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Texts Tie Nunes, Aid to Ukraine Plot   01/19 08:39

   New documents released by House Democrats suggest that Rep. Devin Nunes, the 
top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, was more deeply involved 
than was previously known in efforts by allies of President Donald Trump to dig 
up dirt in Ukraine on former Vice President Joe Biden.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- New documents released by House Democrats suggest that 
Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, was 
more deeply involved than was previously known in efforts by allies of 
President Donald Trump to dig up dirt in Ukraine on former Vice President Joe 
Biden.

   Democrats on the Intelligence Committee released a trove of text messages, 
photos and other documents Friday night as part of the impeachment inquiry. The 
materials were provided to the House by Lev Parnas, a Florida businessman who 
worked with Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to try to persuade the 
Ukrainian government to launch an investigation into Biden.

   Nunes initially denied knowing Parnas but has since been forced to admit the 
two had spoken. The messages released Friday show about 100 text messages 
traded over months between Parnas and the California Republican's staffer, 
Derek Harvey, a retired U.S. Army colonel. Harvey previously served at the 
White House on Trump's National Security Council.

   The months-long effort directed by Trump and Giuliani to prod Ukrainian 
officials to launch an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter's business 
dealings in Ukraine is at the core of the two impeachment articles against 
Trump passed last month in a largely party-line vote. The non-partisan 
Government Accountability Office ruled Thursday that the White House broke the 
law last summer when it withheld congressionally authorized security assistance 
to Ukraine, essential aid that Democrats allege was being held hostage pending 
the announcement of the investigations Trump sought.

   Parnas and his business partner, Igor Fruman, both U.S. citizens who 
emigrated from the former Soviet Union, were indicted last year on charges of 
conspiracy, making false statements and falsification of records. Prosecutors 
allege they made outsize campaign donations to Republican causes after 
receiving millions of dollars originating from Russia. The men have pleaded not 
guilty.

   Friday's document dump included dozens of texts exchanged between Parnas and 
Harvey last Spring over the encrypted messaging service WhatsApp. They show 
Parnas providing documents and helping set up meetings for Harvey with 
Ukrainians who have made unsubstantiated claims that as vice president Biden 
orchestrated the firing of a prosecutor who was investigating corruption 
allegations involving Burisma, a energy company where Hunter Biden served as a 
board member from 2014 to 2019.

   Among the documents Parnas sent to Harvey is a scan of the Ukrainian 
passport of Burisma's founder. The texts also show Harvey scheduling phone 
calls with Parnas and a face-to-face meeting at the Trump International Hotel 
in Washington.

   A spokesman for Nunes' congressional office did not respond to messages left 
by email and phone on Saturday.

   Phone records released by House Democrats in December showed several calls 
between Parnas and Nunes, who helped lead the Republican's defense of Trump 
during the House impeachment hearings.

   Nunes initially said he couldn't remember ever speaking with Parnas. But 
this week, after new documents were released showing additional contacts, Nunes 
said his memory had been jogged.

   "I checked it with my records and it was very clear --- I remember that 
call, which was very odd, random, talking about random things, and I said, 
'great,' you know, 'talk to my staff,' and boom, boom, boom," Nunes told Fox 
News on Wednesday. "That's just normal operating procedure."

   Last month, Nunes threatened to sue Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu if his fellow 
Californian didn't apologize for statements accusing him of conspiring with 
Parnas. After the new documents emerged, Lieu responded on Twitter: "Devin, I'm 
adding to my statement: 'Your pants are on fire.'" 

   The documents released late Friday included more text messages between 
Parnas and Robert F. Hyde, a Republican candidate for Congress from 
Connecticut, who claimed to be in contact with people in Kyiv who were 
conducting surveillance on former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch 
before she was ousted by the Trump administration last spring. 

   The messages included screenshots of exchanges between Hyde and a Dutch man 
named Anthony De Caluwe. Hyde denied he was actually tailing the ambassador.

   In a profanity-laced video posted online Friday, Hyde alleged the messages 
were probably "from some intel guy" who was "trying to set Trump up." "I'm sure 
if I disappeared or died or they gag-ordered me, they're going to use me as a 
smoking gun, some (expletive) like that I have Ukrainian ties." 

   FBI agents were observed visiting Hyde's home and business on Thursday, 
while police in Ukraine have opened an investigation into whether the U.S. 
ambassador was illegally surveilled.

   In a statement issued to The New York Times on Saturday, De Caluwe denied 
having any contacts in Ukraine and dismissed his exchange with Hyde was just 
"ridiculous banter."


(KR)

 
 
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