Former US Ambassador in Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, on whose testimony Democrats are relying to proceed with impeaching Donald Trump over abuse of power allegations, has given her account of her removal from the post in May 2019 and subsequent events.
Speaking about the events running up to her leaving the post in Ukraine, the career diplomat accused Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani of involvement in a “smear campaign'', supported by Donald Trump Jr.
According to Yovanovitch, her dismissal had played into the hands of “shady interests the world over” with dangerous intentions toward her homeland.
“Shady interests the world over have learned how little it takes to remove an American ambassador who does not give them what they want,” she said in her opening remarks.
Betrayal in Department of State?
At the same time, she slammed her former superiors at the State Department for failing to criticise “attacks” against her.
“I remain disappointed that the Department's leadership and others have declined to acknowledge that the attacks against me and others are dangerously wrong,'' the career diplomat noted, praising, however, her colleagues who served irrespective of the occupant of the White House, including diplomats killed in Benghazi or tortured in Iran.
No Taking Sides
Yovanovitch, who is from an immigrant family from the former Soviet Union, also denied allegations that she favored Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, in which she was defeated by Trump. She also refuted accusations about the “Do Not Prosecute'' list that she allegedly passed to former top prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, saying it is a “fabrication.”
Trump’s ‘Intimidating’ Remarks
She also gave her account about the day when she had read the White House's rough transcript of the commander-in-chief's conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which prompted the impeachment inquiry.
According to her, another person had said, “The color drained from my face.” She also added, “Even now words fail me.”
Moreover, she complained that President Donald Trump’s remarks, in which he promised that “she's going to go through some things,” sounded like “a threat” to her.
“It didn't sound good,” she said during the public questioning.
She added that the effect of these comments “is very intimidating” for both her and those who could publicly counter corruption.
Trump Chimes In
Although Trump’s Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said that her boss would be too busy “working hard for the American people” to follow the hearings, POTUS took to Twitter to castigate Yovanovitch while she spoke to the investigators.
“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a US President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors,” he tweeted.
He also said that he had the right to pull her out of Ukraine, adding, “They call it “serving at the pleasure of the President,” while at the same time taking aim at Barack Obama’s foreign policy.
....They call it “serving at the pleasure of the President.” The U.S. now has a very strong and powerful foreign policy, much different than proceeding administrations. It is called, quite simply, America First! With all of that, however, I have done FAR more for Ukraine than O.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2019
The president's tweet did not go unnoticed in the House, as the chairman of the intelligence committee, Democrat Adam Schiff, read it out loud, claiming it was part of a “witness intimidation” campaign.
“Ambassador Yovanovitch, as we sit here testifying, the president is attacking you on Twitter. What effect do you think that has on other witnesses' willingness to come forward and expose wrongdoing?'' he said.
Her reply was: “Well, it's very intimidating.”
The White House argued it was not the case.
“The tweet was not witness intimidation, it was simply the President’s opinion, which he is entitled to,” Stephanie Grisham said. “This is not a trial, it is a partisan political process,” she added.
US House Democrats launched an impeachment probe into Trump, who denies any wrongdoing, on 24 September, following claims by an alleged intelligence community whistleblower that he had threatened to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky investigated former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter during a phone conversation that took place on 25 July. The congressional public impeachment hearing, the first one in 20 years, began on Thursday.