WASHINGTON (AP) — Testifying in defiance of President Trump, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch told House impeachment investigators Friday that Trump himself pressured the State Department to oust her.
She met with the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform committees behind closed doors, but her prepared remarks were obtained by The Associated Press.
She told Democrats investigating Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and his July 25 phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that there was a “concerted campaign” against her based on “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.”
Yovanovitch said she was recalled from Kyiv as Rudy Giuliani — Trump’s personal attorney who has no official role in the U.S. government — pressed Ukrainian officials to investigate so-far baseless allegations against Democrat Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who was involved with a gas company there.
According to a former diplomat who has spoken with Yovanovitch and who insisted on anonymity to disclose the private conversation, the former ambassador insisted that Giuliani’s requests to Ukrainian officials be relayed through official channels. The former diplomat said Yovanovitch refused to do “all this offline, personal, informal stuff,” and made it clear that the State Department relies on mutual legal assistance treaties, under which U.S. and foreign officials agree to exchange evidence and information in criminal investigations.
In her statement Friday, Yovanovitch said she was abruptly told this spring to depart Ukraine “on the next plane.” She left in May and was later told the president had lost confidence in her and had been pressuring State Department officials for months to remove her, she said.
She said “false narratives” had resulted from “an unfortunate alliance between Ukrainians who continue to operate within a corrupt system and Americans who either did not understand that corrupt system or who may have chosen, for their own purposes, to ignore it.”
Yovanovitch said she had never met Hunter Biden, and that former Vice President Joe Biden had never spoken to her about his son or the gas company with which he was involved. She said she had only “minimal contacts” with Giuliani and none related to “the events at issue.”
Her testimony in the face of Trump’s opposition apparently won’t be the last as the congressional panels hold a flurry of depositions to investigate the president’s efforts to spur foreign investigations that could have helped his reelection.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she wants the committees to move “expeditiously” as they decide whether to move forward with a formal impeachment vote.
Polls show the nation now generally split as to whether Trump should be impeached and removed from office.