FBI agents on Thursday visited the Connecticut home and landscaping business of Robert Hyde, a Republican congressional candidate whose purported surveillance of the U.S. ambassador in Ukraine last year has become an issue in the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
The visit came on the same day that Ukraine officials said they had opened an investigation of Hyde’s claims to Lev Parnas, a then-associate of Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, that he was tracking the movements of American ambassador Marie Yovanovitch last year when she was still posted in Kyiv.
Parnas and Giuliani last year were engaged in an effort to oust Yovanovitch as part of a broader push to get Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, the current front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The Senate on Thursday began its impeachment trial of Trump. The House of Representatives a month earlier impeached the president in connection with his witholding of congressionally appropriated military aid to Ukraine while he was pressuring that country’s new president to announce a probe of Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukraine gas company.
A senior law enforcement official told NBC News that FBI agents visited Hyde’s home in Simsbury, and his business in Avon on Thursday morning. Hyde’s congressional campaign is headquarted in the same office as his landscaping company.
The official said the visits were not to conduct a court-authorized search but did not elaborate on the FBI’s reason for the visit.
A neighbor of Hyde told NBC that one FBI agent arrived at Hyde residence before dawn and parked on the street in front of the home.
The neighbor spoke to the FBI agent and said to the best of his knowledge, the agent did not enter Hyde’s home.
CNN first reported the FB visits.
A message for Hyde left by CNBC was not immediately returned.
The FBI declined to comment.
Officials at the police departments in Avon and Simbsury told CNBC they did not know about the FBI visits to Hyde’s addresses in those towns.
Hyde’s communications with Parnas were disclosed in a set of documents released Tuesday by House Democrats as part of the impeachment process. Parnas, who has been criminally charged with campaign finance violations, turned over those documents to the House.
In a March 23 text message to Parnas, Hyde had written of Yovanovitch, “Wow. Can’t believe Trumo [sic] hasn’t fired this b—-. I’ll get right in that.
“She [sic] under heavy protection outside Kiev,” Hyde texted.
He went on to describe Yovanovitch’s location, her communications and her security level.
Hyde has denied spying on Yovanovitch, saying his comments in text messages to Parnas about her alleged movements were made in jest and while he was drinking alcohol.
Hyde, in a Sinclair Media interview that aired Wednesday, said, “I thought we were playing.”
“It’s kind of unfortunate the left had to get their panties in a bunch,” Hyde said.
But House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-New York, on Wednesday demanded documents from the State Department related to any possible threats that Hyde posed to Yovanovitch, who had been recalled from Kyiv in May.
In a letter to Under Secretary of State Brian Bulatao, Engel wrote, “Mr. Hyde claimed in one message to have ‘a person inside,’ presumably in the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, who is ‘willing to help if we/you would like a price.’ “
“The strong implication from these messages is that someone with detailed knowledge of the Ambassador’s whereabouts and security protocols was providing that information in real time to Mr. Hyde,” Engel wrote.
“I cannot overstate the profound security risk that this poses to the U.S. mission and our interests in Ukraine.”
Parnas, in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Wednesday, called Hyde a “weird” man whom he first met at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Parnas said in the same interview that he did not believe that Hyde was actually surveilling.
“I think he was either drunk or he was trying to make himself bigger than he was, so I didn’t take it seriously,” Parnas said.
Connecticut Republican Party Chairman J.R. Romano urged Hyde to end his congressional campaign, saying his antics are not helping Trump.
“His campaign is a distraction for the Democrats to raise money and falsely label all Republicans with his antics,” Romano tweeted.