Ousted 'bad news' U.S. ambassador to Ukraine to testify in Trump
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[November 15, 2019]
By Susan Cornwell, Richard Cowan and Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The former U.S.
ambassador to Ukraine, whom President Donald Trump called "bad news"
before firing her, will be in the spotlight on Friday when she testifies
at the second day of televised impeachment hearings.
The session before the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee,
scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. (1400 GMT), is part of the Democratic-led
impeachment inquiry that threatens Trump's presidency even as he seeks
re-election in November 2020.
Marie Yovanovitch was removed from her post as ambassador to Kiev in May
after coming under attack by Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, at
a time when he was working to persuade Ukraine to carry out two
investigations that would benefit the Republican president politically.
Giuliani was trying to engineer Ukrainian investigations of Democratic
presidential contender Joe Biden and the former U.S. vice president's
son Hunter, who had served as a board member for the Ukrainian energy
company Burisma, as well as a debunked conspiracy theory embraced by
some Trump allies that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S.
The focus of the impeachment inquiry is on a July 25 phone call in which
Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who was elected in
May, to open the investigations.
Democrats are looking into whether Trump abused his power by withholding
$391 million in U.S. security aid to Ukraine as leverage to pressure
Kiev. The money, approved by the U.S. Congress to help a U.S. ally
combat Russia-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country, was
later provided to Ukraine.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and calls the impeachment probe a sham.
The hearings may pave the way for the Democratic-led House to approve
articles of impeachment - formal charges - against Trump. That would
lead to a trial in the Senate on whether to convict Trump of the charges
and remove him from office. Republicans control the Senate and have
shown little support for Trump's removal.
Yovanovitch, who has worked for both Republican and Democratic
administrations, told lawmakers behind closed doors on Oct. 11 that
Trump ousted her based on "unfounded and false claims by people with
clearly questionable motives" after she came under attack by Giuliani.
She also denied allegations by Trump allies that she was disloyal to him
and said she did not know what Giuliani's motivations were for attacking
Yovanovitch said Giuliani's associates "may well have believed that
their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption
policy in Ukraine."
Trump called Yovanovitch "bad news" in the phone call to Zelenskiy and
added that "she's going to go through some things," according to a White
House summary. Zelenskiy told Trump: "I agree with you 100 percent" that
she was a "bad ambassador."
[to top of second column]
U.S. Capitol Police guide former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie
Yovanovitch as she departs after testifying in the U.S. House of
Representatives impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Trump on
Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 11, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan
'GO BIG OR GO HOME'
In her private testimony to lawmakers, Yovanovitch also described
how Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, had
urged her to use Twitter to express support for Trump to save her
job. "He said, you know, you need to go big or go home. You need to,
you know, tweet out there that you support the president," she said.
Three more public hearings are scheduled for next week.
Democratic Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Intelligence
Committee member, said he hoped that Republican lawmakers treat
"I hope that they treat her with the dignity she deserves, the
respect that she deserves. By all accounts, she was an excellent
member of the foreign service," Krishnamoorthi told Reuters.
Krishnamoorthi said the evidence suggested she was removed to make
way for the Trump administration's "irregular channel" of diplomacy
in crafting Ukraine policy personally beneficial to Trump in which
Giuliani played a central role along with diplomats Sondland and
Kurt Volker, as well as Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
The hearing comes a day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told
reporters that Trump already had admitted to bribery in the Ukraine
"The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance in return for
a public statement of a fake investigation into the elections,"
Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, told a news conference.
Pelosi's comments could offer a preview of articles of impeachment
Democrats might put forward.
Two other career U.S. diplomats, William Taylor and George Kent,
testified on Wednesday in the first public hearing, expressing alarm
over the pressure tactics on Ukraine by Giuliani for investigations
that would benefit Trump politically.
Taylor is acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. His aide David Holmes,
who Taylor said overheard a July 26 telephone conversation in which
Trump asked Sondland about progress in getting the Ukrainians to do
the investigations, is due to appear before lawmakers in a private
session on Friday.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Susan Cornwell, Richard Cowan and
Karen Freifeld; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Scott Malone and
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