Trump impeachment hearing: President attacks former Ukraine ambassador as she testifies live on TV

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Donald Trump attacked his former ambassador to Ukraine just as she was testifying to an impeachment hearing in Congress on the concerted campaign to dismiss her from the post. 

Marie Yovanovitch, a career diplomat who the US president fired earlier this year, defended her anti-corruption record during the hearing and said her removal had left U.S. policy there in disarray.

As Ms Yovanovitch gave her testimony, which is being carried live by many US broadcasters, Mr Trump fired off criticism of her on Twitter, saying: "Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go?"

The comments have prompted Democrats to suggest Mr Trump is trying to intimidate a witness. 

In the most dramatic moment of the impeachment hearings so far on Friday, Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, asked Ms Yovanovitch for her reaction to the tweet. She called it "very intimidating".

Mr Schiff replied: "Well, I want to let you know, ambassador, that some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously."

Just as the second day of public impeachment hearings kicked off, the White House released a rough transcript of Mr Trump’s first call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy in an apparent attempt to boost the president’s claim he did nothing wrong. 

The reconstructed transcript from the 16-minute call, which took place on April 21 just after Mr Zelenskiy won his election, included congratulations from Mr Trump and warm discussions about possible meetings in the future.

Unlike Mr Trump’s now infamous call with Mr Zelenskiy on July 25, where he discussed all the help America was providing Ukraine and urged an investigation into his political rival Joe Biden, there was no mention of probes in the transcript. 

Republicans appear to believe the transcript helps their narrative that Mr Trump acted appropriately towards Mr Zelenskiy.

His attempt to secure politically helpful investigations was what triggered the impeachment inquiry which now threatens his presidency. 

Ukraine's former ambassador says she was fired by Trump after a concerted campaign against herCredit:
Reuters

Moments after the release of the transcript, Devin Nunes, the most senior Republican on the committee leading impeachment investigations, read out the transcript word-for-word in the hearing that was taking place on Capitol Hill. 

Mr Schiff then welcomed the release of the transcript but noted that it was only after the call that Mr Trump took some of the actions they are now looking into. 

It was the second call, on July 25, which led red flags being raised internally in the Trump administration – including a whistle-blower complaint being lodged – rather than the first call, on April 21.

At the same time as the transcript was released, Ms Yovanovitch, who was forced out from her role as S ambassador Ukraine after unfounded allegations against her were made by Trump allies, was being sworn in to give her testimony in the impeachment hearing. 

Marie Yovanovitch will publicly detail the events leading up to her firing on FridayCredit:
AP

In her opening statement, Ms Yovanovitch detailed how Rudy Giuliani, Mr Trump’s personal attorney, "spread" disinformation about her, aided by individuals who had "questionable motives". 

Ms Yovanovitch denied she had ever issued a "do not prosecute" list to Ukranian officials – a claim made against her by Trump allies, based on the idea she was somehow blocking an investigation into Hunter Biden, the son of former US vice president Joe Biden.

The former ambassador also said it was "untrue" she had once told either fellow embassy officials or Ukranian government figures that Mr Trump’s orders should be ignored because "he was going to be impeached".

Ms Yovanovitch testified that in late April 2019 she was suddenly told to get "on the next plane" back to America, just after the Ukranian election. She left her post in July.

A senior State Department official explained to her that Mr Trump no longer wished her to serve.  "Although, then and now, I have always understood that I served at the pleasure of the president, I still find it difficult to comprehend that foreign and private interests were able to undermine US interests in this way," Ms Yovanovitch said in her opening statement. 

She added later: "If our chief representative is kneecapped, it limits our effectiveness to safeguard the vital national security interests of the United States."

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Ms Yovanovitch, who has spent 33 years in public service, also said: "Our Ukraine policy has been thrown into disarray, and shady interests the world over have learned how little it takes to remove an American ambassador who does not give them what they want."

The 60-year-old is a highly regarded career foreign service officer who suddenly found herself labelled "bad news" by Mr Trump over the summer. 

She said her ultimate dismissal was based on "unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives" after she came under attack by Mr Giuliani.

"I do not understand Mr Giuliani’s motives for attacking me, nor can I offer an opinion on whether he believed the allegations he spread about me," she told the hearing.

The investigators have already heard from two other officials – George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, and Bill Taylor, who replaced Ms Yovanovitch in Kyiv. Both described Mr Trump’s lawyer led the pressure campaign on Ukraine in the first public impeachment hearings on Wednesday.

"Mr Giuliani was almost unmissable starting in mid-March," said Mr Kent. "As the news campaign, or campaign of slander, against not only Ambassador Yovanovitch unfolded … he was on TV, his Twitter feed ramped up and it was all focused on Ukraine."

An estimated 13.8 million Americans tuned in to the first day of proceedings on Wednesday, according to Nielsen ratings data. A similarly high number is expected to watch on Friday to hear Ms Yovanovitch speak publicly for the first time.

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