But his behavior raises questions about his March 2019 claims that he had former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch under surveillance. Hyde made the claims in text messages to Lev Parnas, a Florida businessman who at the time was working with Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to get Yovanovitch removed from her post. The successful campaign against Yovanovitch is central to the impeachment case against Trump.
A lawyer for Parnas, Joseph Bondy, did not respond to requests for comment.
In a Facebook post Tuesday night, Hyde suggested that his claims of surveilling Yovanovitch were not serious. “I was never in Kiev,” he wrote. “For them to take some texts my buddy’s [sic] and I wrote back to some dweeb we were playing with that we met a few times while we had a few drinks is definitely laughable.”
Reached by text message, Hyde declined to answer questions, and instead said he would release a public statement at 7 p.m on Wednesday. In a television interview with Eric Bolling aired at that time, Hyde said he never surveilled Yovanovitch and that he was “joking around” in his messages with Parnas.
The outgoing voicemail message on his campaign phone number describes the line as belonging to “Senator Hyde,” and his campaign’s Twitter account features a header photo that spells “Congresss” with three s’s.
Those who have dealt with Hyde in recent years described his statements as unreliable and his behavior as troubling.
Jeffrey Peterson, a pro-Trump businessman, said Hyde traveled to meet him last year in Toronto, where Peterson is based. Over lunch at the building formerly branded as Trump Tower Toronto, Hyde pitched Peterson on services to help him grow his following on social media, where he has been a vocal supporter of Trump’s.
“He talks a big game, you know?” Peterson said. “He claims to be extremely close with the president.” Peterson recalled that during the meeting, Hyde fielded calls that he said were related to an upcoming visit to the White House bowling alley.
After the meeting, Peterson said, Hyde “disappeared off the face of the world for two months.” Then Peterson said he received a message from Hyde saying that he was in Venezuela hunting down corruption. Hyde also sent Peterson invoices for consulting work that was never performed, which Peterson ignored, he said.
One Republican operative, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Hyde described himself as the son of a billionaire but that his family story kept changing, leading the operative to conclude that Hyde was unreliable.
Last May, police took Hyde into protective custody at Trump’s Doral resort in Miami, according to a police report obtained by Mother Jones. The police report states that Hyde was claiming to be the target of a hit man and of surveillance by the Secret Service.
Around the time he was detained by police, Hyde was posting a bizarre, rambling message on social media and sending it by text message to acquaintances. The statement begins, “If something was to happen to me, connect the dots.”
It refers to his meeting with Peterson as well as a visit to the White House bowling alley, then proceeds to make a series of perplexing statements about several political operatives, Pence, members of Pence’s family, Venezuela and the CIA.
Hyde has also posted a photo of himself and Pence on LinkedIn with a caption, “There’s just something’s [sic] you wished you never donated to or met,” according to a screenshot provided by one of the recipients of Hyde’s rambling message.
A spokeswoman for Pence did not respond to a request for comment.
One person mentioned in Hyde’s rambling message sent POLITICO a restraining order they had been granted against Hyde by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, which found Hyde had committed stalking. The person said they had a brief business association with Hyde but had broken it off over erratic behavior and that Hyde lied on his congressional financial disclosure by describing himself as the president of their firm, a position the person claims Hyde never held.
The person requested their name be withheld out of fear for their physical safety and that of their family.