Former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch arrived at the Capitol Friday morning to testify in the second public hearing in the House impeachment inquiry against President Trump.
She is expected to tell lawmakers that her reputation was publicly sullied in a slow-burning campaign to discredit her led by Trump’s lpersonal awyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Trump recalled her in May.
Yovanovitch, 60, is a career foreign service officer who has already laid out her story for legislators in a private deposition.
“You’re going to think that I’m incredibly naive,” Yovanovitch told House impeachment investigators at a marathon hearing in October.
“But I couldn’t imagine all the things that have happened over the last six or seven months. I just couldn’t imagine it,” she added.
“Although I understand that I served at the pleasure of the president, I was nevertheless incredulous that the U.S. government chose to remove an ambassador based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.”
Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry contend Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate former veep Joe Biden and his son and withheld much-needed US military aid to nudge the Ukrainian leader to do his bidding.
Instead, Democratic lawmakers are expected to point to the circumstances of her ouster as they try to make their case that Trump, with the help of Giuliani, mounted an inappropriate pressure campaign to enlist Zelenskiy in the effort to damage Democratic political rival Biden.
“Giuliani also conducted a smear campaign against the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said at the first public impeachment hearing earlier this week.
“A senior State Department official told her that although she had done nothing wrong, President Trump had lost confidence in her.”
Schiff opened the hearing, saying, “In April 2019 the United States Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch – was in Kyiv when she was called by a senior State Department official and told to get on the next plane back to Washington. Upon her return to DC, she was informed by her superiors that although she had done nothing wrong, she could no longer serve as Ambassador to Ukraine because she did not have the confidence of the President.
“It was a stunning turn of events for this highly regarded career diplomat, who had been doing such a remarkable job fighting corruption in Ukraine that a short time earlier she had been asked by the State Department to extend her tour,” he continued.
“Ambassador Yovanovitch has been in the Foreign Service for 33 years and served much of that time in the former Soviet Union. Her parents had fled Stalin and later Hitler before settling in the United States. She is an exemplary officer, who is widely praised and respected by her colleagues. She is known as an anti-corruption champion whose tour in Kyiv was viewed as very successful.
“In her time in Kyiv, Ambassador Yovanovitch was tough on corruption, too tough on corruption for some, and her principled stance made her enemies. As George Kent told this committee on Wednesday, “you can’t promote principled anti-corruption action without pissing-off corrupt people,” Schiff said.
“And Ambassador Yovanovitch did not just ‘piss off’ corrupt Ukrainians, like the corrupt former prosecutor general Yuri Lutsenko, but also certain Americans like Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s personal attorney, and two individuals, now indicted, who worked with him, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas. Lutsenko, Giuliani, Fruman, Parnas and others who would come to include the president’s own son, Don Jr., promoted a smear campaign against her based on false allegations. At the State Department there was an effort to push back, to obtain a statement of support from Secretary Pompeo, but those efforts failed, when it became clear that President Trump wanted her gone.
“Some have argued that a president has the ability to nominate or remove any ambassador he wants, that they serve at the pleasure of the president. And that is true. The question before us is not whether Donald Trump could recall an American ambassador with a stellar reputation for fighting corruption in Ukraine, but why would he want to? ” Schiff said.
“Why did Rudy Giuliani want her gone, and why did Donald Trump? And why would Donald Trump instruct the new team he put in place, the three Amigos – Gordon Sondland, Rick Perry and Kurt Volker — to work with the same man, Rudy Giuliani, who played such a central role in the smear campaign against her?Trump was convinced that Yovanovitch was a rogue actor who held a political bias against him, according to a rough transcript of the July 25 call between the president and Zelenskiy.”
The intelligence community whistleblower who spurred the House investigation cited Yovanovitch’s ouster as one in a series of events that amounted to an abuse of power by the president.
Trump has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and slammed the probe as a hoax and, again on Friday, as a “witch hunt.”
Schiff’s openiong was followed by ranking committee member Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) who criticized the impeachment process and called for the whistelblower to be brought before the pane
“It’s unfortunate that today, and for most of next week, we will continue engaging in the Democrats’ day-long TV spectacles instead of solving the problems we were all sent to Washington to address. We now have a major trade agreement with Canada and Mexico ready for approval—a deal that would create jobs and boost our economy,” Nunes said.
“Meanwhile, we have not yet approved funding for the government which expires next week, along with funding for our men and women serving in the military.
“Instead, the Democrats have convened us once again to advance their operation to topple a duly elected president. I’ll note that five—five—Democrats on this committee had already voted to impeach this president before the Trump-Zelensky phone call occurred,” Nunes continued.
“In fact, Democrats have been vowing to oust President Trump since the day he was elected. So Americans can rightly suspect that his phone call with President Zelensky was used as an excuse for the Democrats to fulfill their Watergate fantasies.
“But I’m glad that on Wednesday, after the Democrats staged six weeks of secret depositions in the basement of the Capitol—like some kind of cult—the American people finally got to see this farce for themselves.
“They saw us sit through hours of hearsay testimony about conversations that two diplomats, who’d never spoken to the President, heard second-hand, third-hand, and fourth-hand from other people—in other words, rumors. The problem of trying to overthrow a president based on this type of evidence is obvious.
“But that’s what their whole case relies on, beginning with the second-hand and third-hand information cited by the Whistleblower. That’s why on Wednesday, the Democrats were forced to make the absurd argument that hearsay can be much better evidence than direct evidence.
“And just when you thought this spectacle couldn’t get more bizarre, Committee Republicans received a memo from the Democrats threatening ethics referrals if we out the Whistleblower. As the Democrats are well aware, no Republicans here know the Whistleblower’s identity because the Whistleblower only met with the Democrats—not with Republicans.”
Nunes went on to read into the record the transcript of Trump’s first phonecall with Zelesnky, right after the Ukraine leader was elected
The White House relased the transcript publicly just before the hearing.
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