Robert Hyde once said he was “never really into politics” until Donald Trump ran for president, but thanks to the impeachment saga, the two men may be inextricably linked.
Democrats are calling for an investigation into the actions of Hyde, a Republican congressional candidate and onetime landscaper, after the emergence of menacing-sounding messages he traded with Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani.
In the WhatsApp messages, which House Democrats released Tuesday night, Hyde, who is running for Congress in Connecticut, indicated that he was tracking the movements of Marie Yovanovitch in Kyiv when she was the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
Giuliani had been pushing to have Yovanovitch pulled from her post because he saw her as an impediment in his bid to get the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, a Trump rival.
“They are moving her tomorrow,” Hyde said in a message to Parnas on March 25.
“She’s talked to three people. Her phone is off. Computer is off,” he said in another. “She’s next to the embassy. Not in the embassy.”
Trump recalled Yovanovitch in May.
In a telephone interview with “America This Week with Eric Bolling,” Hyde, 40, said that he and Parnas were kidding around and that he wasn’t monitoring Yovanovitch in any way.
“We were playing. I thought we were playing. I didn’t know he was so serious,” Hyde said, adding, “It’s kind of unfortunate the left had to get their panties in a bunch.” He told NBC News on Tuesday that he had been drinking alcohol when he sent the messages.
Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, called the exchanges “profoundly alarming.”
“The messages suggest a possible risk to Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s security in Kyiv before she was recalled from her post last year,” Engel said. “These threats occurred at the same time that the two men were also discussing President Trump’s efforts, through Rudy Giuliani, to smear the ambassador’s reputation.”
Lawrence Robbins, an attorney for Yovanovitch, said Tuesday that “the notion that American citizens and others were monitoring Ambassador Yovanovitch’s movements for unknown purposes is disturbing.”
“We trust that the appropriate authorities will conduct an investigation to determine what happened,” he said.
Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.
Meanwhile, J.R. Romano, chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party, called on Hyde to end his campaign, saying his “antics” have become a distraction. “In my view he is not helping other Republican candidates or @realDonaldTrump win,” Romano tweeted.
Download the NBC News app for breaking news and politics
This isn’t the first time Hyde has run into legal trouble. His campaign website describes him as a “fierce supporter” of the Second Amendment, but he had his own guns taken away in June, The Associated Press reported, citing records from the Simsbury Police Department. He was required to turn over three rifles, two shotguns and nearly 400 rounds of ammunition because of a protection order, the report said.
Hyde is a former Marine who says on his campaign website that he served in Iraq, and he told Bolling that he was also deployed in North Korea. Records provided to NBC News by the Marine Corps show that Hyde served in the Marine Reserve for six years and won numerous medals, but they make no mention of deployments in Iraq or North Korea. The Marines said he was activated to support Operation Enduring Freedom, which was based in Afghanistan, in 2003 and 2004, and was also deployed in Bosnia and aboard the USS Henson.
Hyde didn’t return repeated requests for comment about his past.
The writer Rabia Kazan, president of the Middle East Women’s Coalition, a women’s rights activist group, said she dated Hyde briefly at the beginning of last year.
“I dated him for three weeks. And then after, I suffered for five months. He never stopped talking about me,” she said in an interview.
Kazan said they’d met at Trump’s hotel in Washington, a place she said he would frequent. She said that she confronted him in May about his continuing to talk to strangers about her and that he told her that he was worried that people were out to get him.
Hyde announced that he was running against Democrat Jahana Hayes in Connecticut’s 5th District in August after weighing a run for the Senate. Hyde told the Connecticut Post newspaper of Bridgeport last year that “I was never really into politics until Trump.”
But he’s gotten very into politics — and Trump’s world — since then. He began donating to Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee in September 2016, sometimes writing multiple checks a day.
The donations appear to have gotten him entry into Trump’s orbit. He has tweeted pictures and videos with the president at various events and posted pictures with the president’s adult children and various other Trump associates, including the self-described political dirty trickster Roger Stone.
Hyde ditched his landscaping company to open a “government and public relations” consulting company called Finley Hyde & Associates in December 2018. According to Hyde’s LinkedIn page, the company is on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, down the street from the White House.
The company’s website, which says the firm is “comprised of the best government relations advocates in America,” features numerous pictures of Hyde with a range of Republican politicians, including Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
“Our team has done it all, from managing high-profile local issues, to handling major public affairs projects in the U.S. and abroad,” the website says. A message left on the company’s voicemail wasn’t returned Wednesday.
Despite his business bravado, Hyde has run into financial trouble recently.
The mother of his 13-year-old son told the Hartford Courant last month that Hyde had been stiffing her on more than $2,000 in child support.
“He can’t even afford $100 a week in child support but he’s golfing with Trump,” the woman, Jennyfer Morin, told the paper.
Hyde on Wednesday tweeted a picture that appeared to be a notice from the state that he has paid all of his arrears.
Hyde also defaulted on a judgment in a lawsuit in February 2018 for failing to pay the $900-a-month rent for his landscaping business for eight months, court records show.
Those weren’t the end of his legal troubles.
The Courant reported that police removed him from the Trump National Doral Miami resort by police in May. He told the responding officer that “a hitman was out to get him” and that his computer had been hacked by the Secret Service, according to an incident report obtained by the paper.