Two House Intelligence Committee members on opposite sides of the aisle squared off Sunday over President Donald Trump’s tweets aimed at discrediting former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during her public testimony.
“It’s obviously wrong,” Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “The president is intimidating a witness in real time. How have we come to the point where decent people like Chris Stewart have to defend that kind of conduct?”
As Stewart, a Republican Utah, looked on, Maloney continued.
“In the hearing room, the Republicans are praising her and calling her a great American,” Maloney said. “And the president is attacking her viciously.”
In emotional testimony Friday, Yovanovitch said she was the target of a “smear campaign” by Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. She was “shocked, appalled, devastated” when she learned Trump had attacked her in a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
As she spoke, Trump doubled down on Twitter: “Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go?”
Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) read the tweet aloud. Schiff’s action raised questions of whether Trump’s actions constituted witness intimidation — and, therefore, whether that might be grounds for an article of impeachment. After her testimony, the former ambassador exited the room to a rare standing ovation.
But Stewart on Sunday dismissed any notion of “witness intimidation,” calling that accusation “nonsense.”
If the basis for impeachment includes this tweet, then the evidence for impeachment is weak, he said.
“Look, the president communicates in ways that sometimes I wouldn't,” Stewart said. However, he added, Yovanovitch is “an extraordinarily strong and powerful individual. I really doubt she’s intimidated by a single tweet.”
Earlier in the Sunday TV segment, the two committee members nudged each other to join their party-line calls to action.
Maloney: “Chris, will you join me in calling on the State Department to produce the mountain of evidence: emails, notes, call records, calendar entries? They could produce that tomorrow. Our committee has subpoenaed them.”
Stewart: “You bet, because I don't think there's anything there at all that is going to implicate the president — if, Sean, you will join with me in calling to hear from the whistleblower?
Maloney didn’t. But he did thank the Republican for agreeing to push the State Department.
“I hope you will tweet that out, so the White House gets the message that there's now a bipartisan call to stop resisting our subpoena.”