On the eve of a Senate trial to remove President Trump, House Democratic investigators have released a trove of documents obtained from the phone of Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani’s who was tasked with carrying out key parts of the plot to pressure the new president of Ukraine to do political favors for Trump.
The evidence released includes eye-popping new details about several parts of the story pieced together during the impeachment inquiry—particularly Giuliani’s campaign to remove Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who testified that she was ousted after being targeted in what she described as a smear campaign by Trump and his allies.
In one exchange from March 2019, Robert F. Hyde, a Trump donor and Republican Congressional candidate whose involvement in the Ukraine saga has not been previously detailed, sent a series of texts to Parnas that implied he had access to people tracking Yovanovitch's movements in Kyiv, according to the newly released documents.
“They know she’s a political puppet,” Hyde texted. “They will let me know when she’s on the move… They are willing to help if you/we would like a price.”
“Guess you can do anything in Ukraine with money… what I was told,” Hyde messaged. Parnas responded: “LOL.”
Shortly after the text exchanges were released Tuesday, a lawyer for Yovanovitch called for an investigation into the “disturbing” claim that she was being stalked while serving in Ukraine.
“Needless to say, the notion that American citizens and others were monitoring Ambassador Yovanovitch’s movements for unknown purposes is disturbing,” Lawrence Robbins said in a statement. “We trust that the appropriate authorities will conduct an investigation to determine what happened.”
A photo of Hyde on Parnas’ phone matches that of the Connecticut-based Republican running for U.S. House, and Parnas’ attorney, Joseph A. Bondy, confirmed to The Daily Beast that it is indeed the same Hyde. Up until this point, Hyde was best-known for an offensive tweet about Sen. Kamala Harris that drew widespread condemnation.
Reached for comment on the text messages by The Daily Beast on Tuesday night, Hyde texted, “Bull Schiff is a giant b*tch.”
The documents also include new information about the push for a Ukrainian-led investigation explicitly focused on the Biden family. Parnas turned over a photo of a note, written on stationary from the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Vienna, that includes an instruction to “get” Zelensky to announce that “the Biden case will be investigated.”
The note, whose authenticity was confirmed by Parnas’ counsel, also reads “start” communicating with Zelensky without Victor Pinchuk and Ihor Kolomoisky, two influential Ukrainian oligarchs.
Additionally, Parnas texted with Yuriy Lutsenko, the former Ukrainian prosecutor who pushed discredited theories about Yovanovich’s supposed hostility toward Trump. According to one March 2019 text message, Lutsenko appeared to link Yovanovitch’s removal to a probe into the Bidens.
"It's just that if you don't make a decision about madam, you are bringing into question all my announcements, including about B,” Lutsenko wrote to Parnas.
The exchange came around the time Lutsenko announced the reopening of an investigation into Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company linked to Hunter Biden that Trump and his allies like Rudy Giuliani have portrayed as the epicenter of supposed corruption by the Biden family. Lutsenko later reversed course and said there was no basis for a case against the Bidens.
Additionally, the messages between Parnas and Giuliani suggest that Giuliani believed he had Trump’s support in reversing a decision to deny a U.S. visa for Viktor Shokin, the former top Ukrainian prosecutor who then-vice president Biden and others had called to remove.
“I can revive it,” Giuliani purportedly said. “It’s going to work I have no 1 in it,” an apparent reference to Trump.
The materials also indicated that Parnas and his pals plotted to get indicted Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash to fire Lanny Davis–a longtime Democratic lawyer–from his legal team. A photo of a notepad from the Ritz Carlton in Vienna, where Firtash lives as he fights extradition to the U.S., showed a T-chart with “Joe/Victoria” on one side and “Lanny Davis” on the other. Under the Davis column, it read “get rid of Lanny Davis (nicely).” Davis told The Daily Beast that his firing was, in fact, nice.
“The departure was done nicely, but I’ve never met Parnas in my life,” he said. “I do want to add that my role was limited to serving as a criminal defense lawyer correcting the public record, having nothing to do with politics. That was my red line, and I’m sad what’s happened to Mr. Firtash since.”
The “Joe/Victoria” column of the notepad said the husband-wife duo would “cut deal or get dismissed”–apparently referring to efforts to end the Justice Department’s long-running criminal prosecution of Firtash for charges related to bribery.
House Democrats’ document dump comes a day before Speaker Nancy Pelosi is set to formally send the two articles of impeachment against Trump, passed on Dec. 19, to the Senate so it can begin its trial.
In a statement accompanying the release of new information, the House Democratic committee chairs who led the impeachment inquiry said the evidence “confirms what we already know: the President and his associates pressured Ukrainian officials to announce investigations that would benefit the President politically.”
The chairs—some of whom, such as Reps. Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler, are likely to prosecute the case against Trump in the Senate—wrote that the information on Parnas’ phone alone suggested the administration is hiding far more damning evidence. The administration has blocked subpoenas to hand over much of the documents subpoenaed by Congress for its inquiry.
“There cannot be a full and fair trial in the Senate without the documents that President Trump is refusing to provide to Congress,” they said.
In October, Parnas was arrested by federal authorities while attempting to leave the U.S.; a subpoena was issued shortly thereafter for records in his possession related to the Ukraine matter. Later that month, he told House investigators his desire to comply with their inquiry.