Ukraine, it turns out, is not just a setting in the ongoing Trump impeachment saga. It’s also a nation with laws of its own.
The first is an investigation into whether associates of Rudy Giuliani ran illegal surveillance on former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. That was triggered by the trove of documents from Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, which included a series of text messages from Trump donor Robert F. Hyde calling Yovanovitch a “bitch” and “suggesting that he had Ambassador Yovanovitch under physical surveillance in Kyiv and that ‘They are willing to help if we/you would like a price.’”
“Ukraine’s position is to not interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States,” Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs said in a statement. “However, the published records contain a fact of possible violation of the legislation of Ukraine and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which protects the rights of a diplomat on the territory of another country. Ukraine cannot ignore such illegal activities on its territory.”
The second investigation is into the purported Russian hack of Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company where Hunter Biden served on the board.
Yovanovitch, who served as ambassador under Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump until 2019, was recalled last May following allegations from conservative media, boosted by Donald Trump Jr., that she was undermining the administration.
In an explosive interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Wednesday night, in which Parnas alleged that President Donald Trump and other top administration figures knew about the pressure campaign on Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, Parnas said he considered Hyde’s threat unserious. “I don't believe it's true,” Parnas told Maddow. “He was either drunk or trying to make himself bigger than he was, so I didn't take it seriously, and if you see, I didn't respond most of the time.”
Hyde, who has denied he was serious, tweeted on Thursday morning that Congress should instead investigate the Biden family and Yovanovitch:
The Ukrainian government said its investigation will determine whether those claims should be considered serious.
“Our goal is to investigate whether there were any violations of Ukrainian and international laws,” the Ukrainian government said. “Then there must be an appropriate response. Or maybe it was just bravado and fake conversation between two US citizens.”
In addition to opening the investigation into possible surveillance of Yovanovitch, Ukrainian authorities said on Thursday that they had approached the FBI for help in investigating the Burisma hack. Earlier this week, California cybersecurity firm Area 1 attributed the hack to the Russian military intelligence agency GRU, which was behind the 2016 cyber-breach of the Democratic National Committee.
The CEO of Area 1 told VICE News following the release of the report that he was “100% sure” the attack came from the Russian government.
Unfortunately for Trump, the Ukrainian investigations are far from the only thing he has to worry about. On Thursday morning, the Government Accountability Office found that the White House budget office broke the law in withholding military aid to Ukraine.
Cover: U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to speak at the National Association of Realtors Legislative Meeting and Trade Expo in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, May 17, 2019. (Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool via Bloomberg)