Yovanovitch Lawyer Calls Texts ‘Disturbing’: Impeachment Update

Billy House
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Yovanovitch Lawyer Calls Texts ‘Disturbing’: Impeachment Update

(Bloomberg) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she’ll send the articles of impeachment against Donald Trump to the Senate this week to begin the president’s trial. Democrats tried to pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow a vote to call witnesses at the outset, but he said he plans to stick to the Clinton impeachment trial structure, which would put any decision on witnesses off until after opening arguments and the White House‘s defense.

Here are the latest developments:

Yovanovitch Lawyer Seeks Parnas Texts Probe (10:50 p.m.)

A lawyer for Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, called for an investigation after documents released on Tuesday suggested that she had been under surveillance in Ukraine.

“Needless to say, the notion that American citizens and others were monitoring Ambassador Yovanovitch’s movements for unknown purposes is disturbing,” the lawyer, Lawrence Robbins, said on Tuesday night. “We trust that the appropriate authorities will conduct an investigation to determine what happened.”

The House committees that led Trump’s impeachment released telephone records and other new material from Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer and a former mayor of New York. Those documents included text messages that suggested that someone had Yovanovitch under surveillance near Kyiv.

Yovanovitch was removed as ambassador to Ukraine last May, and she testified in the impeachment investigation that she was a casualty of an effort orchestrated by Giuliani and his associates.

Parnas Release Includes Texts on Yovanovitch (7:15 p.m.)

Documents given to the House by a lawyer for Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas include a series of text messages between Parnas and a man named Robert F. Hyde about Marie Yovanovitch, then the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, according to a letter by Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff.

At the time in March 2019, Giuliani was trying to get her removed from her post.

In several messages, Hyde suggested that someone had Yovanovitch under surveillance near Kyiv.

“They will let me know when she’s on the move,” he wrote to Parnas. Minutes later, Hyde wrote, “They are willing to help if we/you would like a price.” He added, “Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money... What I was told.”

The next day Hyde wrote, “my contacts are asking what is the next step because they cannot keep going to check people will start to ask questions.”

The photo attached to Hyde’s Whatsapp account appears similar to a Republican U.S. House candidate by the same name in Connecticut.

“Sorry, I can’t talk right now,” Hyde said in a text message Tuesday evening, responding to an inquiry about the texts.

Parnas Files Include ‘Sensitive’ Material (6:12 p.m.)

House impeachment investigators on Tuesday sent phone records and other new evidence obtained from a lawyer for Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas to the Judiciary Committee as potential additional material in the Senate impeachment trial against Trump.

The evidence, obtained by the House Intelligence Committee, includes notes, emails and text messages contained on two flash drives, one in a sealed envelope marked “sensitive,” and the other with information “pertinent” to the impeachment inquiry, the committee’s chairman, Adam Schiff, wrote in a letter to the House Judiciary Committee.

Schiff wrote that the flash drive marked sensitive should be protected from public disclosure.

“A preliminary review of Mr. Parnas’ production, a voluminous record of data extracted primarily from one of his personal cell phones, further corroborates the findings and evidence related to the president’s scheme, which was laid out in the Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report, released by the Committee on December 3,” a description of the material that was released with Schiff’s letter said.

The material includes a May 2019 letter from Giuliani in his “capacity as personal counsel to President Trump” to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy requesting a meeting.

Parnas had been working with Giuliani to dig up political dirt in Ukraine on Hunter Biden and his father, former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s top Democratic rival in next year’s presidential election.

A lawyer for Giuliani, Robert Costello, called the letter “perfectly fine and consistent with what Mayor Giuliani has said numerous times.”

“This is nothing more than Adam Schiff trying to make something out of nothing,” Costello added.

Parnas and a business partner, Igor Fruman, were arrested in October as they prepared to board a plane with one-way tickets to Europe. They are charged with illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. elections by giving money to a pro-Trump Super PAC. Both have pleaded not guilty.

The House panels investigating Trump had subpoenaed and Parnas’ lawyer got permission from a judge to hand the material over to the House panels.

The documents are available here and here. -- Billy House

Pelosi Sets Announcement for Impeachment Managers (6:05 p.m.)

Pelosi plans to announce who will serve as House managers at a news conference at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Trump Wants Motion to Dismiss, Aide Says (3:12 p.m.)

White House liaison Eric Ueland told reporters that Trump still wants the Senate procedures to include a chance for dismissal of the impeachment case, even though Republican senators have said there’s almost no chance of that happening before a final verdict.

Ueland spoke to reporters after a private lunch meeting with Republican senators. The Senate will vote on a GOP resolution spelling out procedures for the trial, which is expected to begin next Tuesday.

“As far as we understand it, the president’s rights are protected, including the potentiality of a motion to dismiss,” Ueland said. -- Steven T. Dennis

Roberts May Swear In Senators This Week (2:22 p.m.)

