From Little-Known Candidate For Congress To The Spotlight: Who Is Robert Hyde? Hyde says he was joking when he messaged an associate of Rudy Giuliani that he was tracking former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Now, U.S. and Ukrainian authorities are investigating.
NPR logo

From Obscurity To Impeachment Figure: Who Is Robert Hyde?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/797618715/797631366" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
From Obscurity To Impeachment Figure: Who Is Robert Hyde?

From Obscurity To Impeachment Figure: Who Is Robert Hyde?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/797618715/797631366" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to stay on the topic of impeachment. The saga has revealed a new character this week, Robert Hyde. He is a little-known landscaper and congressional candidate in a small Connecticut town. He somehow turned up among a cast of characters involved with the Trump administration's campaign to pressure Ukraine for an investigation of the Bidens. Now authorities in the U.S. and Ukraine have launched investigations into him. NPR's Bobby Allyn has been reporting from Simsbury, Conn., and brings us this report.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Earlier this week, not many people here in this community west of Hartford had ever heard of Rob Hyde, a 40-year-old former Marine who used to run a landscaping business. He's a fierce defender of President Trump, sometimes emphasizing his support with expletives or outlandish claims. He started attending Republican fundraisers in Washington and Florida and then launched his own bid for a U.S. House seat. Brad Karsky, who runs an Italian restaurant here, says Hyde used to be a bar-side regular.

BRAD KARSKY: He was a bigger-than-life kind of guy - pretty boisterous, outgoing kind of gentleman.

ALLYN: Karsky says Hyde was often talking about his time in the Marines as a security detail in Iraq.

KARSKY: He liked to be seen, and he would sit at the bar and was very vocal. When he was in the restaurant, everybody knew it.

ALLYN: Now the State Department, FBI and Ukraine's interior ministry also know about him. That's because a new data dump from House Democrats contain text messages between Hyde and indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas. In the texts, Hyde purports to be spying on then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

Ellen Retelle is a local educator who's been perplexed watching the latest chapter of the impeachment story reach this quiet New England community. Hyde, she says, won't be getting her vote for Congress.

ELLEN RETELLE: He seems unstable and unreliable and similar to a lot of the characters who are involved in this Ukrainian scandal on the peripheral edges that are doing some really odd things.

ALLYN: Records show he's racked up serious debt at the Trump National Doral Resort in Florida. He's posted selfies on his social media with Trump and other Republican officials. The local press has been chronicling a long history of financial and legal struggles. He's been in contact with NPR for days but refused to sit down for an interview. He did, however, talk to the Hartford Courant, which posted interview snippets on Twitter. All those surveillance texts, he says - it was a big joke.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROBERT HYDE: So when they're sending me these texts, and I'm, like, whatever, dude. Yeah - under surveillance. Just joking.

ALLYN: New documents show Hyde was in contact with an unidentified Belgium number and appeared to be passing along intel about the ambassador's whereabouts. But Hyde says he never meant for his messages to be taken seriously.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HYDE: Who would be surveilling a U.S. ambassador? Like, who could do it? Like, you can't that. I'm a Simsbury landscaper. I got into the politic games in D.C. on a national level - the swamp.

ALLYN: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo doesn't consider the texts a laughing matter. Pompeo told Sinclair Broadcast Group that he's dubious about the surveillance claims, but U.S. officials are still looking into it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE POMPEO: We will do everything we need to do to evaluate whether there was something that took place there. I suspect that much of what's been reported will ultimately prove wrong.

ALLYN: The state's GOP has asked Hyde to drop his congressional bid. But Hyde says he loves what Trump stands for and is keeping his candidacy alive.

Bobby Allyn, NPR News, Simsbury, Conn.

MARTIN: One more note about impeachment - tomorrow, we'll be checking back in with our impeachment expert, historian Timothy Naftali. We'll be asking him some of the questions you've been tweeting at us. So if you have questions about the upcoming Senate impeachment trial of President Trump, it's not too late to have them answered on the air. Are you curious about something that no one is talking about? Are you confused about the process or the next steps? You can tweet your questions to @npratc.

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.