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Ukraine Probing Whether Trump Allies Tracked Ambassador

Chuck Ross on January 16, 2020

Ukraine’s ministry of internal affairs announced Thursday that its national police force is investigating whether allies of President Donald Trump illegally tracked the movements of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in 2019.

House Democrats released a trove of text messages that showed Lev Parnas, a former associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, discussing the ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, with a GOP congressional candidate named Richard Hyde.

Hyde suggested in his texts to Parnas that he had inside information on Yovanovitch’s movements in Kyiv. Both Parnas and Hyde wanted Yovanovitch removed from her post.

A grand jury in New York indicted Parnas and an associate, Igor Fruman, on Oct. 10, 2019, on charges that they made illegal contributions to several Republican campaigns and political committees. The indictment said Parnas and Fruman made some of the contributions as part of an effort to remove Yovanovitch from office on behalf of Ukrainian government officials.

“PARNAS’s efforts to remove the Ambassador were conducted, at least in part, at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials,” the indictment stated.

Hyde said in an encrypted text message to Parnas on March 23, 2019, that he had a “private security” team in place to track Yovanovitch.

“She’s talked to three people. Her phone is off. Computer is off,” Hyde wrote Parnas.

Trump ordered Yovanovitch removed as ambassador on April 24, 2019. Parnas’s text messages show that he was heavily involved in generating news stories that portrayed Yovanovitch in a negative light. Parnas’s texts show he coordinated with Giuliani, pro-Trump attorney Victoria Toensing, and journalist John Solomon on stories related to Yovanovitch.

Giuliani and other Trump allies have accused Yovanovitch of being corrupt, though they have not provided any evidence to support the allegation.

The Ukrainian ministry of internal affairs said Thursday that Ukraine’s national police opened a criminal investigation into whether Yovanovitch “illegally monitored and possibly tampered with by US citizens on the operation of her electronic gadgets.”

“Ukraine cannot ignore such illegal activities on its territory,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Our goal is to investigate whether there were any violations of Ukrainian and international laws,” the ministry continued. “Or maybe it was just bravado and fake conversation between two U.S. citizens.”

Parnas said in an interview Wednesday on MSNBC that he never believed Hyde was actually tracking Yovanovitch.

“So you thought this was him making it up. You didn’t believe he had the ambassador under surveillance?” MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow asked Parnas.

“Absolutely not,” he said.

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