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Dublin: 4 °C Friday 28 February, 2020

Ex-US ambassador to Ukraine responds to Trump's tweets in real-time during impeachment hearing

Marie Yovanovitch claimed there was a concerted ‘smear’ campaign against her.

Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is sworn in to testify to the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington,
Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is sworn in to testify to the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington,
Image: AP/PA Images

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump tweeted an attack on the former American ambassador to Ukraine as she was in the middle of testifying in his impeachment probe, prompting her to complain she was being intimidated.

Trump’s tweets came as Marie Yovanovitch testified on the second day of the impeachment hearing. During her opening statement, Yovanovitch said her removal by Trump’s administration played into the hands of “shady interests the world over” with dangerous intentions towards the United States.

Speaking to the House Intelligence Committee, she claimed there was a concerted “smear” campaign against her by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and others.

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

“These events should concern everyone in this room. Shady interests the world over have learned how little it takes to remove an American ambassador who does not give them what they want,” Yovanovitch said. 

Representative Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the panel, said Yovanovitch, was “too tough on corruption for some, and her principled stance made her enemies”.

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

“As we sit here testifying, the President is attacking you on Twitter and I’d like to give you a chance to respond,” Schiff said to Yovanovitch before reading Trump’s tweets out loud. 

Trump tweeted that everywhere Yovanovitch went “turned bad” and suggested that her earlier work as a US diplomat in Somalia was linked to the country’s decades of catastrophic instability.

PastedImage-72290 Source: Twitter

“I actually think that where I’ve served over the years, I and others have demonstrably made things better, you know, for the US as well as for the countries that I’ve served in,” Yovanovitch said. 

When asked to respond to the tweet Yovanovitch said it was “very intimidating”. 

Schiff replied by saying that “some of us here take witness intimidation very seriously”.

‘When I owned Miss Universe, they always had great people’

As the hearing was starting, the White House released a rough transcript of an earlier call Trump had with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that was largely congratulatory.

PastedImage-45973 Source: WhiteHouse/Twitter

The growing impeachment case against Trump revolves around a later phone call in which the US president asks Zelensky for a “favour” by opening a corruption investigation allegedly aimed at embarrassing his possible 2020 Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Unlike that controversial discussion, which took place  25 July, the newly released call, held three months earlier, contains no mention of the Biden family.

Instead, Trump congratulates the just elected Ukrainian president, who in turn tries to persuade his US counterpart to attend the upcoming inauguration.

Trump dangles out the possibility of a later Zelensky visit to the White House and says how much he admires Ukraine, referring to when he owned the Miss Universe franchise.

“When I owned Miss Universe, they always had great people,” he said.

Although Trump called the phone log a “transcript,” it is not a verbatim transcription made from a recording, but a reconstruction based on notes taken by staff in the room.

- With reporting from AFP 

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Adam Daly

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