New Figure in Ukraine Scandal Was Taken Into Police Custody at Trump Resort Last Year

This landscaper-turned-lobbyist claimed the Secret Service and a hit man were after him.

Robert Hyde for Congress/Facebook

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On Tuesday evening, the House Intelligence Committee released a new batch of documents relating to the Ukraine scandal, and the material introduced a new player: Robert F. Hyde, a minor Republican lobbyist and avid Donald Trump supporter who is mounting an against the-odds congressional campaign in Connecticut.

The 40-year-old Hyde is a curious figure. In recent years, he has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Trump and the Republicans, as he has tried to establish himself as a Washington, DC lobbyist and public affairs operator. The former owner of a landscaping company, he was arrested in 2011 after his firm’s work led to a tree falling on power lines, according to CT Insider. (He has said the charges were later dropped and he paid a fine.) His Facebook, Instagram, and website pages feature a parade of photos of him posing with Trump and other notable Republicans, including Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Rep. Jim Jordan, now-convicted felon Roger Stone, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. A financial disclosure form he filed as a congressional candidate notes that he did public relations work for a mysterious Trump donor from China (whom he once introduced Trump to at Mar-a-Lago). In November, he texted a reporter for CT Insider pictures of himself with Rudy Giuliani and two Giuliani associates who have been indicted, Lev Parnas, and Igor Fruman. 

It is Hyde’s connection to Parnas that has landed him in the news, and a 2019 police report obtained by Mother Jones suggests that Hyde might have been a peculiar choice for Parnas to work with on his Giuliani-led Ukrainian op. The report notes that Hyde had a disturbing episode at a Trump resort for which he had to be taken into custody by police and brought to a medical facility under a state law that allows for involuntary confinement of people who might pose a risk to themselves. 

The new documents, which were provided to Congress this week by Parnas, raise the possibility that Giuliani’s pursuit of dirt on Joe Biden in Ukraine—a project in which he was assisted by Parnas and Fruman, two Florida businessmen who were each born in the Soviet Union—was somehow connected to an effort to help Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash escape a US indictment that alleged he had engaged in bribery. (Firtash now resides in Vienna, where he is fiercely fighting extradition to the United States.) The cache also included text messages from late March 2019 between Hyde and Parnas in which Hyde appears to be saying he was secretly monitoring the whereabouts of Marie Yovanovitch, then the US ambassador to Ukraine—whom Parnas, Fruman, and Giuliani had been trying to get fired. The messages from Hyde had a dark tone. One read, “It’s confirmed we have a person inside.” Another text from Hyde to Parnas said, “Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money.”

The texts do not show what exactly Hyde was referencing—and his public record does not hold clues as to what influence or connections he might have had in Ukraine. Reached by Mother Jones after the texts were released, Hyde would not explain the messages or say how he had hooked up with Parnas. NBC News reported that Yovanovitch is now calling for an investigation of whether her movements in Ukraine were monitored by Hyde.

It is not clear if Hyde had any other involvement in the Ukraine scandal or any other Parnas capers. (Parnas was indicted with Fruman in October for allegedly violating campaign finance law by making illegal donations to Republican candidates as part of a scheme to remove Yovanovitch at the request of one or more Ukrainian officials.) But weeks after Hyde sent these texts to Parnas, he was involved in a bizarre incident at one of Trump’s properties. 

According to an “incident/investigation” report filed by the Doral, Florida, police department, on May 16, 2019, an officer was dispatched to the Trump National Doral Miami to deal with a “male in distress fearing for his life.” That man was Hyde. The report noted that Hyde explained to the police officer that “he was in fear for his life, was set up and that a hit man was out to get him. Mr. Hyde spoke about e-mails he sent that may have placed his life in jeopardy. Mr. Hyde explained several times that he was paranoid that someone was out to get him.”

The report stated that Hyde cited “a variety of different names, contacts and provided information in reference to why he felt his life was in danger.” After being taken into custody by the police, according to the report, “Mr. Hyde continued to act paranoid telling us not to stop next to certain vehicles…[H]e explained that he was scared due to several painting workers and landscape workers trying to do harm to him because they weren’t working. Additionally Mr. Hyde explained that his computer was being hacked by Secret Service. And then went on to further explain that the secret service [sic] was arrival [sic] on the premises watching him.”

The police report said that “it was determined that Mr. Hyde was suffering from a [redacted],” that he was “transported to [redacted] for further evaluation,” and that a “crisis form was filled and filed.”

The report classified the incident as “Baker/Marchman Act.” In Florida, the Baker Act and the Marchman Act allow for holding people who might harm themselves involuntarily for assessment. (The Baker Act specifically refers to persons who might be suffering from a mental illness.) The report did not say what happened with Hyde after he was transported to the redacted location. But Hyde posted a note on Instagram stating that he had been “Baker Acted” for nine days and placed into “a facility” where his “mental, emotional, and physical self” were “pushed.” He noted that he had passed “all medicals, physicals, psych exams and diagnoses with flying colors.” Hyde, a former Marine, also wrote, “I’m not a traitor or a colluder or a conspiracy theorist.” And he added, “eff you and your intelligence agencies or whatever or whoever was or is effing with me.”

Asked about the police report and this episode, Hyde did not comment. On Tuesday night, he tweeted, “These are bad people, I’m out to expose their actions. Attack me all you want, get the facts first. The media is against me because they’re either complicit or have a hand in it, I welcome an investigation. I’ll provide my email password and hand my phone over, bring it on.”

Hyde is one of several Republicans vying to challenge incumbent Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.). Last month, prominent Republicans called on him to quit the race after he posted a crude and sexist tweet about Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). 

Hyde’s involvement in the still-murky Ukraine scandal adds another layer of mystery to the affair. Moreover, the release of the new Parnas documents shows that even as the impeachment case heads toward the Senate for trial, there is much about Trump’s and Giuliani’s Ukrainian skulduggery that remains unknown. 

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Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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