Robert Hyde once said he was "never really into politics" until President Donald Trump, but thanks to the impeachment saga, the two men may be inextricably linked.
Democrats are calling for an investigation into the actions ofHyde, a Republican congressional candidate and onetime landscaper, after the emergence of menacing sounding messages he traded with an indicted associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
In the WhatsApp messages released by House Democrats Tuesday night, Hyde, who is running for Congress in Connecticut, indicated that he was tracking the movements of then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch in Kyiv.
Giuliani had been pushing to have Yovanovitch pulled from her post because he saw her as an impediment in his bid to get the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation into Trump rival Joe Biden.
"They are moving her tomorrow," Hyde said in one March 25, 2019 message to Parnas. "She's talked to three people. Her phone is off. Computer is off," he said in another. "She's next to the embassy. Not in the embassy."
Yovanovitch was recalled from her post by the president in May.
In a phone interview with "America This Week with Eric Bolling," Hyde, 40, said he and Parnas were kidding around and he was not monitoring Yovanovitch in any way. "We were playing. I thought we were playing. I didn't know he was so serious," Hyde said, adding "it's kind of unfortunate the left had to get their panties in a bunch." He told NBC News on Tuesday that he had been drinking alcohol when he sent the messages.
Rep. Eliot Engel, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the exchanges "profoundly alarming." "The messages suggest a possible risk to Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch's security in Kyiv before she was recalled from her post last year. These threats occurred at the same time that the two men were also discussing President Trump's efforts, through Rudy Giuliani, to smear the ambassador's reputation," Engel said.
Yovanovitch's lawyer Lawrence Robbins told NBC News on Tuesday that "the notion that American citizens and others were monitoring Ambassador Yovanovitch's movements for unknown purposes is disturbing. We trust that the appropriate authorities will conduct an investigation to determine what happened."
The chair of Connecticut GOP, meanwhile, called on Hyde to end his campaign, saying his "antics" have become a distraction. "In my view he is not helping other Republican candidates or @realDonaldTrump win," J.R. Romano tweeted.
This isn't the first time Hyde has run into legal trouble. His campaign website describes him as a "fierce supporter" of the Second Amendment, but he had his own guns taken away in June, the Associated Press reported, citing records from the Simsbury Police Department. He was required that he turn over three rifles, two shotguns and nearly 400 rounds of ammunition because of a protection order, the report said.
Hyde is a former Marine who says on his campaign website he served in Iraq, and he told Bolling he was also deployed in North Korea. Records provided to NBC News by the Marine Corps show Hyde served in the Marine Reserves for six years and won numerous medals, but make no mention of deployments in Iraq or North Korea. The Marines said he was activated to support Operation Enduring Freedom, which was based in Afghanistan, in 2003 and 2004, and was also deployed in Bosnia and aboard the USS Henson.
He did not return repeated requests for comment about his past.
Writer Rabia Kazan, president of the Middle East Women's Coalition a women's rights activist, told NBC News she dated Hyde briefly at the beginning of last year.
"I dated him for three weeks. And then after I suffered for five months. He never stopped talking about me," she said. Kazan said they'd met at Trump's hotel in Washington, a place she said he would frequent. She said she confronted him in May about his continuing to talk to strangers about her, and he told her that he was worried people were out to get him.
Hyde announced he was running against Democrat Jahana Hayes in Connecticut's Fifth District in August after initially weighing a run for the Senate. Hyde, a former Marine who says he served in Iraq, told the Connecticut Post last year that "I was never really into politics until Trump."
But he's gotten very into politics — and Trump's world — since. He began donating to Trump's campaign and the Republican National Committee in September of 2016, sometimes writing multiple checks per day.
The donations appear to have gotten him entry into Trump's orbit. He has tweeted pictures and videosof himself with the president at various events and posted pictures of himself with the president's adult children and various other Trump associates including self-described political dirty trickster Roger Stone.
Hyde ditched his landscaping company to open a "government and public relations" consulting company called Finley Hyde & Associates in Dec. 2018. According to Hyde's LinkedIn page, the company is located on Pennsylvania Ave., down the street from the White House.
The company's websitesays it's "comprised of the best government relations advocates in America," and features numerous pictures of Hyde with a range of Republican politicians, including Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
"Our team has done it all, from managing high-profile local issues, to handling major public affairs projects in the U.S. and abroad," the website says. A message left on the company's voicemail was not returned Wednesday.
Despite his business bravado, Hyde has run into some financial trouble recently.
The mother of his 13-year-old son told the Hartford Courant last month that Hyde had been stiffing her on over $2,000 in child support.
"He can't even afford $100 a week in child support but he's golfing with Trump," Jennyfer Morin told the paper.
Hyde on Wednesday tweeted a picture that appeared to be a notice from the state that he's since paid all of his arrears.
Hyde also defaultedon a suit defaulted in a lawsuit in Feb. 2018 for failing to pay his $900 a month rent for his landscaping business for eight months, court records show.
Those weren't the end of his legal troubles.
The Courant reported that in May, he was removed from the Trump National Doral Miami by police. He told the responding officer that "a hitman was out to get him" and that his computer had been hacked by the Secret Service, according to an incident report obtained by the paper.