Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, arrives on Capitol Hill, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, in Washington. Photo: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite.
Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, arrives on Capitol Hill, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, in Washington. Photo: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite.

Ex-envoy tells impeachment inquiry Trump ousted her based on 'false claims'

By By Jonathan Landay And David Morgan Time of article published Oct 11, 2019

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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

Republican president.

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

ambassador."

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

lawyers said.

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

appearance. 

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

investigation.

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

candidates.

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.

Reuters

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