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WASHINGTON — House Democrats just unveiled a trove of fresh impeachment evidence against President Trump in a surprise move that came just days before his impeachment trial is set to kick off in the Senate.
The files include a copy of a letter from Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani addressed to Ukraine's president that casts Trump as fully aware of Giuliani’s actions in Ukraine — at a moment when Giuliani was publicly calling for that country to investigate Trump’s 2020 rival Joe Biden.
That letter from May 2019, which requests a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, directly links Trump to a trip Giuliani described at the time as “meddling in an investigation.”
“In my capacity as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent, I request a meeting with you on this upcoming Monday, May 13th or Tuesday, May 14th,” Giuliani wrote.
Republicans have repeatedly defended the president by arguing that the evidence and testimony in the impeachment hearings haven’t linked him closely enough to efforts by those around him, like Giuliani, to get Ukraine to announce an investigation into Biden. But the letter says explicitly that Giuliani had Trump’s full backing and consent, at a time when Giuliani told The New York Times: “I’m asking them to do an investigation.”
The disclosures deliver a large new pile of hard evidence to Democrats on the eve of their Wednesday vote to send articles of impeachment to the Senate for a trial. In December, the House voted to impeach Trump for abusing his office by pressuring Ukraine to announce an investigation of Biden and for obstructing the congressional investigation into what happened.
Giuliani’s letter and other documents released Tuesday were recently delivered to House Democrats by an embattled associate of his named Lev Parnas, a Ukranian-born businessman who helped Giuliani navigate the country and seek damaging information about Biden.
But Parnas’ alliances shifted after he was federally charged with campaign finance violations for allegedly orchestrating donations to GOP political campaigns on behalf of foreign interests. Parnas has pleaded not guilty. Now, his attorney is launching a public campaign to convince members of Congress to allow Parnas to testify. And that effort has included forwarding documents to Congress that corroborate his potential testimony.
Now, Democrats have begun to reveal just what Parnas gave them, which could spell fresh trouble for Trump at his impeachment trial.
Note to self: Get Investigation
The new records include an apparent memo, written by Parnas, about getting Zelensky to announce an investigation of Biden. It’s a rare hardcopy piece of evidence suggesting what the whole scheme was about.
“Get Zalensky (sic) to Annonce (sic) that the Biden case will Be Investigated,” the note reads.
The desire to kickstart an investigation was the same message Trump’s Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, testified that he delivered to the highest levels of Zelensky’s inner circle.
Sondland has said that he believed it wasn’t necessarily so important to Trump or Giuliani that the investigation actually be launched — but simply that it be announced. That’s prompted Democrats to suggest that Trump was never interested in fighting corruption, as his defenders have maintained, but rather in generating a scandal for his political enemy, Biden.
The documents also revealed new details surrounding efforts by Giuliani and others to have the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, removed.
The files include messages between Parnas and Robert F. Hyde, a Trump donor and GOP candidate for Congress, in which Hyde appears to suggest that Yovanovitch was under some kind of surveillance.
“We completely categorically deny that Lev was involved in any activities with Hyde to surveil the ambassador and try to harm the ambassador,” said Parnas' attorney Joe Bondy. “We believe Mr Hyde’s activities to be a reflection on his dubious mental state.”
Yovanovitch was recalled in a surprise move by Trump last spring, after a mysterious campaign of negative news in right-wing media outlets suggested she had been disloyal to Trump. Yovanovitch later said that after she learned Trump had called her “bad news” on the phone with Zelensky, and she worried the FBI might be investigating her.
In messages with Parnas sent in the spring of 2019, Hyde responded to negative articles about Yovanovitch by with: “Wow. Can’t believe Trumo [sic] hasn’t fired this bitch. I’ll get right in that.”
He then sent a series of messages that appear to suggest someone was watching her location, and a cryptic note saying: “They are willing to help if we/you would like a price.”
Hyde followed that up with: “Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money… what I was told.”
Parnas wrote back: “LOL.”
Cover image: President Donald Trump stands for the national anthem before the beginning of the College Football Playoff National Championship game between LSU and Clemson, Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)