Trump attacked Marie Yovanovitch as she testified about learning she was fired while honouring an assassinated corruption activist

Marie Yovanovitch. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

President Donald Trump tweeted out attacks on the service of Marie Yovanovitch on Friday as the former US ambassador to Ukraine testified in the open impeachment hearings into him.

Yovanovitch, a veteran diplomat who worked in the US Foreign Service for over three decades, served as the US ambassador to Ukraine from 2016 to May 2019.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump pushed her out of the administration when people close to him – particularly his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani – lamented that she displayed an “anti-Trump bias” and got in the way of his efforts to persuade the Ukrainian government to open the investigations Trump wanted it to pursue.

In her Friday testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Yovanovitch, a career diplomat, testified that she learned that the president had “lost confidence” in her and that she would be recalled while she was at a ceremony giving an award to the father of an anti-corruption activist who had been assassinated in an acid attack.

Trump attacks Yovanovitch during her testimony

In her opening statement, while describing her background, Yovanovitch mentioned that she was first assigned to a tour in Somalia at the beginning of her career in the US Foreign Service. Trump mentioned that assignment while attacking her on Twitter on Friday.

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” Trump tweeted during Yovanovitch’s testimony. “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.”

In the call Trump was referring to, a July 25 exchange between him and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a White House summary of which was released in September, Trump complained about Yovanovitch and said she was “going to go through some things.”

Yovanovitch was asked about that exchange during her testimony.

“I was shocked and devastated that I would feature in a phone call between two heads of state in such a manner where President Trump said that I was bad news to another world leader, and that I would be going through some things … it was a terrible moment,” Yovanovitch testified, adding that she felt threatened.

At the hearing, the House Intelligence Committee’s chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff, read Trump’s tweet out loud to Yovanovitch and gave her a chance to respond to Trump’s allegations that she was ineffective.

“I don’t think I have such powers, not in Somalia not in other places,” Yovanovitch said. “I think where I served over the years, I and others have made things better both for the US and the countries we’ve served in.”

House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff also suggested that Trump’s tweet could constitute the intimidation of a witness.

Yovanovitch is a key witness in the House’s impeachment inquiry.

In early September, an anonymous whistleblower complaint lodged by a member of the intelligence community said that in a series of events culminating in the July 25 call, Trump used “the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.”

The complaint detailed concerns that Trump, days after withholding a nearly $US400 million military-aid package, used the call with Zelensky to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter as well as a conspiracy theory involving the 2016 US elections.

Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian oil-and-gas company, from 2014 to 2019. Trump and his allies have, without evidence, accused Biden of using his power as vice president to urge Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who was investigating Burisma to protect Hunter.

The whistleblower’s complaint has been corroborated by the White House’s summary notes of the July 25 call, White House officials, and the sworn testimony of several career diplomatic and national security officials.

Multiple diplomats have now testified under oath that the Trump administration explicitly conditioned lifting the hold of the military aid to Ukraine on Zelensky publicly announcing investigations into Burisma and a discredited conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election to benefit Hillary Clinton.