- Marie Yovanovitch, the former US ambassador to Ukraine, testified to Congress on Friday that she was removed from her position based on “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives,” The New York Times reported.
- A whistleblower complaint filed against President Donald Trump said Yovanovitch was removed after she criticized the former Ukrainian prosecutor general’s “poor record on fighting corruption.”
- Yovanovitch’s criticism was at odds with Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, each of whom praised the prosecutor for spreading rumors about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
- “I do not know Mr. Giuliani’s motives for attacking me,” Yovanovitch testified, adding that people associated with Giuliani “may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”
- Yovanovitch’s testimony is likely to infuriate the White House and the State Department, both of which have sought to restrict government officials from cooperating with Congress’ impeachment inquiry.
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President Donald Trump’s former ambassador to Ukraine testified to Congress on Friday that she was removed from her position based on “false claims by people with clearly questionable motives,” The New York Times reported.
Marie Yovanovitch told congressional investigators she was “incredulous” after being recalled over what she called “unfounded” claims, the report said. In the testimony, which was closed to the public, Yovanovitch also reportedly said she was told by a top State Department official that the president had pushed for her removal even though the State Department believed she had “done nothing wrong.”
According to The Times, Yovanovitch testified that John Sullivan, the deputy secretary of state, told her earlier this year that “this was not like other situations where he had recalled ambassadors for cause.”
Instead, Sullivan reportedly told Yovanovitch that Trump had “lost confidence in me and no longer wished me to serve as his ambassador.” She was also said to have testified that there’d 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’s congressional testimony is likely to infuriate the president and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo because both the White House and Pompeo have sought to restrict government officials from complying with Congress’ impeachment inquiry.
Yovanovitch was one of several US government officials named in an explosive whistleblower complaint that an intelligence official filed against Trump in August. Among other things, the complainant accused the president of abusing his power during a July 25 phone call by repeatedly pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter on suspicion of corruption.
Trump also told Zelensky during their conversation that Yovanovitch was “bad news,” according to a White House summary of the call.
The whistleblower’s complaint mentioned Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, 31 times and described him as a “central figure” in Trump’s efforts to coax Ukraine to investigate his political opponent. It named several State Department officials as being involved in Giuliani’s and Trump’s efforts.
“Today we see the State Department attacked and hollowed out from within,” Yovanovitch told Congress on Friday, according to a copy of her opening statement obtained by The Times. She added that Giuliani’s and his allies’ allegations that she was disloyal to Trump were “fictitious.”
“I do not know Mr. Giuliani’s motives for attacking me,” she said. But people associated with Giuliani “may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”
Yovanovitch was recalled from Ukraine in May, while Giuliani was urging Ukrainian government officials to investigate baseless claims of corruption against Biden and his son.
A former diplomat, recalling a recent conversation with Yovanovitch, told the Associated Press this week that she was removed because she insisted that Trump and Giuliani’s request for Ukrainian officials to investigate the Bidens be relayed through official channels.
Yovanovitch was also tough on Yuriy Lutsenko, Ukraine’s former prosecutor general, and the divide between her and Giuliani widened when she wouldn’t help Giuliani look for dirt on Hunter Biden ahead of the 2020 election.
“She refused to allow her embassy to be dragged into some sort of effort to concoct dirt for political purposes,” a former official told The Guardian.
Two of Giuliani’s foreign associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, are also accused of lobbying a US congressman to help remove Yovanovitch, according to an indictment against the two men filed this week. Parnas and Fruman were arrested and charged with campaign-finance violations on Wednesday.