No evidence ties Trump to troubling surveillance of Marie Yovanovitch
by Kaylee McGhee
| January 16, 2020 11:42 AM

New evidence released by House Democrats shows that Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was being monitored at the request of at least one private U.S. citizen before she was recalled from her position. Democrats have tried to pin this on President Trump, but given the information we have right now, their accusation is irresponsible.

Text messages between Lev Parnas, a former associate of Rudy Giuliani’s who is now facing campaign finance charges, and Robert Hyde, a Republican candidate for Congress, indicate that Parnas and Hyde were tracking the movements of Yovanovitch and discussing how to surveil her.

After Parnas sent Hyde news articles critical of Yovanovitch, Hyde responded, “Wow. can't believe Trumo [sic] hasn't fired this bitch.” Hyde then suggested he had hired people in Ukraine to monitor the ambassador, referring to “the guys over there” who “know she’s a political puppet.”

“They will let me know when she’s on the move,” Hyde said. “Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money.”

Hyde regularly sent Parnas updates on Yovanovitch’s whereabouts. “She’s under heavy protection outside Kiev,” he wrote on March 23. Two days later, Hyde said, “They are moving her tomorrow. The guys over they [sic] asked me what I would like to do and what is in it for them.” And a few hours later, Hyde added, “She’s talked to three people. Her phone is off. Computer is off,” and, “They will let me know when she’s on the move.”

This exchange is deeply unsettling and should be thoroughly investigated. Ukraine has already vowed to do so if the United States will not, and several Democratic politicians have urged Congress to take action. But the Democrats have also tried to tie Trump to Parnas and Hyde’s maneuvering, despite no evidence Trump had anything to do with this.

Take, for example, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s response. The presidential hopeful claimed that the “president’s personal lawyers” directed the surveillance of Yovanovitch and demanded that it be incorporated into the Senate’s impeachment trial so that Congress can “hold this lawless administration to account.”

Again, there is nothing in the exchange between Parnas and Hyde that suggests the Trump administration was involved. Neither Parnas nor Hyde worked for Trump or the administration, and it’s unclear whether Giuliani was aware of Hyde’s surveillance, either.

What we do know is that Parnas wanted Yovanovitch out of Ukraine for a long time. Her anti-corruption agenda stood in the way of his crony business deals, so he turned to Giuliani, who then turned to Trump. The president foolishly listened to Giuliani and the false media reports about Yovanovitch that Giuliani sent him, and a few months later, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had her recalled.

I’ve explained before why Trump’s decision to remove Yovanovitch from her position was the wrong one. But as of right now, there is no reason to believe he was even aware of Hyde’s monitoring. Hopefully, the State Department launches an investigation into this matter, but until then, we should avoid speculation and stick to what we know.