Dutch Trump supporter Anthony de Caluwe (pictured) has admitted to texting Republican congressional candidate Robert Hyde about the location of former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch - but claims those messages were sent as a joke
A Dutch Trump supporter has admitted to texting a Republican candidate about the location of former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch - but claims those messages were sent as a joke.
Anthony de Caluwe initially denied involvement in an alleged surveillance operation targeting Yovanovitch after the congressional candidate, Robert F Hyde, identified him as the source of purported intelligence on the then-ambassador's movements last spring.
Text messages released last week by the House Intelligence Committee showed Hyde relaying information about Yovanovitch's whereabouts to Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Hyde claimed that he had received that information from de Caluwe and passed it along to Parnas, who supplied the messages to House officials leading an impeachment inquiry against President Trump.
De Caluwe branded Hyde's statements as 'incorrect' on Friday and claimed that the candidate had asked him for information about Yovanovitch and he declined to help.
'I informed him it's against the law,' de Caluwe told NBC News on Friday.
De Caluwe changed his tune after a new batch of texts released by House officials later that day appeared to corroborate Hyde's claim.
The texts include screenshots of WhatsApp messages about Yovanovitch's location that were send from a Belgian phone number to Hyde, who forwarded those screenshots to Parnas.
The phone number was partially redacted but the visible digits matched various online records for de Caluwe. The avatar in the WhatsApp profile also matched a photo on his Facebook page.
In a statement on Saturday, de Caluwe said he was not involved in any surveillance of Yovanovitch and that the messages with Hyde were merely 'ridiculous banter'.
'My engagement in this exchange with Rob is something that has no credibility,' de Caluwe said in the statement provided by spokeswoman Karyn Turk.
De Caluwe initially denied involvement in an alleged surveillance operation targeting Yovanovitch after Hyde identified him as the source of purported intelligence on the then-ambassador's movements last spring. Hyde and de Caluwe are pictured together in an undated Facebook photo
In a statement on Saturday, de Caluwe said he was not involved in any surveillance of Yovanovitch (pictured) and that the messages with Hyde were merely 'ridiculous banter'
He said he was 'apologetic for contributing to any confusion' by sending the messages about Yovanovitch.
'My friendship with Rob was jovial and this exchange was just a part of a ridiculous banter,' he said.
'Sometimes Rob's behavior was odd, nonsensical and often comical. I wasn't really sure what to make of this whole thing back then or now.'
Turk said de Caluwe embarked on a 'playful exchange' of messages with Hyde about Yovanovitch last year after seeing posts about the ambassador on his Facebook page.
'Anthony understands how these the exchanges released into media yesterday look,' Turk said.
'He has never had any contacts in the Ukraine. He is a citizen of the Royal Netherlands. He doesn't know Lev Parnes [sic]. He stated that he was not involved in any surveillance of any Americans at any point in time.'
Little is known about de Caluwe's background, but past online postings indicate he has worked on finance and renewable energy business ventures in Central America
Text messages released last week by the House Intelligence Committee showed Hyde (pictured with Trump) relaying information about Yovanovitch's whereabouts to Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani
Parnas (picture), who is facing charges for campaign finance violations, supplied his text exchanges with Hyde to House officials leading an impeachment inquiry against Trump
Little is known about de Caluwe's background, but past online postings indicate he has worked on finance and renewable energy business ventures in Central America.
He has apparently used the surnames Hemelrijk and Heavenrich.
The text messages between Hyde, de Caluwe and Parnas are now the focus of a state department inquiry into the alleged stalking and surveillance of Yovanovitch.
The diplomat was ousted from her job in Kyiv last May following an aggressive smear campaign orchestrated by Giuliani and his allies.
Giuliani has said he viewed Yovanovitch as an obstacle to his efforts to have Ukrainian authorities investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter's dealings in the country.
Speaking to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July, Trump called Yovanovitch 'bad news' and said that she would 'go through some things'.
That same phone call is at the center of a whistleblower complaint from a US intelligence official that sparked the House impeachment inquiry.
Hyde addressed the text messages in a video he posted online Friday
Hyde, who earlier said he was drinking when he exchanged messages with former Giuliani sidekick Parnas, addressed the text messages in a video he posted online Friday.
'Anthony De Caluwe, go look into him, my other side of my text messages,' he said in the video as he sat on a plush brown couch.
'And why don't you ask them guys. Because it was just copy and paste bulls*** that from some intel guy probably that was f***ing with me. Trying to set Trump up. And I'm sure if I disappeared or died or they gag-ordered me, they were going to use me as a smoking gun. Some bulls*** like I have these Ukrainian ties,' he said.
Hyde, a Connecticut congressional candidate and who has donated to Trump and been photographed golfing with him, repeatedly attacked Rep. Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman and impeachment manager who is bringing two impeachment articles against him in the Senate.
'Adam Schiff is a horrible person. Do the math. I'm Rob Hyde. That guy's been nothing but a piece of Schiff forever,' he said, using a Trump quip.
'Ask him for the other side of my text messages since he likes to provide and spy on Americans … Who was I talking to that was providing me this intel? Ask him. Come on Adam Schiff!'
He continued: 'Who was providing me that intel of me and the Ukraine spying on Marie Yavonovitch. Please. Who? You're a scumbag Adam Schiff. The world knows it. And the world's going to figure it out. You're nothing but a piece of Schiff.'
'Adam Schiff put out the other transcripts for the guy I was talking to that I think Adam Schiff put there to f*** with me. So why doesn't everybody look at Anthony De Caluwe or whatever the heck his name is. Works for government departments - whatever he is,' Hyde rants in the video. 'Because honestly, I have no ties to Ukraine. I don't even know if Lev's Ukrainian, but he's probably the only