The Senate will take “preliminary steps” this week toward starting Trump’s impeachment trial after the House sends the articles over, McConnell said Tuesday.

Those steps may include Chief Justice John Roberts coming to the Senate chamber to swear in the members, McConnell said. This would set the Senate up to begin the “actual trial” next Tuesday, he said.

“I think that’s likely to hold up,” McConnell said.

McConnell said all Republican senators agree on the trial procedure, which would begin with each side presenting their case, followed with questions by senators. The question of whether to hear from witnesses would be addressed after that.

Asked whether he agreed with other Republicans who want to call Joe Biden’s son Hunter to testify, he said, “I can’t imagine that only the witnesses that our Democratic colleagues want to call, would be called.”

In addition, McConnell said, “there is little or no sentiment” to dismiss the charges before a trial. Trump asked for a dismissal of the case over the weekend. -- Laura Litvan

Fourth GOP Senator Wants Vote on Witnesses (12:05 p.m.)

Republican Senator Lamar Alexander said Tuesday he wants a guaranteed vote during the trial on whether senators will hear from new witnesses and see additional documents.

“First we need to hear the case -- not dismiss the case, we need to hear it,” said Alexander of Tennessee, who plans to retire after this session of Congress. “That means hear the arguments, ask our questions and then be guaranteed a right to vote on whether we need more evidence.”

“And that could be witnesses, it could be documents,” Alexander said. “I’ll reserve that decision until I hear the case and I ask questions.”

Alexander is the fourth GOP senator to publicly speak in favor of hearing new evidence during Trump’s trial. Four GOP votes would be needed to join the 47 Democrats to make a majority in favor of calling witnesses.

A day earlier, GOP Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah said they wanted to ensure there will be an opportunity to vote on calling witnesses or other information later in the trial. -- Billy House

Pelosi Announces Wednesday Vote on Articles (11:48 a.m.)

Pelosi announced that the House will vote Wednesday to name the impeachment managers and transmit the two articles to the Senate.

In a statement, the speaker criticized McConnell for signing on to a proposal to dismiss the charges without a trial.

“Leader McConnell and the President are afraid of more facts coming to light,” Pelosi said. “The American people deserve the truth, and the Constitution demands a trial.”

In addition, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler is not ruling out the possibility that he and other impeachment managers will urge the Senate to allow the trial to consider new evidence and witness testimony not presented in the House investigation of Trump.

“New evidence can certainly be admitted, that’s always the case -- provided the Senate allows a reasonable trial,” Nadler said. “New evidence can always be admitted in any fair trial.”

Asked if that will be a focus of legal arguments to be presented to the Senate once the trial begins, Nadler said, “We’ll see.”

Pelosi Sets Wednesday Vote to Send Articles (9:54 a.m.)

Pelosi set a Wednesday vote to name House impeachment managers and transmit the two articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate.

“The vote will be tomorrow,” Representative Henry Cuellar said after House Democrats met with Pelosi to set out the next steps in the impeachment drama.

Pelosi didn’t say who she’ll propose as the impeachment managers to present the House case at a Senate trial, which could get under way early next week, according to other lawmakers in the meeting. -- Erik Wasson, Billy House

Democrats Meet on Plan to Transmit Articles (9:06 a.m.)

House Democrats began their weekly caucus meeting to discuss the plan for transmitting two articles of impeachment against Trump charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress articles to the Senate.

Pelosi didn’t share her strategy with her top deputies in a Monday evening meeting, according to those who participated.

Pelosi in Tuesday’s meeting could share the names of the impeachment managers who will prosecute the House’s case in the Senate trial. Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler are expected to be part of the team. -- Billy House

Catch Up on Impeachment Coverage

Trump Impeachment Defense Remains Work in Progress Near Trial

Key Events

The House impeachment resolution is H.Res. 755. The Intelligence Committee Democrats’ impeachment report is here.Gordon Sondland’s transcript is here and here; Kurt Volker’s transcript is here and here. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s transcript is here and here; the transcript of Michael McKinley, former senior adviser to the secretary of State, is here. The transcript of David Holmes, a Foreign Service officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, is here.The transcript of William Taylor, the top U.S. envoy to Ukraine, is here and here. State Department official George Kent’s testimony is here and here. Testimony by Alexander Vindman can be found here, and the Fiona Hill transcript is here. Laura Cooper’s transcript is here; Christopher Anderson’s is here and Catherine Croft’s is here. Jennifer Williams’ transcript is here and Timothy Morrison’s is here. The Philip Reeker transcript is here. Mark Sandy’s is here.

--With assistance from Erik Wasson, Billy House, Laura Litvan and Steven T. Dennis.

To contact the reporter on this story: Billy House in Washington at bhouse5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net, Anna Edgerton, John Harney

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