Robert Hyde: I was climbing volcanoes in Ecuador when I sent those texts about surveilling Yovanovitch to Lev Parnas

After watching this I’m inclined to believe him. Picture the sort of guy whom you might imagine is capable of orchestrating the surveillance of a U.S. ambassador from thousands of miles away.

This guy is not the guy you’re picturing, I promise.

Lev Parnas told Rachel Maddow a few nights ago that Hyde was drunk every time he met him and that he never believed Hyde was actually tracking Yovanovitch’s movements. The way Parnas explained it, Hyde was a wannabe who knew Roger Stone somehow and hung around at Trump’s hotel mingling with movers and shakers in TrumpWorld known to congregate there. (“It was like a breeding ground.”) Presumably Hyde, who’s now running for Congress(!), recognized Parnas as a conduit to Giuliani and thus a guy who could potentially introduce him to other Trump cronies if only Hyde made himself useful to Parnas somehow. Thus was born the pretend plot to stalk Marie Yovanovitch.

At first that seemed too convenient, another Parnas lie aimed at keeping him from getting into even deeper criminal trouble. Having absorbed two minutes of Hyde here, it now seems to me like a probable truth.

Note the socks.

I don’t follow completely what he’s saying there. I think he’s claiming that he was in contact with some guy who said he was in intelligence but whom Hyde now suspects was an anti-Trumper, feeding him nonsense about Yovanovitch which he simply copied and pasted in the texts to Parnas with which we’re now all familiar.

Did Hyde think the guy was really surveilling Yovanovitch, though? If it was all just a big prank on Parnas, why did he need to copy/paste anything from a third party? He could have just made up some nonsense and texted that to Parnas himself.

He also complains repeatedly that Schiff should release the texts that were sent to him by the intel guy who was allegedly monitoring Yovanovitch. But … there’s no reason to think Schiff has those texts. He has Hyde’s texts to Parnas because Parnas turned over his phone to Schiff’s committee. He could get Hyde’s texts by subpoenaing his phone, I assume, but if Hyde wants to expedite the process he could just release the texts himself. It’s within his own power to show the world that there’s no cause for suspicion here.

As an aside: How do people like this keep finding Trump, and how does Trump keep finding them? The president is rich and extraordinarily powerful, a man who could insist on only the highest-caliber, most capable hangers-on in his retinue. Instead he ends up with the likes of Michael Cohen and Lev Parnas and Rudy Giuliani and, tangentially, this dude.

Who, if we’re lucky, will be called as a witness at his impeachment trial and entertain the country for hours on end with his testimony.

Speaking of cronies, a dispute has arisen between Trump and Parnas as to whether the president knows him or not. No idea who he is, Trump told reporters yesterday. I take photos with people all the time. Right, but he’s taken several with Parnas at various times and places, to the point that Parnas is now threatening to release a new photo of him and the president every time Trump denies knowing him. (Parnas’s lawyer has been posting some over the last week or so, including photos of his client with assorted Trump family members and top officials.) Parnas was able to get close to him even after Trump had been elected president:

There’s also this curious email obtained from Parnas’s phone by Schiff’s committee:

Parnas also claims that he was at a fundraiser for a pro-Trump Super PAC in spring 2018 that was attended by the president and that he broached the idea of firing Yovanovitch directly with Trump, claiming that she was badmouthing him. Trump supposedly then turned to an aide and said, “Fire her. Get rid of her,” although Yovanovitch wasn’t actually recalled until a year later, when the pressure campaign on Zelensky’s government first got going. Whether that sort of interaction on Ukraine policy was standard for Trump and Parnas when they saw each other or whether Trump was just humoring a donor is unclear. But it wasn’t a one-off thing, according to Parnas:

Among the many guests who had their pictures taken with President Donald Trump at the White House’s annual Hanukkah party [in 2018] were two Soviet-born businessmen from Florida, Lev Parnas and Igor  Fruman…

At one point during the party that night, Parnas and Fruman slipped out of a large reception room packed with hundreds of Trump donors to have a private meeting with the President and Giuliani, according to two acquaintances in whom Parnas confided right after the meeting…

Eventually, according to what Parnas told his confidants, the topic turned to Ukraine that night. According to those two confidants, Parnas said that “the big guy,” as he sometimes referred to the President in conversation, talked about tasking him and Fruman with what Parnas described as “a secret mission” to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

It’d be easy to dismiss that as a Hyde-like flight of fancy by a guy who, a la Hyde, idolized Trump and wanted to inflate his relationship with him — if not for the fact that Parnas actually is a known crony of the president’s lawyer and was receiving voicemails from the likes of Victoria Toensing right around the time Marie Yovanovitch was finally being recalled as ambassador last spring. “Hey Lev. VT here. We’ve got a request to talk to the big one,” Toensing said in a voicemail left for Parnas the day before Yovanovitch was fired. He may be a liar but he’s not a complete wannabe like Hyde appears to be. So how much of what he’s saying is true and how much isn’t?