‘WIT­NESS IN­TIM­I­DA­TION’

For­mer am­bas­sador en­dures Trump Twit­ter at­tack as she testifies at hearings //

The Peterborough Examiner - - FRONT PAGE - LISA MASCARO AND MARY CLARE JALONICK

WASH­ING­TON — For­mer U.S. Ukraine am­bas­sador Marie Yo­vanovitch pro­vided chill­ing de­tail Fri­day in Trump im­peach­ment hearings of be­ing sud­denly ousted from her post and feel­ing threat­ened upon learn­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump had de­nounced her in a phone call to Ukraine’s pres­i­dent. In that call, Trump as­sailed her as “bad news” and said she was “go­ing to go through some things.”

In an ex­tra­or­di­nary mo­ment, even in an ad­min­is­tra­tion filled with them, Trump him­self went after her again as she spoke, tweet­ing from the White House that every­where she served had “turned bad.”

Asked at the hear­ing about the po­ten­tial ef­fect of such cen­sure on U.S. of­fi­cials and wit­nesses, she said, “Well, it’s very intimidati­ng.”

Yo­vanovitch was tes­ti­fy­ing on the sec­ond day of pub­lic im­peach­ment hearings into Trump, just the fourth time in Amer­i­can his­tory that the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives has launched such pro­ceed­ings. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion cen­tres on whether Trump’s push for Ukrainian of­fi­cials to in­ves­ti­gate his po­lit­i­cal ri­vals amounted to an abuse of power, a charge he and Repub­li­cans vig­or­ously deny.

After Trump’s tweet on Fri­day, the chair of the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee swiftly in­ter­vened, halt­ing the ques­tion­ing to read the pres­i­dent’s com­ments out loud to the wit­ness — and Amer­i­cans fol­low­ing the hear­ing — dur­ing a live broad­cast across the coun­try.

“Am­bas­sador Yo­vanovitch, as we sit here tes­ti­fy­ing, the pres­i­dent is at­tack­ing you on Twit­ter,” said Demo­cratic Rep. Adam Schiff of Cal­i­for­nia. He asked if it was de­signed to in­tim­i­date.

“I can’t speak to what the pres­i­dent is try­ing to do, but I think the ef­fect is to be in­tim­i­dated,” she said.

Said Schiff, “Well, I want to let you know, am­bas­sador, that some of us here take wit­ness in­tim­i­da­tion very, very se­ri­ously.”

Trump, asked about it later, said, “I have the right to speak. I have free­dom of speech.”

Rather than dis­tract from the ca­reer diplo­mat’s tes­ti­mony, Trump’s in­ter­fer­ence could pro­vide more ev­i­dence against him in the probe. Democrats said an al­le­ga­tion of wit­ness in­tim­i­da­tion could be­come an ob­struc­tion of jus­tice charge in the im­peach­ment probe.

In her tes­ti­mony, Yo­vanovitch de­scribed a “smear cam­paign” against her by Trump’s per­sonal lawyer, Rudy Gi­u­liani, and oth­ers, in­clud­ing the pres­i­dent’s son, Don­ald Trump Jr., be­fore her fir­ing.

She told the law­mak­ers her sud­den re­moval had played into the hands of “shady in­ter­ests the world over” with dan­ger­ous in­ten­tions to­ward the United States. They have learned, she said, “how lit­tle it takes to re­move an Amer­i­can am­bas­sador who does not give them what they want.”

She said qui­etly, “Even now words fail me.”

Her re­moval from her post is one of sev­eral events at the cen­tre of the im­peach­ment ef­fort.

In his July phone call with new Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Ze­len­skiy, Trump asked for a “favour,” ac­cord­ing to an ac­count pro­vided by the White House. He wanted an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Democrats and 2020 ri­val Joe Bi­den.

Later it was re­vealed that the ad­min­is­tra­tion was with­hold­ing mil­i­tary aid from Ukraine at the time.

“These events should con­cern ev­ery­one in this room,” the diplo­mat tes­ti­fied in open­ing re­marks.

Schiff, the Demo­cratic chair of the panel, said she was “too tough on cor­rup­tion for some, and her prin­ci­pled stance made her en­e­mies.”

It be­came clear, he said, “Pres­i­dent Trump wanted her gone.”

The daugh­ter of im­mi­grants who fled the for­mer Soviet Union and Nazi Ger­many, she de­scribed a 33-year ca­reer, in­clud­ing three tours as an am­bas­sador to some of the world’s tougher post­ings, be­fore ar­riv­ing in Ukraine in 2016. She was forced out in May 2019.

She de­nied al­le­ga­tions against her, in­clud­ing that she favoured Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton over Trump in the 2016 elec­tion, and she re­jected the no­tion that Ukraine tried to in­ter­fere in the elec­tion, as Trump claims, counter to main­stream U.S. in­tel­li­gence find­ings that it was Rus­sia.

The top Repub­li­can on the panel, Rep. Devin Nunes of Cal­i­for­nia, be­moaned the hearings as a “day­long TV spec­ta­cle.”

Nunes com­plained that Democrats are re­ly­ing on hearsay tes­ti­mony from wit­nesses who only know of Trump’s ac­tions sec­ond-hand, and Repub­li­cans noted dur­ing ques­tion­ing that Yo­vanovitch had left her po­si­tion be­fore the July phone call.

Nunes also pressed to hear from the still anony­mous gov­ern­ment whistle­blower who first alerted of­fi­cials about Trump’s phone call with Ukraine that is in ques­tion. “These hearings should not be oc­cur­ring at all,” he said.

But one Repub­li­can, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wy­oming, said Trump’s live tweet­ing at the am­bas­sador was wrong. She said, “I don’t think the pres­i­dent should have done that.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Trump’s ac­tions to­ward Ukraine amount to “bribery.”

Trump re­peat­edly as­sails the pro­ceed­ings as a “hoax” and a “sham” and says he did noth­ing wrong.

J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

For­mer U.S. am­bas­sador to Ukraine Marie Yo­vanovitch is sworn in to tes­tify be­fore the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee on Fri­day at the im­peach­ment hear­ing on Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

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