A Florida-based Trump supporter who sent text messages suggesting that he was surveilling former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in Ukraine is apologizing for the exchanges and says they were part of “playful exchange” with another Trump backer.
Anthony de Caluwe emerged Friday as the latest figure involved in a possible surveillance campaign against Yovanovitch, one that has generated investigations from the Ukrainian national police and the U.S. State Department.
House Democrats released encrypted messages Wednesday and Friday that showed the possible spy effort. The first batch of records showed that Robert Hyde, a Republican congressional candidate, sent purported information about Yovanovitch in March 2019 to Lev Parnas, a former associate of Rudy Giuliani.
Parnas, who has been indicted on campaign finance charges, provided the documents to House Democrats. He worked closely with Giuliani to force Yovanovitch out of office. President Donald Trump recalled her on April 24, 2019, after an intense public pressure campaign Giuliani, Parnas and other Trump allies orchestrated.
Friday’s document dump showed that Hyde received the information that he passed to Parnas from a Belgian phone number.
“Nothing has changed she is still not moving they check today again,” read one of the messages sent to Hyde.
Another message suggested the sender had someone inside the U.S. embassy in Kyiv to keep track of Yovanovitch.
“It’s confirmed we have a person inside,” the message said.
Hyde identified de Caluwe as his source of information about Yovanovitch. He said in a video statement that he copy and pasted de Caluwe’s remarks and sent them to Parnas. He said he did not know whether de Caluwe was telling the truth, but he also suggested he was working with Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California.
De Caluwe told NBC News before the messages were released that he did not discuss Yovanovitch with Hyde. He now says he did send the messages to Hyde, albeit as a joke.
“My engagement in this exchange with Rob is something that has no credibility,” de Caluwe said in a statement issued to the Daily Caller News Foundation through his assistant, Karyn Turk. “My friendship with Rob was jovial and this exchange was just a part of a ridiculous banter.”
“I’m apologetic for contributing to any confusion through these communications,” he said.
De Caluwe, who says he is a Dutch citizen, said he has never met Schiff or Parnas. He said he met Hyde over their mutual support of Trump. Hyde has been a regular fixture at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., as well as at political events in Washington and Florida. De Caluwe’s Facebook also indicates intense support for Trump and Republicans.
Turk said that “Anthony understands how these the exchanges released into media yesterday look,” but that he “has never had any contacts in Ukraine.”
“He stated that he was not involved in any surveillance of any Americans at any point in time. Rob Hyde had been posting about Marie Yovanovitch on Facebook,” added Turk, a conservative media personality. “Regrettably that’s what began a playful exchange with Anthony about her whereabouts.”
Turk told the DCNF that the FBI has not contacted de Caluwe. Agents reportedly visited Hyde’s home and office Thursday.
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