Ousted en­voy de­fies Trump to tes­tify

She says pres­i­dent sought re­call based on ‘false claims’

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By John Hud­son, Karoun Demir­jian and Paul Sonne

Marie Yo­vanovitch says pres­i­dent sought re­call based on ‘false claims’.

WASH­ING­TON — The former U.S. am­bas­sador to Ukraine whose abrupt ouster in May has be­come a fo­cus of House im­peach­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tors said Fri­day that her de­par­ture came as a di­rect re­sult of pres­sure Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump placed on the State Depart­ment to re­move her, ac­cord­ing to her pre­pared re­marks be­fore Congress.

The ac­count by Marie Yo­vanovitch de­picts a ca­reer For­eign Ser­vice of­fi­cer caught in a storm of un­sub­stan­ti­ated al­le­ga­tions pushed by the pres­i­dent’s per­sonal at­tor­ney Rudy Gi­u­liani and a cast of former Ukrain­ian of­fi­cials who viewed her as a threat to their fi­nan­cial and po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests.

She told law­mak­ers that she was forced to leave Kyiv on “the next plane” and sub­se­quently re­moved from her post, with the State Depart­ment’s No. 2 of­fi­cial telling her that, although she had done noth­ing wrong, the pres­i­dent had lost con­fi­dence in her and the agency had been un­der pres­sure to re­move her since the sum­mer of 2018.

In ex­plain­ing her de­par­ture, she ac­knowl­edged months of crit­i­cisms from Gi­u­liani, who had ac­cused her of pri­vately bad­mouthing the pres­i­dent and seek­ing to pro­tect the in­ter­ests of former Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrain­ian en­ergy com­pany.

Yo­vanovitch de­nied those al­le­ga­tions and said she was “in­cred­u­lous” that her su­pe­ri­ors de­cided to re­move her based on “un­founded and false claims by peo­ple with clearly ques­tion­able mo­tives.”

She also took di­rect aim at Gi­u­liani’s as­so­ciates whom she said could have been fi­nan­cially threat­ened by her anti-cor­rup­tion ef­forts in Ukraine. Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man, two So­viet-born as­so­ciates of Gi­u­liani’s, were ar­rested Wed­nes­day at Dulles In­ter­na­tional Air­port on charges of cam­paign fi­nance vi­o­la­tions.

Trump told re­porters Fri­day that Yo­vanovitch may be a nice per­son but that Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Ze­len­skiy “didn’t speak fa­vor­ably” about her dur­ing a July 25 phone call be­tween the two lead­ers. In a rough tran­script of the call re­leased by the White House last month, it was Trump who broached the sub­ject of Yo­vanovitch, telling his coun­ter­part that she was “bad news.” Ze­len­skiy re­sponded, “I agree with you 100%.”

While ad­dress­ing re­porters, Trump equiv­o­cated when asked if Gi­u­liani was still his at­tor­ney. “I don’t know. I haven’t spo­ken to Rudy . ... He has been my at­tor­ney,” the pres­i­dent said.

Gi­u­liani, in a phone call with The Wash­ing­ton Post, stood by his al­le­ga­tions, say­ing Ukraini­ans told him that Yo­vanovitch was “run­ning around the streets say­ing not to lis­ten to Trump.” He de­clined to say who told him that.

The State Depart­ment did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

The re­mark­able state­ments by a diplo­mat with more than 30 years in the For­eign Ser­vice came amid ris­ing dis­sat­is­fac­tion in­side the State Depart­ment at what is seen as Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo’s fail­ure to de­fend his sub­or­di­nates who have be­come tar­gets in the Ukraine con­tro­versy.

Michael McKin­ley, a ca­reer diplo­mat and se­nior ad­viser to Pom­peo, re­signed from his post this week as re­sent­ment in the build­ing has grown.

Yo­vanovitch’s tes­ti­mony could also in­crease calls for the pres­i­dent’s im­peach­ment as she de­tailed her be­lief that un­der Trump’s lead­er­ship, U.S. for­eign pol­icy has been com­pro­mised by self-in­ter­ested ac­tors who have de­mor­al­ized and de­pleted Amer­ica’s diplo­matic corps.

“To­day, we see the State Depart­ment at­tacked and hol­lowed out from within,” she said, warn­ing that U.S. ad­ver­saries such as Rus­sia stand to ben­e­fit “when bad ac­tors in coun­tries be­yond Ukraine see how easy it is to use fic­tion and in­nu­endo to ma­nip­u­late our sys­tem.”

Yo­vanovitch is one of sev­eral cur­rent and former diplo­mats whom the House In­tel­li­gence, For­eign Af­fairs and Over­sight com­mit­tees have iden­ti­fied as wit­nesses in their probe of whether Trump lever­aged U.S. mil­i­tary aid and of­fi­cial diplo­matic in­ter­ac­tion to pres­sure Ukraine’s pres­i­dent to in­ves­ti­gate Trump’s po­lit­i­cal ri­vals.

Ad­di­tional wit­nesses are ex­pected next week, in­clud­ing Fiona Hill, the former se­nior di­rec­tor for Europe at the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil; Ge­orge Kent, a se­nior State Depart­ment of­fi­cial for Ukraine-re­lated is­sues; and Gor­don Sond­land, the U.S. am­bas­sador to the Euro­pean Union.

Ac­cord­ing to House Demo­cratic lead­ers, the State Depart­ment at­tempted to block Yo­vanovitch’s tes­ti­mony Thurs­day night, di­rect­ing her not to at­tend the vol­un­tary in­ter­view, in keep­ing with a White House let­ter this week stat­ing that the ad­min­is­tra­tion would not co­op­er­ate with the im­peach­ment in­quiry.

The House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee re­sponded with a sub­poena Fri­day morn­ing, panel lead­ers said, not­ing that “the il­le­git­i­mate or­der from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion not to co­op­er­ate has no force.”

The ex­change sug­gests that House Democrats may have to is­sue sum­monses to in­ter­view gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, par­tic­u­larly if do­ing so could jeop­ar­dize wit­nesses’ em­ploy­ment.


Former U.S. Am­bas­sador to Ukraine Marie Yo­vanovitch, cen­ter, ar­rives Fri­day at the U.S. Capi­tol in Wash­ing­ton.

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