Former envoy defies Trump, testifies he pushed to oust her
WASHINGTON — Testifying in defiance of President Trump’s ban, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch told House impeachment investigators Friday that Trump himself had pressured the State Department to oust her from her post and get her out of the country.
Yovanovitch told lawmakers investigating Trump’s dealings with Ukraine that there was a “concerted campaign” against her based on “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.”
The diplomat was recalled from Kyiv as Rudy Giuliani — who is Trump’s personal attorney and has no official role in the U.S. government — pressed Ukrainian officials to investigate baseless corruption allegations against Democrat Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who was involved with a gas company there.
Yovanovitch testified behind closed doors Friday as part of the House Democrats’ impeachment investigation. Her prepared remarks were obtained by The Associated Press.
The former ambassador says she was fired from her post after insisting that Giuliani’s requests to Ukrainian officials for investigations be relayed through official channels, according to a former diplomat who has spoken with her. That former diplomat insisted on anonymity to disclose the private conversation.
Trump, in a July 25 phone call, told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Yovanovitch was “bad news,” according to a partial transcript released by the White House. Neither Giuliani nor Trump has publicly specified their objections to her.
She said in her statement Friday that she was abruptly told this spring to depart Ukraine “on the next plane.” She left her post in May, and was later told the president had lost confidence in her and had been pressuring State Department officials for many months to remove her, she said.
Democrats leading the investigation said they subpoenaed Yovanovitch Friday morning after learning late Thursday night that the State Department had directed her not to appear. Trump has forbidden all government employees to cooperate.
Yovanovitch remains employed by the State Department but is currently doing a fellowship at Georgetown University.
Her testimony in the face of Trump’s opposition apparently won’t be the last as the congressional panels hold a flurry of depositions to investigate the president’s efforts to jumpstart foreign investigations that could help his 2020 reelection campaign. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she wants the committees to move “expeditiously” as they decide whether to move forward with a formal impeachment vote.
Polls show the nation now generally split as to whether Trump should be impeached and removed from office.
On Monday, Fiona Hill, a former White House adviser who focused on Russia, is expected to appear, and three current State Department officials are tentatively scheduled next week. They include Gordon Sondland, who was blocked from appearing this week but whose attorney said he would testify next Thursday.
Mary Clare Jalonick, Matthew Lee and Adam Geller are Associated Press writers.