets Parnas sent him. The following day, Hyde continued: "Wow. Can't believe Trump (sic) hasn't fired this bitch. I'll get right in that."

In a cryptic message, Hyde later wrote to Parnas: "They are willing to help if we/you would like a price." Hyde added: "Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money...what I was told."

Around the same time, Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney, had been engaged in a campaign to push out Yovanovitch, believing she was an impediment to Giuliani's effort to obtain what he thought would be damaging information on Trump's political rival, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Yovanovitch was recalled from her post on April 24, 2019.

Though Hyde didn't mention Yovanovitch by name, his texts to Parnas referred to her, according to House officials. Asked Tuesday evening if he had been offering to harm Yovanovitch, Hyde replied in a text message to CNN: "No effing way."

He added, appearing to reference House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff: "What kind of Bull Schiff question is that?"

Yovanovitch's attorney, Lawrence S. Robbins, 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."

Though Parnas and another Giuliani associate, Igor Fruman, have been in the public eye for months, particularly since their indictment in October on campaign-finance charges, Hyde hadn't been associated publicly with effort to remove Yovanovitch until Tuesday's disclosure of his messages.

Hyde said he has not heard from prosecutors. A spokesman for the Manhattan US Attorney's office declined to comment.

Hyde has, however, attracted attention during his congressional bid, drawing controversy late last year for a crude tweet he posted, and later deleted, about former Democratic presidential candidate and California Sen. Kamala Harris.

According to his campaign website, Hyde is a military veteran and served in the Iraq war. He said he once ran a construction company and helped build the Connecticut home of rapper 50 Cent, whose real name is Curtis Jackson III. And he launched a lobbying shop in December 2018 called Finley Hyde & Associates, according to his LinkedIn page.

Hyde's social media accounts are littered with photographs of him with Parnas, Trump and his close allies. In a photo posted on the website of the Connecticut Post newspaper, Hyde posed for a selfie with Trump on Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019, the same day Trump first called Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In Hyde's exchanges with Parnas, Hyde indicated he had knowledge of Yovanovitch's whereabouts and level of security.

"She under heavy protection outside Kiev," Hyde wrote on March 23, 2019, to which Parnas responded, "I know crazy s**t." Hyde replied, appearing to suggest that Yovanovitch was a member of the Russian security agency, "My guy thinks maybe FSB..?"

Two days later, Hyde sent Parnas a series of texts. "They are moving her tomorrow," he said. "The guys over they asked me what I would like to do and what is in it for them."

Hyde prodded Parnas: "Wake up Yankees man. She's talked to three people. Her phone is off. Computer is off. She's next to the embassy. Not in the embassy. Private security. Been there since Thursday."

After Parnas responded, saying "interesting," Hyde continued: "They know she's a political puppet. They will let me know when she's on the move." Parnas replied: "Perfect."

Hyde then made the quip to Parnas that "you can do anything in the Ukraine with money," to which Parnas replied: "Lol."

The following day, March 26, 2019, Hyde told him: "Update she will not be moved special security unit upgraded force on the compound people are already aware of the situation my contacts are asking what is the next step because they cannot keep going to check people will start to ask questions."

Hyde continued: "If you want her out they need to make contact with security forces. From Ukrainians." The following day, Hyde told Parnas: "Nothing has changed she is still not moving they check today again," and, "It's confirmed we have a person inside."

On March 29, Hyde told Parnas: "She had visitors." Hyde asked: "Hey broski tell me what we are doing what's the next step."

Parnas didn't appear to reply via text to that message. In the wake of the release of the texts, a lawyer for Parnas, Joseph A. Bondy, said: "We're very gratified that these materials have been conveyed to the Judiciary Committee. Lev remains committed to providing testimony to Congress to the extent necessary and appropriate."

In November, Yovanovitch said in her congressional testimony as part of the impeachment inquiry that when she was recalled, State Department officials told her they harbored concerns about her security.

This story has been updated with a statement from Yovanovitch's attorney.

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