House Foreign Affairs Presses State Dep’t on Yovanovitch’s Safety

WASHINGTON (CN) — Calling it “profoundly alarming” that Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was the subject of threatening text messages, a lawmaker pressed the State Department on Wednesday for underlying documents.

“The messages suggest a possible risk to Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s security in Kyiv before she was recalled from her post last year,” Representative Eliot Engel, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement. “These threats occurred at the same time that the two men were also discussing President Trump’s efforts, through Rudy Giuliani, to smear the ambassador’s reputation.”

Former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Nov. 15, 2019, during the public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump’s efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The messages surfaced on Tuesday night, part of a 38-page trove of files that Giuliani’s now-indicted associate Lev Parnas shared with four committees of the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives.

In some of the files, a series of messages on the encrypted platform WhatsApp, Parnas and Robert Hyde, a fellow Trump donor and congressional candidate, are seen exchanging alternately veiled and profane messages.

“Wow. Can’t believe Trump hasn’t fired this bitch,” Hyde texted Parnas in March 2019. I’ll get right in that.”

Appearing to track Yovanovitch’s whereabouts through unnamed contacts, Hyde passed the information along to Parnas.

Referring to these supposed contacts, Hyde told Parnas: “They are willing to help if we/you would like a price.”

“Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money … what I was told,” Hyde added, in a cryptic remark.

The exchange has drawn special attention in the context of President Trump’s remark to his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky regarding Yovanovitch: “She’s going to go through some things.”

Engel said his committee did not wait long to take action.

“Yesterday, the Foreign Affairs Committee staff contacted the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security to flag this information and seek assurances that proper steps have been taken to ensure the security of Embassy Kyiv and that of Ambassador Yovanovitch,” Engel wrote. “I’m grateful for the department’s quick response and confident this matter is getting the attention it merits.”

Engel made clear that those protective actions would not end the matter.

“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,” the congressman said.

His committee requested documents, information and a briefing from senior officials related to this matter. 

“This unprecedented threat to our diplomats must be thoroughly investigated and, if warranted, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Engel concluded.

Yovanovitch’s attorney Lawrence Robbins also called for an investigation last night.

“Needless to say, the notion that American citizens and others were monitoring Ambassador Yovanovitch’s movements for unknown purposes is disturbing,” Robbins said in a statement that was widely reported.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hyde doubled down in an insult-rife rant on Twitter this morning, blaming the WhatsApp messages on booze.

“How low can liddle Adam Bull Schiff go?” Hyde asked, in a profane variation of Trump’s taunt to the House Intelligence Committee chairman. “I was never in Kiev. For them to take some texts my buddy’s and I wrote back to some dweeb we were playing with that we met a few times while we had a few drinks is definitely laughable.”

In a statement to CNN, Parnas’ attorney Joseph Bondy denied his client played a role on a plot to surveil the ambassador.

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