It’s alleged that President Donald Trump and a number of his associates (including members of the White House cabinet) were involved in a pressure campaign to get Ukraine leaders to announce an investigation against a potential rival, Joe Biden, to benefit Trump politically in his 2020 re-election campaign.
But on Thursday, Ukraine announced a different, perhaps more legitimate, investigation that will likely cause angst for the president.
Ukraine’s interior ministry announced it has opened a criminal investigation looking into the possibly illegal surveillance of former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, ABC News reported.
The investigation started after documents made public by House impeachment investigators earlier this week detailed conversations between Trump associates Lev Parnas and Robert Hyde, in which the two are seen discussing Yovanovitch in less than glowing terms.
Hyde would frequently message Parnas about Yovanovitch while the two were involved in a campaign to discredit her, including making disturbing statements of her movements throughout Kyiv.
“She’s talked to three people,” Hyde wrote to Parnas in one exchange. “Her phone is off. Computer is off. She’s next to the embassy. Not in the embassy. Private security. Been there since Thursday.”
BREAKING: Ukraine police to investigate reports of claims of surveillance of former US Amb. Marie Yovanovitch, as well as report of hacking targeting Burisma, Ukraine Interior Ministry says. https://t.co/2Eeev5V2Wp
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) January 16, 2020
Hyde also discussed ways in which they could get Yovanovitch removed, sometimes with alarming details.
“If you want her out, they need to make contact with security forces,” Hyde wrote. “They know she’s a political puppet. They will let me know when she’s on the move,” Hyde said in a series of texts in March last year.”
Ukraine’s interior ministry put out a statement, saying that it did not want to appear as though it was interfering in other country’s affairs.
“Ukraine’s position is not to interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States of America,” the statement read in part. “However, the published records contain the fact of possible violation of the legislation of Ukraine and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which protects the rights of a diplomat in the territory of another country.”
According to impeachment investigators, Yovanovitch was seen by Trump associates as someone who would not be on-board with the plan to coerce Ukraine to announce a different investigation, into possible Trump-rival Joe Biden, that would have benefited the president politically in the run-up to his re-election campaign this year. That scandal has formed the basis of one of the articles of impeachment, with House investigators alleging it is an abuse of power by the president justifying of his removal from office.