Never met Lev Parnas, knew nothing about Yovanovitch tracking

WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday he knew nothing about alleged surveillance of former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch by associates of Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer.

“I’d never heard about this at all,” Pompeo told Hugh Hewitt, a conservative talk radio host. “Until the story broke, I had, to the best of my recollection, had never heard of this at all.”

The allegations emerged Tuesday, when House Democrats released text messages and documents suggesting that Lev Parnas, a Giuliani associate, discussed tracking Yovanovitch in March 2019. 

The text messages show Parnas communicating with Robert Hyde, a pro-Trump congressional candidate in Connecticut who claimed to have Yovanovitch under surveillance. In March, Parnas sent Hyde articles critical of Yovanovitch. Hyde responded, “Wow. can’t believe Trumo [sic] hasn’t fired this b****.”

Hyde also sent Parnas a series of messages suggesting he had hired people in Ukraine to surveil the ambassador and was getting updates about her whereabouts and activities. “She’s talked to three people. Her phone is off. Computer is off,” Hyde wrote in one message. In another: “They will let me know when she’s on the move.”

The State Department had previously not answered any questions about the new evidence, even as Ukrainian officials launched an investigation into the allegations.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, arrives to conduct briefings for members of Congress on last week's targeted killing of Iran's senior military commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) ORG XMIT: DCMC119

In a statement Thursday, Ukraine’s interior ministry said it did not want to interfere in U.S. domestic affairs, but it could not ignore potentially illegal activities and needed to protect the rights and safety of foreign diplomats deployed on its soil.

Ukraine’s investigation intends to determine whether “there actually was a violation” or “just bravado and fake information during informal conversation between two U.S. citizens,” the statement said.

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