WASHINGTON — The former United States ambassador to Ukraine told the House impeachment inquiry on Friday that she felt threatened by President Trump and “shocked, appalled, devastated” that he insulted her in a call with another foreign leader, as Mr. Trump attacked her in real time on Twitter, drawing a stern warning about witness intimidation from Democrats.
The extraordinary back-and-forth unfolded on the second day of public hearings in the inquiry, as Marie L. Yovanovitch, who was ousted as the envoy in Ukraine at Mr. Trump’s behest, offered damaging information about him to the House Intelligence Committee.
In a deeply personal terms that put a human face on the president’s pressure campaign on Ukraine, Ms. Yovanovitch described how Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, worked hand in hand with a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor to circumvent official channels, smear her and push her out of her post. Her testimony was a devastating indictment of foreign policy in the Trump era, outlining the harm to American diplomacy and national security that results from a president willing to embrace scurrilous theories and false claims to target his own officials representing the United States overseas.
But it was the president himself who loomed largest over the proceedings, disparaging Ms. Yovanovitch as she spoke.
“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “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 U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.”
Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, interrupted his counsel’s questioning to read the president’s words aloud to Ms. Yovanovitch, asking for her reaction.
“It’s very intimidating,” she replied, appearing taken aback.
To that, Mr. Schiff said gravely, “Some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously.”
Democrats said the president’s comments were clear attempts by Mr. Trump to intimidate a crucial witness in the impeachment inquiry and do the same to others who might yet come forward, arguing that they could constitute grounds for an article of impeachment against Mr. Trump.
But as the president raged quietly at the White House, angrily tweeting during the hearing, Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, rejected that assessment.
“The tweet was not witness intimidation, it was simply the president’s opinion,” Ms. Grisham said in a statement. “This is not a trial; it is a partisan political process — or to put it more accurately, a totally illegitimate charade stacked against the president.”
Ms. Yovanovitch’s testimony capped a riveting first week of public hearings in the inquiry, as Democrats seek to make their case that Mr. Trump abused his power to enlist Ukraine’s help in discrediting his political rivals, chiefly former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week called it “bribery,” echoing the language in the Constitution that describes impeachable offenses.
Ms. Yovanovitch’s testimony did not go precisely to the heart of that allegation; she was gone from Ukraine by the time of the July 25 telephone call in which Mr. Trump asked President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to “do us a favor” and look into Mr. Biden and his son Hunter.
But Mr. Trump brought up Ms. Yovanovitch during that call, shortly after he praised a Ukrainian prosecutor who had been at odds with Ms. Yovanovitch over her efforts to root out corruption, and shortly before he asked Mr. Zelensky about the Bidens. Mr. Trump called her “bad news,” and said she was going to “go through some things,” a comment that Ms. Yovanovitch told the committee had taken her breath away when she read a reconstructed transcript of the call.
She testified that the color drained from her face and she was, “shocked, appalled, devastated that the president of the United States would talk about any ambassador like that to a foreign head of state — and it was me. I mean, I couldn’t believe it.”
“It sounded like a threat,” Ms. Yovanovitch added.
Her experience set the stage for what happened in the crucial months that followed. In an impassioned defense of the State Department and the career Foreign Service officers who work — and sometimes give their lives — to advance the interests of the United States, Ms. Yovanovitch recounted how she became the target of a smear campaign led by Mr. Giuliani, two of his associates — Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who have since been indicted — and the right-wing news media.
“How could our system fail like this?” she wondered aloud. “How is it that foreign corrupt interests could manipulate our government?”
Known as Masha to her friends, Ms. Yovanovitch, a Canadian immigrant whose parents fled the Soviet Union and Nazis, was known as a vigorous fighter against corruption in Ukraine. She has become a hero to her colleagues in the diplomatic corps (a hashtag #GoMasha has sprung up on Twitter), who say what happened to her did not simply damage a single person’s reputation and career, but was also a blow to American foreign policy.
Republicans argued that Ms. Yovanovitch is, essentially, irrelevant to the inquiry, because she left before the July 25 call and because ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the president, who may recall them for any reason. And they tried to prove an unsubstantiated theory that Ukrainian officials conspired with Hillary Clinton’s campaign to interfere in the 2016 election at Mr. Trump’s expense.
Ms. Yovanovitch pushed back on the assertion.
“We all know that people are critical,” she said after Steve Castor, a lawyer for the Republicans, pointed to disparaging statements that a Ukrainian official had made Mr. Trump during the campaign. “That does not mean that someone, or a government, is undermining either a campaign or interfering in elections.”
“And I would just remind you again,” she went on, “that our own U.S. intelligence community has conclusively determined that those who interfered in the election were Russian.”
Ms. Yovanovitch was recalled from Ukraine abruptly in May, two months earlier than planned. She told lawmakers that she learned she was being pulled back from the deputy secretary of state John J. Sullivan, who called her while she was hosting an “International Woman of Courage” event honoring a Ukrainian anticorruption activist who died after having acid thrown at her.
She said Mr. Sullivan relayed “words that every Foreign Service officer understands: ‘The president has lost confidence in you.’ That was a terrible thing to hear.”
Republicans, determined to avoid looking as if they were bullying Ms. Yovanovitch, gave the lone Republican woman on the committee, Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, a prominent role in questioning her. The session was tense at times, as Republicans made parliamentary points that Mr. Schiff, banging his gavel, repeatedly ruled out of order.
“I do wonder why it was necessary to smear my reputation,” Ms. Yovanovitch said at one point, addressing Representative Brad Wenstrup, Republican of Georgia. Mr. Wenstrup cut her off, saying, “Well I wasn’t asking you about that, so thank you very much, ma’am.”
Seated behind Ms. Yovanovitch, in a demonstration of support as she testified, was Grace Kennan Warnecke, the daughter of George Kennan, one of the most revered American diplomats of the last century and the architect of the containment policy that governed America’s strategy through the Cold War.
After watching the opening round of questioning, Ms. Warnecke walked out with Ms. Yovanovitch during the recess, her presence clearly intended as a sign of the widespread backing that the former ambassador has among the career Foreign Service, which was broadly disturbed by her abrupt removal in the spring.
Mr. Kennan, one of the foremost experts on the Soviet Union in the early years of the Cold War, served as ambassador to Moscow before he was expelled and his famous “long telegram” to Washington ultimately formed the basis for the policy embraced by presidents of both parties for decades to mount “strong resistance” to the Soviet Union around the world.
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