Jan 16, 2020

Ukraine to investigate possible Yovanovitch surveillance

Photo: Andrew Harrer/AFP via Getty Images

Ukraine's Interior Ministry announced it is launching a criminal investigation into possible illegal surveillance of former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and the hacking of natural gas company Burisma Holdings, NBC News reports.

Why it matters: The decision comes two days after Democrats released documents that appear to show Lev Parnas, an associate of President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, indicating he discussed surveilling Yovanovitch in March 2019.

  • The FBI has been invited to participate in the investigation, AP reports.

The big picture per Axios' Alayna Treene: If anything comes of these investigations, it could give Democrats new ammunition as the Senate proceeds with its impeachment trial.

What they're saying: In a statement, the ministry said, "Ukraine's position is not to interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States of America," but the allegations of illegal surveillance could be a violation of Ukrainian and international law, per NBC.

Flashback:

  • Yovanovitch testified in November that she was the subject of a smear campaign spearheaded by Giuliani that led to her firing.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter, was a director of Burisma Holdings. The impeachment inquiry started following allegations that Trump threatened to withhold aid from Ukraine if they didn't investigate Burisma.

Go deeper: Yovanovitch urges Ukraine probe after Parnas phone records release

Go deeper

Lev Parnas: "Trump knew exactly what was going on" in Ukraine

Lev Parnas, a close Rudy Giuliani associate and central figure in the pressure campaign on Ukraine, told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow last night: "President Trump knew exactly what was going on. He was aware of all my movements. ... I wouldn't do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president."

Why it matters: If true, the claim presents detailed connective tissue between Parnas' activities in Ukraine and Trump.

Go deeperArrowJan 16, 2020

New Lev Parnas records detail Ukraine surveillance efforts, contact with Devin Nunes aide

Lev Parnas arrives at federal court on Dec. 17 in New York City. Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

The House Intelligence Committee released materials Friday provided by Lev Parnas, who investigators say acted as a "direct channel" between President Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani and individuals close to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Driving the news: The new materials detail conversations between Parnas and one of House Intelligence Ranking Member Devin Nunes' aides and highlight surveillance efforts against Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Nunes was one of the top investigators in Trump's impeachment probe.

Go deeperArrowJan 18, 2020

Reports: Marie Yovanovitch has retired from the State Department

Former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch has retired from the State Department, NPR first reported. The career diplomat remained on payroll since she was ousted from the department last year, per NPR.

Why it matters: During her closed-door deposition before House impeachment committees, Yovanovitch testified that President Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani led the smear campaign that led to her firing. Her ouster and testimony were key events leading to Trump's impeachment in the House.

State Department officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Go deeper: First casualty of impeachment war