Former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch testified for several hours Friday about her removal from the Ukraine ambassadorship in the face of what she called a “smear campaign.” Here’s a look at some key moments in Yovanovitch’s testimony, which is part of the House impeachment inquiry.
Republicans argue Yovanovich’s testimony is irrelevant to impeachment inquiry
The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee argued that Yovanovitch “is not a material fact witness” in the House impeachment probe.
California Representative Devin Nunes said the details of her May ouster at Trump’s direction are a human resources issue, instead of a matter relevant to the Democrat-led investigation.
Democrats are investigating Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and his direct appeals to the country to investigate Democrats. They say Yovanovitch’s dismissal set the stage for a separate policy channel lead by Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani pushed for her firing.
Nunes noted that she had not talked to Trump this year or been part of preparations for a July phone call in which Trump asked the Ukrainian president for the investigations.
Trump attacks Yovanovitch in the middle of her testimony
In a series of tweets in the middle of Yovanovitch’s testimony, Trump suggested she was at least partially at fault for the civil war in Somalia during her tenure there. He also gave a misleading account of his call with the Ukrainian president, who, according to the White House’s own summary, said Trump had told him Yovanovitch was a problem.
Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. 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.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2019
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff asked Yovanovitch to react to Trump’s Friday tweets just minutes after he sent them.
“I don’t think I have such powers,” Yovanovitch said in response to the suggestion she shared blame for the situation in Somalia. She also defended her actions throughout her career, saying she and others “demonstrably made things better.”
Schiff asked her how the Friday tweets made her feel, and she said they were “intimidating.”
“I want to let you know, Ambassador, that some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously,” Schiff said.
Yovanovitch was at an event presenting an award to the family of a woman killed by acid the day she was recalled
During the hearing, Yovanovitch described what she was doing the day she was told to get on the next plane out of Ukraine to return to the United States: Honoring the family of a Ukrainian anticorruption activist who died after acid was thrown on her head.
Yovanovitch gave a posthumous International Woman of Courage award to Kateryna Handziuk on April 24, and later that night she was told she was being sent home.
“She very tragically died because she was attacked by acid and several months later died a very, very painful death,” Yovanovitch said.
At the event, she stepped out to take an urgent call from a State Department official Washington, D.C., who said there were concerns about her position.
Later that night, she was told to “get on the next plane” because there were concerns from “up the street,” which Yovanovitch took to mean the White House.
Yovanovitch forcefully pushes back against ‘smear campaign’
In her opening statement, Yovanovitch expressed dismay not only at being targeted in a “smear campaign” by corrupt actors in Ukraine but at her own government being a receptive audience to the attacks. She argued that it not only sends a chilling message to other foreign service officials, it undermines US foreign policy.
“How could our system fail like this? How is it that foreign corrupt interests could manipulate our government?” she asked. “Our Ukraine policy has been thrown into disarray, and shady interests the world over have learned how little it takes to remove an American ambassador who does not give them what they want.”
As with previous officials who testified before the committee, Yovanovitch defended her decadeslong State Department career, describing an early assignment in Mogadishu, Somalia, during that country’s civil war and later an assignment in Russia where she was caught in crossfire.
“There is a perception that diplomats lead a comfortable life, throwing dinner parties in fancy homes,” she said. “It has not always been easy.”
Without naming Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, she also leveled a broadside against department leadership as she gave a passionate defense of a foreign service corps she described as being “hollowed out.”
“The attacks are leading to a crisis in the State Department as the policy process is visibly unraveling, leadership vacancies go unfilled, and senior and midlevel officers ponder an uncertain future,” she said.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.