Ex-envoy tells impeachment inquiry Trump ousted her based on 'false claims'
Share this article:
WASHINGTON - The former U.S. ambassador to
Ukraine who Donald Trump has called "bad news" told a House of
Representatives impeachment inquiry into the president on Friday
that Trump removed her from her post based on "unfounded and
false claims," according to U.S. media reports.
Marie Yovanovitch, who was abruptly recalled from Ukraine in
May, told lawmakers in closed-door deposition that a top State
Department official had told her Trump pushed for her removal
for months even though the department believed she had done
nothing wrong, according to a copy of her opening statement
posted online by the Washington Post.
She entered the Capitol building for the deposition wearing
dark glasses and walked past a crowd of journalists without
responding to questions as she defied a White House policy of
not cooperating with the Democratic-led inquiry into the
She said private influence and personal gain have usurped
the judgment of diplomats during the Trump administration,
threatening to undermine U.S. interests and drive talented
professionals out of public service, according to the statement.
A career diplomat who also has served as U.S. ambassador to
two other countries, Yovanovitch's stint as envoy in Kiev was
cut short when she was recalled to Washington as Trump allies
leveled unsubstantiated charges of disloyalty and other
allegations against her.
The impeachment inquiry focuses on a July 25 phone call in
which Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to
investigate a domestic political rival, Democrat Joe Biden, and
Biden's son Hunter Biden.
The investigation of Trump could lead to the approval of
articles of impeachment - or formal charges - against the
president in the House. A trial on whether to remove him from
office would then be held in the U.S. Senate, where the
Republicans who control the chamber have shown little appetite
for ousting the president.
Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani told Reuters last week
he had provided information to both Trump and the U.S. State
Department about Yovanovitch, who he suggested was biased
against Trump. Giuliani accused Yovanovitch of blocking efforts
to persuade Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
Democrats have called her removal politically motivated.
"Although I understand that I served at the pleasure of the
president, I was nevertheless incredulous that the U.S.
government chose to remove an Ambassador based, as best as I can
tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly
questionable motives," she said in her statement.
"Today, we see the State Department attacked and hollowed
out from within. State Department leadership, with Congress,
needs to take action now to defend this great institution, and
its thousands of loyal and effective employees," she said.
According to a White House summary, Trump in his call to
Zelenskiy described Yovanovitch saying "the woman was bad news
and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad
news." Zelenskiy agreed with Trump that she was a "bad
She said she did not know Giuliani's motives for attacking
her but that Giuliani associates "may well have believed that
their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our
anti-corruption policy in Ukraine."
ANOTHER ENVOY TO TESTIFY
Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union,
will comply with a subpoena and testify next Thursday before the
three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry, his
But Sondland is not authorised to release the documents the
committees have sought, his lawyers said, adding that he hopes
the material will be shared with the committees before his
Sondland was initially scheduled to testify before
the House committees on Tuesday, but was blocked by the Trump
administration from appearing.
Sondland, a Trump political donor who contributed $1 million
to the president's inauguration committee, exchanged text
messages about Washington's relationship with Ukraine with other
top diplomats. House Democrats received a cache of the texts as
part of their impeachment inquiry.
Sondland was a Seattle-based hotelier until Trump named him
to his position as ambassador this year.
Democrats have accused Trump of pressuring a vulnerable
foreign ally to dig up dirt on a domestic rival, Biden, for his
own political benefit. Biden, the former U.S. vice president, is
a leading Democratic contender for the right to face Trump in
the November 2020 presidential election. Trump has denied he did
anything wrong on the call.
Yovanovitch was the third key witness to appear in the
impeachment inquiry, although it was not certain she would
respond to questions following the White House's declaration on
Tuesday that the administration would not cooperate in the
On Thursday, two foreign-born Florida businessmen who had
helped Giuliani as he investigated Biden were arrested in what
prosecutors said was a scheme to illegally funnel money to a
pro-Trump election committee and other U.S. political
The pair, Ukraine-born Lev Parnas and Belarus-born Igor
Fruman, were arrested at an airport outside Washington carrying
one-way tickets to Vienna. Prosecutors said they conspired to
contribute foreign money, including at least $1 million from an
unidentified Russian businessman, to candidates for federal and
state offices to buy influence.
One of the foreign-born businessmen arrested on Thursday,
Parnas, sought the help of a U.S. congressman - identified by a
person familiar with the matter as Republican Pete Sessions - to
get Trump to remove Yovanovitch, according to the indictment.