Democrats release new documents on eve of impeachment trial
Some appear to describe detailed surveillance of former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch
House Democrats have released a trove of documents they obtained from Lev Parnas, a close associate of U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, including a handwritten note that mentions asking Ukraine's president to investigate "the Biden case."
The documents show Parnas communicating with Giuliani and another attorney about the removal of Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Parnas received messages from a man named Robert F. Hyde who appeared to be describing detailed surveillance of Yovanovitch while she was in Ukraine.
Democrats released the files Tuesday as they prepared to send articles of impeachment to the Senate for Trump's trial. The documents add new context to their charges that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate Democrats as he withheld military aid to the country.
Parnas was in frequent communication with Giuliani and with Ukrainian officials as he worked as an intermediary, the messages show. Parnas appeared to be pushing unsubstantiated allegations that Democrat Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, were somehow engaged in corruption in Ukraine.
Among the documents is a screenshot of a previously undisclosed letter from Giuliani to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky dated May 10, 2019, which was before Zelensky took office. In the letter, Giuliani announces himself as Trump's personal lawyer and requests a meeting with Zelensky "as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent."
Also among the documents is a handwritten note on stationery from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Vienna that says "get Zalensky to Annonce that the Biden case will be Investigated." Trump asked Zelensky in a July call to investigate the Bidens. Hunter Biden served on the board of a gas company based in Ukraine.
In a letter outlining the evidence, Democrats said that Parnas's attorney confirmed that Parnas wrote the note.
Phone records, text, flash drives
The documents — including phone records, texts and flash drives turned over by Parnas — were sent to the House judiciary committee by three other House committees "to be included as part of the official record that will be transmitted to the Senate along with the Articles of Impeachment," according to a statement. Some of the materials were made public while others were marked as sensitive.
Parnas and his business partner, Igor Fruman, both U.S. citizens who emigrated from the former Soviet bloc, were indicted last year on charges of conspiracy, making false statements and falsification of records. Prosecutors allege they made outsize campaign donations to Republican causes after receiving millions of dollars originating from Russia.
Several of the documents show Parnas communicating with Giuliani and another attorney, Victoria Toensing, about the removal of Yovanovitch. Her removal, pushed by Trump, was at the centre of the Democrats' inquiry. Yovanovitch testified in the House impeachment hearings that she was the victim of a "smear campaign."
Trump on a July 25 call had promised Zelensky that Yovanovitch was "going to go through some things." Roughly two months earlier, she had been recalled from her diplomatic post.
On April 23, the day before Yovanovitch was directed to return to the United States, Giuliani texted Parnas, "He fired her again." Parnas texted back, "I pray it happens this time I'll call you tomorrow my brother."
Parnas also received messages from Hyde, who referred to Yovanovitch as a "bitch." Hyde is now running for a U.S. House seat in Connecticut.
After texting about the ambassador, Hyde gave Parnas location updates over the course of a week. In one text, Hyde wrote: "She's talked to three people. Her phone is off. Her computer is off." He said she was under heavy security and "we have a person inside."
Hyde at one point texted Parnas that "they are willing to help if we/you would like a price," and "guess you can do anything in Ukraine with money ... is what I was told."
Parnas texted back: "lol."
Hyde did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Lawrence Robbins, an attorney for Yovanovitch, declined to comment on the text messages Tuesday evening.
The text messages show that Parnas consulted Giuliani in Jan. 2019 after the U.S. denied issuing a visa for former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. Giuliani replied: "I can revive it."
In a follow-up conversation the following day, Giuliani told Parnas: "It's going to work I have no 1 in it." Giuliani then predicted "he will get one" before giving Parnas the phone number for Jay Sekulow, the leader of the president's personal legal team. Sekulow is expected to be part of Trump's legal team during the impeachment trial.
The release of documents comes after a federal judge earlier this month said that Parnas could provide materials to Congress as part of the impeachment proceedings.
Democrats voted in December to impeach Trump for abuse of power and for obstruction of Congress.