While CNN was focused on the Democratic presidential debate Tuesday night, MSNBC was digging through the newly released documents Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas handed over to the House Intelligence Committee. MSNBC hosts and guests found quite a few bits of evidence "shocking," like the involvement of President Trump's White House impeachment team in Parnas' efforts to procure dirt on Joe Biden from Ukrainian officials, but two sets of documents were deemed especially damning.
"Among the most disturbing material released tonight is a long series of encrypted text messages" in which Parnas discussed ominous-sounding efforts to closely surveil U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovich with Robert Hyde, a Trump donor now running for a House seat in Connecticut, Rachel Maddow said, asking Rep. Jim Hines (D-Conn.) to "please tell me this is a fabulist who has concocted some sort of fantasy plot in his mind, and this wasn't a real thing."
Hyde "is a malignant clown," and "it is quite possible that he was just making all this stuff up," Hines said. But threatening an ambassador "is the kind of thing that we take very, very seriously, despite the clownlike behavior of Mr. Hyde."
The Hyde texts are among the "most ominous" things in the documents, Chris Matthews agreed, but his guest Andrew Weismann, a former top prosecutor on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team, found more significance in a letter from Giuliani to Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky.
The Giuliani letter "is a real smoking gun," Weismann said, "because you have Rudy Giuliani saying that he's acting in the president's personal capacity. That shows that the president and Rudy knew this would be improper to use the office of the presidency for a personal errand, to use Dr. Fiona Hill's phrase. And yet, the president, on the call with President Zelenksy, was using the office of the president. That is precisely what has been charged in the impeachment count."
"If there was any room for doubt that this was a shakedown by the president and that he was involved and that Rudy was involved and Rudy's subalterns Lev and Igor [Fruman] were involved, former federal prosecutor John Flannery told Ari Berman, the letter from Giuliani to Zelenksy "put that all to rest."
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