Ousted envoy recalls horror after Trump denounced her

Published November 16, 2019
Washington: Marie Yovanovitch, a former US ambassador to Ukraine, takes oath before her testimony.—Reuters
Washington: Marie Yovanovitch, a former US ambassador to Ukraine, takes oath before her testimony.—Reuters

WASHINGTON: Former US Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch provided chilling detail in Trump impeachment hearings on Friday of the threat she felt upon suddenly being ousted from her post and learning President Donald Trump had denounced her in his 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.

Rather than distract from the career diplomats somber but powerful testimony, Trumps interference could provide more evidence against him in the probe.

It's very intimidating, Yovanovitch said when Trumps new tweet was shown on a screen in the hearing room. "I can't speak to what the president is trying to do, but I think the effect is to be intimidated." Democrats strongly agreed.

I want you to know that some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously, said Rep. Adam Schiff, Intelligence Committee chairman who displayed Trumps attack.

During the second day of public hearings in the impeachment inquiry, Yovanovitch described a smear campaign against her by Trumps personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and others, including the presidents 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 Houses rough transcript of Trumps conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, another person said, The color drained from my face. She said quietly, Even now words fail me.

Her removal 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.

The daughter of immigrants who fled the former Soviet Union and Nazi German, she described a 33-year career, including three tours as an ambassador to some of the worlds tougher postings, before arriving in Ukraine in 2016. She was forced out in May 2019.

She denied the accusations against her, including that she favored Democrat Hillary Clinton over Trump in the 2016 election and that she circulated a Do Not Prosecute list to former top prosecutor in Ukraine, Sergiy Lutsenko, which she called a fabrication.

Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the panel, opened the days hearing saying 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 Trumps actions second-hand. He also pressed to hear from the still anonymous government whistleblower who first alerted officials about President Donald Trumps phone call with Ukraine that is in question. These hearings should not be occurring at all, he said.

But one Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, said Trumps live tweeting at the ambassador was wrong. She said, I don’t think the president should have done that.

Just as the hearing was opening, the White House released its rough transcript of an earlier call Trump had with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that was largely congratulatory.

Nunes read that transcript aloud. In it, Trump mentioned his experience with the Miss Universe pageant in Ukraine and invited Zelenskiy to the White House. He closed with, See you very soon.

Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2019

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