So this is why Trump doesn’t want of­fi­cials to tes­tify

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - Dana Milbank Colum­nist Fol­low Dana Milbank on Twit­ter, @ Milbank.

Now we see why the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion doesn’t want of­fi­cials to tes­tify in the im­peach­ment in­quiry.

In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man Adam Schiff, D-Calif., re­leased the first batch of tran­scripts Mon­day from the closed-door de­po­si­tions, in­clud­ing that of Marie Yo­vanovitch, the U.S. am­bas­sador to Ukraine re­moved from her post by Pres­i­dent Trump at the urg­ing of his lawyer, Rudy Gi­u­liani.

If this is a sign of what’s to come, Repub­li­cans will soon re­gret forc­ing Democrats to make im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings pub­lic. Over 10 hours, the tran­script shows, they stum­bled about in search of a coun­ternar­ra­tive to her damn­ing ac­count.

Yo­vanovitch de­tailed a Hol­ly­woodready tale about how Gi­u­liani and two of his now-in­dicted goons hi­jacked U.S. for­eign pol­icy as part of a clown­ish con­sor­tium that also in­cluded Sean Han­nity and a cor­rupt Ukrainian pros­e­cu­tor. Their mis­sion: to oust the tough-on-cor­rup­tion U.S. am­bas­sador who threat­ened to frus­trate Gi­u­liani’s plans to get Ukraine to come up with com­pro­mis­ing ma­te­rial on Joe Bi­den and the Demo­cratic Party.

Mike Pom­peo has a cameo as the feck­less sec­re­tary of state who re­fuses to stand up for his diplo­mat out of fear of set­ting off an un­sta­ble Trump. It all cul­mi­nated in a 1 a.m. call from State’s per­son­nel di­rec­tor telling Yo­vanovitch to get on the next flight out of Kyiv.

Why? “She said, ‘I don’t know, but this is about your se­cu­rity. You need to come home im­me­di­ately.’”

Yo­vanovitch, over­come with emo­tion at one point in her tes­ti­mony, said she later learned that the threat to her se­cu­rity was from none other than Trump, who, State of­fi­cials feared, would at­tack her on Twit­ter if she didn’t flee Ukraine quickly.

Con­fronted with this Key­stone Kops way of gov­ern­ing, Repub­li­cans didn’t re­ally at­tempt to de­fend Trump’s ac­tions. In­stead, they pur­sued one con­spir­acy the­ory after an­other in­volv­ing the Bi­dens, Ge­orge Soros, the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion, Hil­lary Clin­ton, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, deep state so­cial-me­dia “track­ing” and mis­han­dling classified in­for­ma­tion.

They ate up a good chunk of time merely com­plain­ing that Yo­vanovitch’s open­ing state­ment had been made pub­lic (which un­der the rules was al­lowed).

“Am­bas­sador,” Rep. Mark Mead­ows, R-N.C., in­ter­jected, “are you aware of any­one con­nected to you that might have given that to The Washington Post?”

Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., jumped in: “Am­bas­sador Yo­vanovitch, do you be­lieve that it is ap­pro­pri­ate for your open­ing state­ment to be pro­vided to The Washington Post?”

But Trump will need more than com­plaints about leaks to counter the nar­ra­tive that Yo­vanovitch — and oth­ers — have doc­u­mented.

Ukrainian of­fi­cials had told her to “watch [her] back” be­cause Yuri Lut­senko, a Ukrainian pros­e­cu­tor with an un­sa­vory rep­u­ta­tion, was “look­ing to hurt” her and had sev­eral meet­ings with Gi­u­liani to­ward that end. Lut­senko “was not pleased” that she con­tin­ued to push for clean­ing up Lut­senko’s of­fice, and he tried to meet with Trump’s Jus­tice Depart­ment to spread mis­in­for­ma­tion about her — in­clud­ing the now-re­canted false­hood that she had given him a “do-not-pros­e­cute list.”

She tes­ti­fied that wary Ukrainian of­fi­cials knew as early as Jan­uary or Fe­bru­ary that Gi­u­liani was seek­ing dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion on the Bi­dens and the Democrats — per­haps in ex­change for Trump’s en­dorse­ment of the then-pres­i­dent’s re­elec­tion.

When Yo­vanovitch was attacked by Gi­u­liani and Don­ald Trump Jr., among oth­ers, she asked for Pom­peo to make a state­ment sup­port­ing her, but he didn’t do it be­cause it might be “un­der­mined” by a pres­i­den­tial tweet. (Pom­peo did, ap­par­ently, have a pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion ask­ing Han­nity to cease his at­tack on her.) In­stead of sup­port, she got ca­reer ad­vice: Tweet nice things about Trump.

Notably, Repub­li­cans didn’t re­spond to her tes­ti­mony by try­ing to make Trump’s be­hav­ior look good; they probed for ways to make Yo­vanovitch look bad.

They sug­gested she was part of a diplo­matic con­spir­acy to mon­i­tor Trump al­lies such as Laura In­gra­ham, Lou Dobbs and Se­bas­tian Gorka. They probed for dam­ag­ing de­tails on the Bi­dens (“Were you aware of just how much money Hunter Bi­den was get­ting paid by Burisma?”) and for ways to dam­age her cred­i­bil­ity (“What was the clos­est that you’ve worked with Vice Pres­i­dent Bi­den?”). Maybe Ukraine re­ally did try to help Hil­lary Clin­ton in 2016, they posited. Maybe Ukrainian of­fi­cials were “try­ing to sab­o­tage Trump.”

They asked if she ever said any­thing that might have led some­body to “in­fer a neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tion re­gard­ing” Trump.

Mead­ows, strug­gling might­ily to prove some wrong­do­ing by Yo­vanovitch, found he couldn’t pro­nounce the names he had been given — so he spelled them out. “I’m sorry, I’m not Ukrainian,” he said. “Nei­ther am I,” she replied. No, she’s what threat­ens Trump most: an hon­est Amer­i­can.

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