11/15/2019 1:12:00 PM Trump: Everywhere Yovanovitch served 'turned bad'
WASHINGTON (AP) — Former U.S. Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch provided chilling detail today in Trump impeachment hearings of being suddenly ousted from her post and feeling threatened upon learning President Donald Trump had denounced her in a July phone call with Ukraine’s president. In that call, Trump assailed her as “bad news” and said she was “going to go through some things.”
In an extraordinary moment, even in an administration filled with them, Trump himself went after her again as she spoke, tweeting from the White House that everywhere she served had “turned bad.” He emphasized that as president he had the “absolute right” to appoint his own ambassadors.
Yovanovitch was testifying on the second day of public impeachment hearings into Trump, just the fourth time in American history that the House of Representatives has launched such proceedings. The investigation centers on whether Trump’s push for Ukrainian officials to investigate his political rivals amounted to an abuse of power, a charge he and Republicans vigorously deny.
After Trump’s tweet on Friday, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee swiftly intervened, halting the questioning to read the president’s comments out loud to the witness — and Americans following the hearing — during a live broadcast across the country.
“Ambassador Yovanovitch, as we sit here testifying, the president is attacking you on Twitter,” said Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California. “What effect do you think that has on other witnesses’ willingness to come forward and expose wrongdoing?”
“Well, it’s very intimidating,” she said.
Said Schiff, “Well, I want to let you know, Ambassador, that some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously.”
Rather than distract from the career diplomat’s testimony, Trump’s interference could provide more evidence against him in the probe. Later, Democrats said an allegation of witness intimidation could become an obstruction of justice charge in the impeachment probe.
In her testimony, Yovanovitch described a “smear campaign” against her by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and others, including the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., before her firing.
She told the lawmakers her sudden removal had played into the hands of “shady interests the world over” with dangerous intentions toward the United States.
She recalled that as she had read the White House’s rough transcript of Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, another person had said, “The color drained from my face.”
She said quietly, “Even now words fail me.”
Her removal from her post is one of several events at the center of the impeachment effort.
“These events should concern everyone in this room,” the diplomat testified in opening remarks. “Shady interests the world over have learned how little it takes to remove an American ambassador who does not give them what they want.”
Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the panel, said she was “too tough on corruption for some, and her principled stance made her enemies.”
It became clear, he said, “President Trump wanted her gone.”
The top Republican on the panel, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, bemoaned the hearings as a “daylong TV spectacle.”
Nunes complained that Democrats are relying on hearsay testimony from witnesses who only know of Trump’s actions second-hand, and Republicans noted during questioning that Yovanovitch had left her position before the July phone call.