Trump tweet attacks former ambassador during her impeachment testimony

Christopher Wilson
Senior Writer

As Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee, President Trump attacked her on Twitter.

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” wrote Trump. “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.”

As a foreign service officer, Yovanovitch was posted in Somalia early in her career, at a period when the East African nation was in turmoil stemming from a civil war that began in 1991. Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., read the tweet to the former ambassador during her testimony and gave her an opportunity to respond.

“I don’t think I have such powers, not in Mogadishu, Somalia, and not in other places,” Yovanovitch said. “I actually think that where I’ve served over the years, I and others have demonstrably made things better for the U.S. as well as for the countries that I’ve served in.

“Ukraine, for example, where there are huge challenges, including on the issue that we’re discussing today of corruption, huge challenges, but they’ve made a lot of progress since 2014, including in the years that I was there,” she added. “I think, in part, I mean the Ukrainian people get the most credit for that, but a part of that credit goes to the work of the United States and to me as the ambassador in Ukraine.” 

Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and President Trump. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters, AP)

Yovanovitch was appointed to serve as ambassador to Kyrgyzstan and then Armenia by President George W. Bush, and as ambassador to Ukraine by President Barack Obama before she was removed from the position by Trump earlier this year. She was recalled after being smeared by Trump allies, including his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, his son Donald Trump Jr. and Fox News host Sean Hannity.

Yovanovitch said the effect of the attacks was to be intimidated and that she felt threatened by Trump.

“We saw today witness intimidation in real time by the president of the United States,” Schiff told reporters during a hearing recess. “Once again going after this dedicated and respected career public servant in an effort not only to chill her but to chill others who may come forward. We take this kind of witness intimidation and obstruction of inquiry very seriously.”

“I disagree with the tweet,” said Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., a House Intelligence Committee member who had been a strong supporter of the president so far through the hearing. “I think Ambassador Yovanovitch is a public servant, like many of our public servants in the foreign service.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, offered the excuse that since Yovanovitch didn’t see the president’s tweet in real time, it didn’t amount to witness intimidation.

“The witness is testifying,” said Jordan. “She wouldn’t even know about the quote if Mr. Schiff hadn’t read the tweet.”

The White House denied it was intimidation.

“The tweet was not witness intimidation, it was simply the President’s opinion, which he is entitled to,” said press secretary Stephanie Grisham in a statement originally to NBC News. “This is not a trial, it is a partisan political process—or to put it more accurately, a totally illegitimate, charade stacked against the President. There is less due process in this hearing than any such event in the history of our country. It’s a true disgrace.”

“She’s going to go through some things,” said Trump in a July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to a memo on the call released by the White House. Yovanovitch said she was “shocked and devastated” that she would be featured in a call between two heads of state in that manner.

“The color drained from my face,” said Yovanovitch when asked about her reaction. “I think I even had a physical reaction. I think ... Even now, words kind of fail me.”

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