If so, why were they stalking her? Were they … looking to take her out?
Yovanovitch was the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine appointed by Obama in 2016 and held over through the first two years of Trump’s administration. Then Rudy Giuliani took a curious interest in having her ousted from the job, coincidentally right around the time he started leaning on Zelensky to reopen the Burisma probe. The suspicion is that Rudy knew Yovanovitch wasn’t a Trump loyalist and would blow the whistle if she got wind of a quid pro quo aimed at squeezing the Ukrainian government for Biden dirt. She was a wrench in the works and the wrench had to be removed.
New question, per the documents from Lev Parnas that were released yesterday by Schiff’s committee: How far were Rudy’s associates prepared to go to “remove” her?
You can read the full text exchange that was recovered from Parnas’s phone here, starting on page 14. Parnas was texting with a guy named Robert Hyde who runs a government relations firm in Washington and who’s running for Congress in Connecticut. How well he knows Trump and Rudy is unclear but he’s taken photos with both, for what that’s worth. He was in regular contact with Parnas for at least eight days last March in reference to some unnamed woman who, in context, sure seems to be Marie Yovanovitch. (Hyde to Parnas on March 23: “Can’t believe Trump hasn’t fired this bitch.”) The texts start off innocently enough, with Parnas and Hyde trading links to news stories and op-eds about backbiting against Trump, etc. But then Hyde offers “She’s under heavy protection outside Kiev.”
And then things start to get weird. Two days later:
Hmmm. Then it gets more sinister:
A “price” for what? The next day Hyde contacts Parnas again to ask if he wants the woman in question “out” and notes that he’ll need security forces for that:
Three days later Hyde’s talking about having “a person inside” and wants to know the “next step”:
The Daily Beast called Hyde last night to put that question to him: What? Hyde responded … colorfully, although his answer boiled down to the fact that he was just messing with a buddy.
Asked about his previously undisclosed involvement in Ukraine, Hyde texted The Daily Beast an insult about House Intel chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), writing “Bull Schiff is a giant b*tch.”
“Did Pelosi get drunk and lose the impeachment articles?” he added. “Looks like Schiff wants to whistle blow me.”…
“How low can liddle Adam Bull Schiff go?” Hyde wrote. “I was never in Kiev. For them to take some texts my buddy’s and I wrote back to some dweeb we were playing with that we met a few times while we had a few drinks is definitely laughable. Schiff is a desperate turd playing with this Lev guy. Have fun with your witch-hunt liddle Schiff.”
Maybe he just goofing on Parnas with the text messages, trying to curry favor with a guy whom he knew was connected to Giuliani by convincing him that he had contacts in Ukraine who were surveilling Yovanovitch. Think of him as the Sean Eckardt figure in this embarrassing international Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan plot. But eight days is a long time to sustain a prank. And don’t forget that Yovanovitch testified in November that she received a call while stationed in Ukraine that she might be in physical danger and needed to leave right away:
From Ambassador Yovanovitch’s testimony.
What did the State Department know that made them so concerned for the ambassador’s physical security? Why did the State Department’s senior officials have “a lot of nervousness” about what was going on with Yovanovitch? pic.twitter.com/3Su9Hd87cx
— Susan Simpson (@TheViewFromLL2) January 14, 2020
Various reporters also remembered last night after the texts were released how Trump had said cryptically to Zelensky during their July 25 phone call that Yovanovitch is “going to go through some things.” Huh.
Another interesting data point about Hyde. Last May, around six weeks or so after the texts with Parnas, cops were sent to the Trump National Doral Miami resort to deal with him, as he appeared to be having a mental crisis of some sort. But the specifics of what he told them are interesting in hindsight:
According to an “incident/investigation” report filed by the Doral, Florida, police department, on May 16, 2019, an officer was dispatched to the Trump National Doral Miami to deal with a “male in distress fearing for his life.” That man was Hyde. The report noted that Hyde explained to the police officer that “he was in fear for his life, was set up and that a hit man was out to get him. Mr. Hyde spoke about e-mails he sent that may have placed his life in jeopardy. Mr. Hyde explained several times that he was paranoid that someone was out to get him.”
The report stated that Hyde cited “a variety of different names, contacts and provided information in reference to why he felt his life was in danger.” After being taken into custody by the police, according to the report, “Mr. Hyde continued to act paranoid telling us not to stop next to certain vehicles…[H]e explained that he was scared due to several painting workers and landscape workers trying to do harm to him because they weren’t working. Additionally Mr. Hyde explained that his computer was being hacked by Secret Service. And then went on to further explain that the secret service [sic] was arrival [sic] on the premises watching him.”
Maybe Hyde is dealing with an illness that causes his imagination to run wild. Or maybe his texts with Parnas were legit and he knew things that were dangerous for him to know.
Is he going to be called at the Senate trial so that we can find out? More importantly, is Parnas? Parnas is under federal indictment and seems eager to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry in hopes of gaining leniency. But he’s a hugely risky witness for the Susan Collins wing of the GOP to call. They can call Bolton and feel more or less confident that he won’t blow Trump up, and/or that executive privilege will silence him if he tries. But Parnas is a black box. His credibility can and will be attacked by the defense, of course, but the issue isn’t whether his testimony might convince the Senate to remove Trump. It won’t. The issue is whether he might raise enough doubt in the minds of the viewing public about Trump’s innocence that Collins’s and Cory Gardner’ votes to acquit end up becoming a bigger political liability to them on the campaign trail next fall.
There was another revelation in the documents released yesterday, although this one didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know:
AMONG THE EVIDENCE: A letter from Giuliani to Zelensky seeking a May meeting which he says has Trump's "knowledge and consent." pic.twitter.com/GLkcP2TOfs
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) January 14, 2020
Lots of excitement about that among anti-Trumpers last night, as it seems to confirm some of the key particulars of the quid pro quo theory. Here’s Rudy contacting Zelensky himself in May in order to speak urgently with him about a matter with the president’s full knowledge and support. What’s more, notes Rudy, he’s appearing on Trump’s personal behalf, which undercuts Trump’s claim that he was only interested in the Biden/Burisma matter for reasons of the public interest, i.e. fighting corruption. But here’s the thing — everything Rudy said in that letter was also said on the record to the New York Times in this story published the day before the letter was sent, May 9, 2019. Read it yourself if you haven’t before. Yes, I want them to look into Biden and Burisma, Rudy says. Yes, it may be improper to do so, although it’s not illegal. Yes, I’m appearing on behalf of my personal client, not as a government envoy. Yes, I have Trump’s full support in doing it. (“He basically knows what I’m doing, sure, as his lawyer.”) This is the amazing thing about the Ukraine matter — Giuliani has never tried to hide what the goal was. It’s Trump and his savvier defenders who have been left to scramble and claim that it was about exposing corruption by Biden, not giving Trump an electoral advantage, and that the Ukraine military aid played no part in it.
Rudy being Rudy, I feel like there’s a 50/50 chance he’ll call into CNN today and say something like, “Look, if we wanted Yovanovitch eliminated, she’d be long gone, okay?” Exit quotation from a handwritten note by Parnas included in the material released yesterday by the House: