Posted On 18 Jan 2020
New text messages released by House Democrats on Friday indicate Robert Hyde, the Republican congressional candidate who told Lev Parnas he had a U.S. ambassador under surveillance, was passing along to Parnas information he’d received from another Trump supporter who claimed knowledge of the ambassador’s whereabouts.
Hyde identified the man in texts to NBC News and on Twitter as Anthony de Caluwe and said he’d merely copied and pasted the information to Parnas from messages he’d received from de Caluwe.
Reached by email, de Caluwe told NBC News that Hyde’s statements were “incorrect.” He confirmed that Hyde had indeed asked him for information about Marie Yovanovitch’s whereabouts but he had declined to help Hyde.
“He asked me if I would know where she is, because she has information to help President Trump to provide evidence on the investigation on some persons Stateside,” De Caluwe wrote to NBC News. “I informed him it’s against the law.”
But newly released text messages by House Democrats tell a different story. The texts include screenshots of WhatsApp messages about Yovanovitch’s whereabouts that appear to have been sent to Hyde, who then forwarded those screenshots to Parnas.
The messages sent to Hyde came from a WhatsApp user with a profile photograph of de Caluwe. They came from a Belgian phone number, and while the final digits of the number are redacted in the screenshots released by the House, the first five digits exactly match a Belgian phone number for de Caluwe listed on one of his online profiles.
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After the House released the texts late Friday, de Caluwe did not respond to follow-up inquiries from NBC News asking to explain the discrepancies. Karyn Turk, a pro-Trump YouTube personality and friend of de Caluwe’s, said she was now representing de Caluwe in his interactions with the media but would not have further comment until she speaks to him on Saturday.
Turk told NBC News late Friday that de Caluwe is Belgian and travels there often.
The screenshots newly released by the House appear to corroborate Hyde’s claim that he’d copied and pasted information to Parnas that he’d received from de Caluwe. Initially, Hyde apparently forwarded to Parnas the screenshots of his communications with de Caluwe. In subsequent texts to Parnas, he conveyed much of the same purported information about Yovanovitch’s whereabouts once again.
The evidence released Friday by the House also includes a WhatsApp audio message turned over by Parnas in which an accented voice says, “It’s confirmed she’s in Ukraine.” It’s not clear who the speaker is on the recording.
The baffling developments add to an extraordinary new chapter in the impeachment saga that opened earlier this week when the House released encrypted text messages turned over by Parnas, an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani. In those texts emerged a new character: Hyde, a Republican congressional candidate in Connecticut with a history of controversial behavior and vehement support for Trump.
The texts showed Hyde telling Parnas that he had Yovanovitch under physical and possibly electronic surveillance in Ukraine. The State Department and Ukraine’s government are investigating, and FBI agents visited Hyde’s home and office this week.
Hyde has since said the texts were him “just playing,” and he told NBC News he’d been drinking when he sent them.
There have been few indications that any surveillance operation was actually in place. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that the department would investigate but that he suspected much of what had been reported about a potential surveillance operation would ultimately prove false.
Asked how he’d met de Caluwe, Hyde told NBC News by text: “He came to me once at Trump Hotel DC and think I met him the first time at a fundraiser at Mar a Lago or the Breakers.”
De Caluwe said he’d first met Hyde at a VIP rally for Trump in Tampa, Florida, and again later at the Trump hotel in Washington. He said “people told me to stay away from Hyde.”
He said he had “never been to Ukraine” and had no connection to the country. Asked why Hyde would think he’d have information on Yovanovitch’s whereabouts, de Caluwe replied, “I have no information on anyone, sorry.”
De Caluwe said he has no connections to Ukraine and had previously been told by others to stay away from Hyde.