In late April last year, then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch fielded a phone call in Kyiv from a State Department colleague back in the states. Carol Perez, Director General of the Foreign Service, urged her to catch the “next plane home” to Washington because “there was a lot of concern” for her, Yovanovitch recalled in closed-door testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on October 11, 2019.
Yovanovitch argued with Perez about the timing. She had loose ends she wanted to tie up—state meetings that day and other events—but Perez was insistent. “She said it was for my security, that this was for my well-being, people were concerned,” Yovanovitch recalled. “Physical security?” she asked Perez at the time. But Perez responded that, no, she hadn’t gotten that “impression.” Yovanovitch testified that she never understood exactly what Perez meant because she never specified. “I didn’t know because she didn’t say,” Yovanovitch explained at the deposition.
But new information from the cache of documents handed over to the Intelligence committee by indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas may shed some light on what has remained a mystery ever since Yovanovitch offered that steely recollection about her final months in Kyiv. The evidence reveals that Parnas, who is being charged with financial fraud in an unrelated case, exchanged a series of eery texts with GOP lobbyist and Trump donor Robert Hyde about a month before that dead-of-night call between Yovanovitch and Perez. Yovanovitch appeared to be a roadblock to certain ends the two men were trying to accomplish, and Hyde repeatedly referred to as a “bitch.” Together, Parnas and Hyde took part in the scheme of Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to smear Yovanovitch and have her removed from her post—a goal they ultimately accomplished.
“F*ck that bitch,” Hyde wrote to Parnas on March 22, 2019, responding to information Parnas had sent to him. The next day, Hyde wrote: “Wow. Can’t believe Trumo (sic) hasn’t fired this bitch. I’ll get right in that.”
On March 25, Hyde appeared to be having the ambassador surveilled by people in Ukraine who were tracking her movements. And in the most threatening of the texts, he mused about “a price,” which appears to be a reference to paying someone off to inflict harm on Yovanovitch or worse.
“They are willing to help if we/you would like a price,” Hyde also texted on March 25, adding, “Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money.”
Given the new context, one has to wonder what exactly Ambassador Perez knew about the “security” of Yovanovitch, who called for an investigation into the episode hours after House Democrats released the new evidence late Tuesday. What exactly was Hyde doing and who was he communicating with in Ukraine? And does any of this relate back to one of Donald Trump’s most disturbing comments during his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky? “She’s going to go through some things,” Trump told Zelensky of Yovanovitch, after he had called her “bad news” on the call.
On Wednesday morning, House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Eliot Engel promised an inquiry. “The Foreign Affairs Committee will now seek to learn what, if anything, the State Department knew about this situation at the time these messages were sent,” Engel said in a statement. “This unprecedented threat to our diplomats must be thoroughly investigated and, if warranted, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”