Before this week, Robert F. Hyde was known as a challenger for the Republican nomination for a US congressional seat from northwestern Connecticut.
Now, new documents publicly released Tuesday reveal Hyde as the newest figure caught up in the Ukraine scandal.
Text messages show Hyde was involved in efforts to surveil and remove former US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch from her post in Kiev.
Hyde calls himself an “ardent” supporter of President Donald Trump and has donated $25,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee, according to records published by Open Secrets. He has also given over $30,000 to the Trump campaign and other Republican political groups, according to federal records.
Hyde’s social media posts are littered with photographs of him with Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, Trump and the President’s close allies.
In a photo published by the Connecticut Post, Hyde posed for a selfie with Trump on April 21, 2019 — the same day Trump first called Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Hyde is one several GOP candidates hoping to unseat incumbent Democratic Rep. Jahana Hayes, though he has no endorsements, no staff and has not raised a significant amount of money for his campaign.
J.R. Romano, state chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party, called for Hyde to drop out.
“It’s not helpful to the President. It’s not helpful to other Republican candidates,” Romano told CNN. “And it provides an opportunity for Democrats to raise money. It allows the opposition to label all Republicans with these comments.”
Hyde served in the Marine Corps and is a veteran of the Iraq war, his campaign website says. According to an official Department of Defense record, Hyde spent some time in the Marine Corps Reserve and was on active duty from February to June 1999. It was not immediately clear why his active duty time was only five months.
His LinkedIn page says he ran a construction company in Connecticut for about 16 years. He claims the company helped build the Connecticut home of rapper 50 Cent.
Though public records indicate he has never registered as a lobbyist or as a foreign agent, Hyde has touted his lobbying firm, Finley Hyde & Associates, LLC, as having reach to “all the ‘Corners of Congress’ including the most progressive to the most conservative members on both sides of the aisle, both chambers, the executive branch, and to key state and local government officials across the nation,” according to the firm’s website.
The site shows photos of Hyde alongside Trump (twice), Vice President Mike Pence, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, and boasts that the firm has worked with more than a dozen federal departments including commerce, defense, education, homeland security and transportation.
“Our representation has included leading foreign government allies of the U.S., political candidates, leading religious figures, including some of America’s most influential leaders, public and private corporations on public relation matters and a variety of public interest organizations as well as countless other concerns with political interests which are top of mind,” the site says.
Though the site says the company is based in Washington, DC, it provides no specific address. No one answered the phone number listed for the company on Wednesday.
Late last year, Hyde drew controversy for posting a crude and sexist tweet, which he later deleted, about former Democratic presidential candidate and California Sen. Kamala Harris.
In June, he was forced to surrender a number of guns as a result of a protective order that was being enforced by state police, according to a 2019 incident report from the Simsbury, Connecticut, police department. According to the report, Hyde said that he had called police to come and pick up the guns himself. A responding officer described Hyde as “very cooperative.”
There was no answer at Hyde’s two-story home Wednesday morning. On Hyde’s front door is a skull and crossbones logo that says “go away.” The door has a “beware of dog” sign, and there’s a small couch in front that says “no trespassing.”
‘No effing way’
FBI and Manhattan federal prosecutors are examining the role Hyde played surrounding the removal of Yovanovitch and his relationship to Parnas, according to a law enforcement official.
In the new batch of documents released Tuesday, Hyde sent Parnas text messages last year that appeared to discuss the whereabouts of Yovanovitch in Ukraine, according to House officials.
Using crude language, Hyde implied he or his allies were monitoring Yovanovitch in Kiev, and suggested to Parnas that she should be removed from her position.
Parnas’ attorney Joseph Bondy told CNN “We completely categorially deny that Lev was involved in any activities with Hyde to surveill the ambassador and try to harm the ambassador. We believe Mr Hyde’s activities to be a reflection on his dubious mental state.”
As of Wednesday morning, the State Department has not commented on matters related to the Hyde text messages and Yovanovitch’s call for an investigation.
When asked Tuesday by CNN if he had offered to harm Yovanovitch, Hyde replied, “No effing way.” He told CNN he has not heard from federal prosecutors and declined to comment when asked about the House Democrats’ statement that the texts suggested Hyde had Yovanovitch under physical surveillance.
In a Wednesday appearance on CNN affiliate Sinclair’s show “America This Week,” Hyde was asked whether he had eyes on Yovanovitch and said, “Absolutely not.”
“You meet a bunch of these characters when you’re out there in the fundraising at events and supporting candidates,” Hyde told host Eric Bolling. “And you know, we just had some colorful texts, you know, had a few pops way back when.”
Hyde called Parnas’ assertions that he had been involved in watching Yovanovitch “pretty heavy accusations,” adding that “it was just colorful — we were playing, I thought we were playing. I didn’t know he was, I didn’t know he was so serious.”
Hyde asserted that he “was told long time ago just, who Lev was by a lot of people down in communities throughout this country, would pull me aside and have meetings with me and tell me to stay away from the guy.”
“I mean honestly I’d never, I was never a close associate of Lev Parnas,” he added. “Did I like his character and did we have a lot of laughs, and joke a little bit? Of course, but to try to throw me under a bus somehow, to be some kind of, joking around on WhatsApp is just kind of ,” he said, trailing off before addressing another subject.
Yovanovitch’s corner office at the embassy in Ukraine is visible from outside the embassy and someone could be tipped off to keep an eye on the movements inside that office, three sources told CNN.
There are apartment buildings close by where someone could see into the office. The blinds are not normally drawn, but they are when the ambassador is having particular meetings or conversations. The embassy is aware that the office is visible in broad daylight from the outside.
Yovanovitch, like all other US ambassadors to Ukraine, traveled with security so it was clear when she is moving from one place to another. This also meant that a security team was always watching her surroundings. The ambassador’s residence is about 30 minutes from the embassy.
It is next to a church and a construction site and there is a hill behind the residence. It would be possible to surveil the residence but it would be more challenging, one of the sources explained.
US embassy personnel always assume they are being monitored and that includes conversations on their cell phones, the sources explained. They were aware that local Ukraine security was always tracking them, and do not count out the possibility that someone from a local cell phone company could be paid off to track a certain cell phone and if it was putting out a signal.
Yet the text messages between Hyde and Parnas were particularly horrifying to diplomats, given what appeared to be the intention behind the alleged tracking. “That really did sound like a threat,” said one US diplomat who has worked in Ukraine after reading the texts.
Still, Bill Taylor — who led the US embassy in Ukraine and served as a key witness in the House impeachment inquiry — and other US diplomats never met Hyde and hadn’t heard of him until Tuesday, three sources told CNN.
This story has been updated with additional information about Hyde.