Impeachment Briefing: The Opening Ceremony
This is the Impeachment Briefing, The Times’s newsletter about the impeachment investigation. after reports that allies of Mr. Trump had the American ambassador under surveillance. The news came after days of eye-opening revelations related to documents from Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani, that Democrats say call for more attention in the trial. Here’s a rundown of how we got here.
House impeachment investigators released a cache of text messages, photos and calendar entries that were turned over by Mr. Parnas and his lawyer. We saw text messages showing Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, referring to an effort to obtain a visa for a former Ukrainian official who leveled corruption allegations against Joe Biden. The documents also contain a series of exchanges between Mr. Parnas and a Ukrainian prosecutor helping Mr. Giuliani unearth damaging information about the Biden family.
The new evidence also showed that the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine might have been under surveillance. In a series of cryptic text messages, Mr. Parnas talked to a man named Robert Hyde, who appeared to be monitoring the movements of the ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, whom Mr. Trump recalled under mysterious circumstances. F.B.I. agents have visited Mr. Hyde’s home and business, according to a law enforcement official.
Mr. Parnas said he was “betting my whole life” that Mr. Trump knew about Mr. Giuliani’s activities in Ukraine. In an interview with The Times, Mr. Parnas expressed regret for having trusted Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani. His lawyer said he was eager to cooperate with federal prosecutors in New York who are investigating Mr. Giuliani.
Ukraine said that the alleged surveillance was a possible violation of domestic and international law. The Internal Affairs Ministry said in a statement that “the published messages contain facts of possible violations of Ukrainian law and of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, which protect the rights of diplomats on the territory of another state.”
Mr. Parnas could be a part of the trial. Mr. Schiff said Thursday that House impeachment managers would consider whether to press the Senate to call Mr. Parnas to testify.
What else we’re reading
The Government Accountability Office said that the Trump administration violated the law in withholding security aid to Ukraine. The agency said the Office of Management and Budget violated the Impoundment Control Act when it withheld nearly $400 million for a “policy reason,” even though the funds had been allocated by Congress.
Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican, indicated that she would be inclined to vote to allow new witness testimony, but only after opening arguments and senatorial questions were completed.
Mr. Trump had some (factually questionable) thoughts on Thursday’s action in the Senate chamber:
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