HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Before emerging as a figure in the impeachment proceedings, Robert F. Hyde was known best in Connecticut as an obscure Republican candidate for Congress censured by his own party’s leaders for offensive and misogynistic tweets.
Hyde, a former landscaping company owner who presents himself on social media as an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump, made headlines Tuesday when House Democrats’ released text messages between Hyde and Lev Parnas, a close associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. In the messages, Hyde disparages U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and purportedly gives Parnas updates on her location and cellphone use.
While it remains unclear how he first connected with Parnas, a review of court records and police reports depict a man who struggled with extensive financial and legal problems, including police concerns about his mental health and debt racked up at the Trump National Doral Resort in Florida.
In June, Connecticut State Police required that he turn over three rifles, two shotguns and nearly 400 rounds of ammunition because of a protection order, according to records from the Simsbury Police Department. It’s unclear what led to the protection order. A week later, records show members of a Simsbury church asked police to tell Hyde not to return because of his “unsettling behavior and political campaigning,” accusing him of taking videos of himself in and around the church for political purposes and later posting them on social media.
In May, police escorted Hyde from Trump National Doral after he reported that a hit man was “out to get him.” Hyde was transported for evaluation under a law that allows people to be detained if their mental state is such that they might harm themselves or others.
The communications released Tuesday raise questions about whether Hyde was involved in possible surveillance of Yovanovitch.
“She’s talked to three people. Her phone is off. Her computer is off,” Hyde allegedly texted to Parnas, adding that Yovanovitch was under heavy security.
“We have a person inside,” a text message read. With another saying, “guess you can do anything in Ukraine with money ... is what I was told.”
Parnas allegedly texted back: “lol.”
Previously, the most statewide news coverage Hyde, 40, garnered occurred last month, when he was urged by GOP legislative leaders to drop out of the race for Congress after posting an offensive tweet with sexual innuendo about California Sen. Kamala Harris, following her decision to drop out of the presidential race.
U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, the incumbent 5th Congressional District Democrat Hyde hopes to challenge in November, said after Tuesday’s disclosure that it was “deeply disturbing.”
“I cannot believe this is coming from my own district,” she said.
Calls seeking comment from Hyde were met with a message that said “Senator Hyde” had a mailbox that was full. But in an interview Wednesday evening with “America This Week with Eric Boiling,” a Sinclair Broadcast Group program, Hyde denied he was part of a surveillance of Yovanovitch, laughing at the suggestion and telling Boiling he thought he was in Ecuador when the two were texting.
“It was just colorful. We were playing. I thought we were playing,” Hyde said of his conversations with Parnas. “I didn’t know he was so serious.”
But in an interview with Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, aired Wednesday night, Parnas said he never believed Hyde’s texts about Yovanovitch were credible and didn’t think her safety was at risk.
“I think he was either drunk or he was trying to make himself bigger than he was, so I didn’t take him seriously,” said Parnas, who noted he gave Hyde only abbreviated responses and eventually “cut him off.”
Hyde, who acknowledged in the Sinclair interview to having “a few pops back when I used to drink” with “characters” he met at political fundraisers and events, said he plans to continue his run for the U.S. House of Representatives. Besides running for the U.S. House of Representatives, records show he also hopes to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal in 2022.
Hyde, who has received thousands of critical messages on Twitter since Tuesday’s revelations, has used the controversy to try to raise cash for his struggling campaign. He tweeted Wednesday: “Great stories and accusations. ... Please consider making a contribution to my campaign,” with a fundraising link.
JR Romano, the state’s GOP chairman, said he didn’t know Hyde when the political newcomer contacted him last year, expressing a desire to run for Congress. A big supporter of Trump, records show he has contributed more than $56,000 to political campaigns since 2016, much of it to the Republican National Committee. Romano said the Connecticut GOP returned any contributions Hyde had made to the state party after the offensive tweet about Harris.
Romano said Wednesday he has asked Hyde to end his bid for Congress.
Hyde’s twitter feed features selfies with Trump, Trump family members, Trump confidant Roger Stone, Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and others. He’s made references to Democrats as “terrorists” and journalists as “scumbags.”
His personal woes included battles over child support, writing in August that his payments should be reduced because he had not been employed for eight months.
Documents from Hyde’s family court case include emails from the Trump National Doral Resort in Florida, dated in September and October, telling Hyde he was past due on a bill of $4,666.38. The emails indicate Hyde attempted to pay for at least part of the bill with “mini-bar credits” he claimed he was owed dating back three years. The resort wrote that the credit program was no longer in existence and told Hyde they would turn the bill over to a collection agency if he did not settle it. It’s not clear if that dispute was resolved.
A cease and desist letter from a political consulting firm, also contained in the Family Court file, indicates Hyde tried to use a credit card from that company, A10 Associates, in December 2018 to pay for thousands of dollars of charges at Doral. That letter accuses Hyde of disparaging the company to its clients and using vulgar and misogynistic language to describe its chief executive.