A trove of explosive and previously unseen documentary evidence related to the Trump impeachment inquiry released Tuesday by House Democrats has triggered a wave of new and serious questions about what President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giulani did in Ukraine last year to orchestrate a pressure campaign in Ukraine at the behest of his powerful client.
The documents—which can be viewed here and here—were handed over to the House Committee Intelligence by the legal team of Lev Parnas, an associate of Giuliani's, and as Vox notes, "boy, are they ugly."
The materials, as the New York Times reports,
include handwritten notes scrawled on a sheet of hotel paper at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Vienna that mention getting President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son.
House Democrats released the records even as Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a Wednesday vote to name House prosecutors and send the articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump to the Senate to begin the trial. The material undergirds the accusations against Mr. Trump, and highlights how much is still to be learned about the scope of a scheme that the impeachment charges call a blatant effort to solicit foreign help in the 2020 election.
The documents, provided by Mr. Parnas, contain a series of exchanges between him and a Ukrainian prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, who was helping Mr. Giuliani unearth damaging information about the Bidens.
In a joint statement by Democratic chairs of the several committees that released the documents, the lawmakers said the new documents "demonstrate that there is more evidence relevant to the president's scheme, but they have been concealed by the president himself."
The Democrats again called on the State Department and other executive branch offices to hand over relevant materials, including communications and other materials, so that senators in the pending trial have a fuller picture of what transpired. "There cannot be a full and fair trial in the Senate," they argued, "without the documents that President Trump is refusing to provide to Congress."
Among the "most disturbing" pieces of information included was the apparent focus that Giuliani, Parnas, and others involved put on then U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who they perceived as an obstacle to Trump's interests in the country. In a series of text message exchanges with a man named Robert F. Hyde, a Republican congressional candidate in Connecticut, Parnas indicated there was ongoing surveillance of Yovanovitch. Elsewhere, Hyde openly referred to the ambassador as "that bitch" and the language in the document even hinted that Yovanovitch could or would be harmed.
In one text, Hyde noted that Yonavitch was "under heavy protection outside Kiev," while elsewhere he told Parnas, "Guess you can do anything in Ukraine with money."
Um holy sh*t. This certainly makes it sound like Parnas and co. were actively tracking Yovanovitch's movements. This could explain why Yovanovitch was moved out of Ukraine so quickly. https://t.co/4rBRB06ZGN pic.twitter.com/5Gc8WcGPih— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) January 14, 2020
As independent journalist Judd Legum observed: "Wow. Texts from Giuliani cronies, just released by House, are incredibly disturbing."
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Wow.— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) January 14, 2020
Texts from Giuliani cronies, just released by House, are incredibly disturbing.
One text discusses unsavory characters in Ukraine willing to "help" with Yovanovitch for "a price"
A few weeks later Yovanovitch was told to leave immediately over concerns about her safety pic.twitter.com/kh00CMXFW0
Jim Scuitto, anchor and chief national security correspondent for CNN, wondered what the national reaction would be to what the documents appear to show:
A fundamental question is: Are Americans comfortable with this? And, in the same vein, does partisanship trump all else? https://t.co/8mpP7TIoqn— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) January 15, 2020
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) responded to the revelations by saying, "The new documents from Lev Parnas are chilling, and damning for [the president]. Is Donald Trump a thug? I don't know. But Trump certainly used thugs to help him abuse the power of his office."
In the wake of the documents, the demand for answers quickly escalated:
I have no idea if the President’s associates had the US Ambassador to Ukraine under surveillance. Maybe Hyde is just delusional or a compulsive liar or there’s crucial missing context. But there is a definitive answer to this question we need to know. Soon.— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) January 15, 2020
In a statement late Tuesday night, a lawyer representing Yovanovitch called for a formal investigation. "The notion that American citizens and others were monitoring Amb. Yovanovitch's movements is disturbing," her attorney Lawrence Robbins said. "We trust that the appropriate authorities will conduct an investigation to determine what happened."
For their part, Democratic lawmakers on the relevant committees said they would "continue our investigative work and will make available to the Senate and the American people any additional evidence of the President's misconduct as it is revealed."