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‘It’s very intimidating’: Yovanovitch reacts in real time to Trump’s attacks

President Donald Trump attacked U.S. diplomat Marie Yovanovitch as she testified Friday in the House impeachment hearings, suggesting her past presence in places such as Somalia and Ukraine led to their decades-old, systemic problems.

The president’s tweets led to a remarkable moment as the lead counsel for House Intelligence Committee Democrats, Dan Goldman, read them aloud and asked Yovanovitch to respond in real time. She said they were “intimidating.”

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Yovanovitch was laying out to House investigators in often-emotional detail how she had been recalled early from her post as the U.S. ambassador in Kyiv amid a smear campaign orchestrated against her by Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and others.

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” Trump tweeted out as Yovanovitch spoke. “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.”

He continued: “It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors. They call it ‘serving at the pleasure of the President.’ The U.S. now has a very strong and powerful foreign policy, much different than proceeding administrations. It is called, quite simply, America First! With all of that, however, I have done FAR more for Ukraine than [Obama].”

A lawyer for Yovanovitch did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But in a dramatic moment during the hearing itself, Yovanovitch downplayed her ability to single-handedly influence the trajectory of other countries, though she defended her record when asked to respond.

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

Asked about the effect of such attacks from Trump, she said: “It’s very intimidating.”

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told Yovanovitch that lawmakers take “witness intimidation” very seriously.

Yovanovitch’s official State Department biography does not detail the nature of her service in Somalia, though it likely would have been at a fairly low level.

Somalia has faced civil war and terrorism since the early 1990s. The U.S. military intervened in the war-torn country during the George H.W. Bush administration to deliver humanitarian aid amid a spiraling famine. In the Bill Clinton years that followed, armed militants dragged U.S. personnel through the streets of Mogadishu, events that were dramatized in the film “Black Hawk Down.”

As for Ukraine, where Yovanovitch was appointed ambassador in August 2016, its post-Soviet existence has been deeply troubled by corruption. It has routinely placed among the highest countries in the world in rankings like Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.

Yovanovitch has spent 33 as a member of the U.S. Foreign Service, as she noted in her opening statement. Her high-profile posting in Kyiv was her third ambassadorship — a rare feat for a U.S. diplomat and a strong indicator that her superiors thought highly of her. She’d previously been the top envoy in Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.

In a July 25 phone call, Trump described Yovanovitch as “bad news” and suggested ominously, “She’s going to go through some things.” The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, also derided Yovanovitch, though it was unclear why.

In the hearing, Yovanovitch described her shock when she learned what the president had said about her on the phone call with Zelensky.

“It was a terrible moment,” she said. “A person who saw me actually reading the transcript said that the color drained from my face. I think I even had a physical reaction. Um, I think — even now words kind of fail me.”

Yovanovitch denies allegations spread by Giuliani and others that she spoke out against Trump. During her testimony, she told House investigators that she believed Giuliani’s associates in Ukraine pursued her ouster because they were among the corrupt individuals who were harmed by her focus on fighting corruption.

Caitlin Oprysko contributed to this report.


Source: Politics, Policy, Political News Top Stories

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