As the impeachment proceedings against President Trump enter a new phase with next week's start of the trial in the Senate, a new figure has emerged in the ongoing effort led by House Democrats: Robert Hyde, a Republican congressional candidate from Connecticut and supporter of the president.
Hyde, 40, has come under scrutiny for WhatsApp messages he exchanged with Lev Parnas, an associate for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Parnas, who is accused of helping Giuliani investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, turned over the messages and other documents to the House Intelligence Committee, which Tuesday.
The messages exchanged between Hyde and Parnas were revealed days before the Senate prepares to start Mr. Trump's impeachment trial and are the latest twist in the impeachment efforts launched by House Democrats in September.
In the encrypted messages, Hyde sent a series of texts to Parnas that initially disparaged Yovanovitch and then indicated that he was able to monitor her whereabouts and her conversations. Hyde also suggested that the people he had watching her could take some unspecified action involving Yovanovitch for a price.
He wrote these messages to Parnas:
"What should I do with this?"
"They are moving her tomorrow."
"The guys over [there] they asked me what I would like to do and what is in it for them."
Parnas didn't respond to Hyde's nudging, "Wake up Yankees man."
Then he began giving Parnas more detail about her movements in Kiev.
"She's talked to three people. Her phone is off. Computer is off," Hyde wrote in one message to Parnas on March 25.
"She's next to the embassy," he wrote in subsequent messages. "Not in the embassy."
The exchange suggests Yovanovitch, who was abruptly recalled from her post, was being tracked. Giuliani told CBS News that he had "no idea" about purported efforts to monitor Yovanovitch.
Hyde pressed Parnas to see if he wanted any further action. "They are willing to help if we/you would like a price," he wrote. "Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money...what I was told."
"Lol," Parnas responded.
Hyde tried again, telling Parnas that Yovanovitch would not be moved, but there would be a "special security unit upgraded force on the compound." He texted that "my contacts are asking what is the next step because they cannot keep going to check."
"[P]eople will start to ask questions," Hyde added.
His next text read, "If you want her out they need to make contact with security forces."
When asked about the texts, Hyde said the messages were in jest and denied surveilling the former ambassador.
"We were playing, I thought we were playing," he told Eric Bolling in an interview Wednesday. "I didn't know he was — I didn't know he was so serious."
Yovanovitch's attorney, however, said the notion that her movements were being monitored was "disturbing." House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York, said his panel would be opening an investigation into the "unprecedented threat" to Yovanovitch. Authorities in Ukraine have also opened an investigation.
Parnas and another Giuliani associate, Igor Fruman, wereon campaign finance charges.
Hyde's involvement with Parnas is a newly revealed development in the impeachment proceedings, which center around Mr. Trump's dealings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the summer of 2019. And while Hyde has suggested he met Parnas only a "few times," questions are now swirling around his background and relationship with the president and others close to him.
A resident of Simsbury, Connecticut, Hyde is running as a Republican to represent the state's 5th Congressional District in the House. Federal Election Commission records show he also filed a statement of candidacy to run for the U.S. Senate in 2022.
Hyde, who owned a landscaping business, garnered headlines last month when he posted a now-deleted vulgar tweet about Democratic Senator Kamala Harris of California after she dropped out of the presidential race. The comment prompted Republicans in the state to urge Hyde to drop his congressional bid, and those calls were reiterated again this week following the release of Hyde's messages about former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
"I have asked Rob Hyde to end his bid for Congress," J.R. Romano, chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party, tweeted Wednesday. "His campaign is a distraction for the Democrats to raise money and falsely label all Republicans with his antics."
But Hyde is using the newfound attention to bolster his campaign coffers, posting appeals for donations to Twitter.
Hyde has shared several photos with Mr. Trump to his Twitter account and reports indicate he racked up bills at Trump National Doral Miami. According to the Associated Press, Hyde received emails from Mr. Trump's South Florida resort in September and October informing him he owed more than $4,600
In May, Doral police responded to Trump National Doral Miami after Hyde claimed he was fearing for his life and a "hit man was out to get him," according to an incident report from the Doral Police Department.
U.S. Secret Service contacted Connecticut law enforcement about Hyde in June regarding "posts on his social media accounts," CT Insider reported Wednesday.
Hyde has given tens of thousands of dollars in donations to candidates and political parties, including the Republican National Committee, Mr. Trump's campaign, and the Republican Party of Connecticut, according to Federal Election Commission records.