When the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was abruptly removed from her post this year, some Democratic lawmakers called it “a political hit job.” Now the congressman in charge of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump is making the case that Marie Yovanovitch’s ouster is part of the story of a president abusing his power in relations with Ukraine.
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Yovanovitch will be the sole witness Friday, the second day of the inquiry’s public hearings over whether Trump used military aid as leverage to pressure Ukraine into investigations that would benefit him politically.
Marie Yovanovitch was the U.S. ambassador in Kyiv from August 2016 to May of this year, when she was removed and ordered to return to Washington. State Department colleagues say she was withdrawn following a campaign of slander led by Rudy Giuliani, the personal lawyer for President Trump.
In the transcript of her private testimony in the impeachment inquiry last month, Yovanovitch says she was informed of her removal by Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.
“He said that the president had lost confidence in me and no longer wished me to serve as an ambassador. He added that there had been a concerted campaign against me and that the department had been under pressure from the president to remove me since the summer of 2018,” Yovanovitch told lawmakers. “He also said that I had done nothing wrong and that this was not like other situations where he had recalled ambassadors for cause.”
In those many hours of testimony, Yovanovitch offered a dramatic picture of her ouster.
She said she first learned that Giuliani was campaigning against her from a Ukrainian official who told her to “watch [her] back.”
In late April, a colleague also warned her that she was at risk.
“She said that there was a lot of concern for me, that I needed to be on the next plane home to Washington,” Yovanovitch said.
Diplomats were accustomed to criticism from Ukrainians or Russians who didn’t like their messages, said George Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. But Giuliani’s campaign against Yovanovitch was different, said Kent, who was the ambassador’s deputy in Ukraine.
“It was unexpected and most unfortunate to watch some Americans — including those who allied themselves with corrupt Ukrainians in pursuit of private agendas — launch attacks on dedicated public servants advancing U.S. interests in Ukraine,” Kent told lawmakers Wednesday on the first day of public testimony.
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