The ongoing Ukraine scandal reached a new fever pitch this week with the release of disturbing text messages suggesting that associates of personal Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani had Marie Yovanovitch under surveillance when she was still U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. Now, the Ukrainian interior ministry has revealed that it’s opened a criminal investigation into the possible surveillance in light of legislation demanding general privacy protection and special protection for foreign diplomats in host countries. Yovanovitch’s attorney has insisted that U.S. authorities should also investigate, but it’s unclear what may emerge on that front. Trump appointees themselves currently lead the U.S. Justice Department, after all.
In the meantime, the Ukrainian interior ministry says:
‘Ukraine’s position is not to interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States of America. However, the published records contain the fact of possible violation of the legislation of Ukraine and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which protects the rights of a diplomat in the territory of another country.’
The evidence that has sparked this investigation includes text messages released by Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, who is facing a federal criminal case in the U.S. over a massive campaign finance law violation scheme. In the messages, he and Connecticut Republican Robert Hyde appear to be discussing Yovanovitch’s movements and activities, and at one point, Hyde even suggests that his apparent contacts in the country could “help… for a price.” Paired with President Donald Trump’s own personal insistence to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July of last year that Yovanovitch was “going to go through some things,” this situation appears to suggest that the president’s posse was planning some kind of harassment of Ambassador Yovanovitch — and she even testified that Ukrainian officials warned her of something like this.
Reminder that Yovanovitch testified that UKRAINIAN officials warned her that Guiliani and other associates “had plans, and that they were going to, you know, do things, including to me”. https://t.co/MG6Y5J1t9F
— Bianna Golodryga (@biannagolodryga) January 14, 2020
In addition to possible violation of protocols for hosting diplomats, Ukraine said the surveillance could have been in “Violation of the secrecy of correspondence, telephone conversations, telegraph or other correspondence” and constituted “Unlawful collection, storage, use of confidential information about a person, violation of privacy.”
There’s a deep irony in this investigation announcement. For months, Trump and his associates, including Giuliani and Parnas, tried to get Ukraine to publicly announce an investigation into Trump’s domestic political opponents. In the new evidence from Parnas, there’s a contemporaneous note outlining this exact plan. But now, Ukraine has publicly announced an investigation into the activities of Trump associates themselves.
There is the possibility that the talk of surveillance and some kind of mob-style harassment was “just bravado and fake in an informal conversation between two U.S. citizens,” the Ukrainian authorities noted. Hyde has dismissed questions about his seriousness and claimed he was bluffing, or something. Either way, Ukrainian authorities seem to be intending to get to the bottom of the situation, and they think “that the U.S. should be involved in the investigation,” ABC notes.
No matter whether or not that occurs, Trump will soon face a Senate impeachment trial following the transfer of the House impeachment case against him to the Senate this week. The impeachment case centers on those ultimately failed efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Trump’s opponents, which his team alleged that Yovanovitch stood in the way of.