‘Shocked. Appalled. Devastated.’: Yovanovitch recalled how she felt threatened by Trump.
Marie L. Yovanovitch recounted in powerful and personal terms on Friday the devastation and fear she felt as she was targeted first by President Trump’s allies and later by the president himself, saying she felt threatened.
Removed from her post as ambassador to Ukraine, Ms. Yovanovitch said she was bereft when she came under fire from the president’s personal attorney and eldest son last spring, but was even more stunned in September when she learned that Mr. Trump himself had disparaged her in his now-famous July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president.
“It was a terrible moment,” she told the House Intelligence Committee on the second day of public impeachment hearings. “A person who saw me actually reading the transcript said that the color drained from my face. I think I even had a physical reaction. I think, you know, even now, words kind of fail me.”
In the July call, according to a rough transcript released by the White House, Mr. Trump called Ms. Yovanovitch “bad news” and said that “she’s going to go through some things.”
Asked her reaction when she read that, Ms. Yovanovitch said: “Shocked. Appalled. Devastated that the president of the United States would talk about any ambassador like that to a foreign head of state — and it was me. I mean, I couldn’t believe it.” Asked what the words “going to go through some things” sounded like to her, she said, “It sounded like a threat.”
Trump reinforced Yovanovitch’s narrative, railing against her on Twitter.
At the very moment she was testifying about how Mr. Trump had denigrated her, the president was assailing Ms. Yovanovitch, insulting her diplomatic career and reasserting his right to remove her, prompting Democrats to suggest he was trying to intimidate a witness.
“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” he wrote on Twitter. “She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.”
Mr. Trump’s tweet omitted the context in which he discussed Ms. Yovanovitch with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine during their July 25 phone conversation, which actually came two months after she had been recalled from Ukraine. It was Mr. Trump who first criticized Ms. Yovanovitch, calling her “bad news.” Mr. Zelensky responded that he completely agreed with Mr. Trump and pointed out “you were the first one who told me that she was a bad ambassador.”
Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, interrupted the hearing to read Ms. Yovanovitch the tweet and ask her what she thought of it.
Ms. Yovanovitch, a tight smile on her face, appeared momentarily uncertain how to respond. “It’s very intimidating,” she said. She then paused, searching for words. “I can’t speak to what the president is trying to do, but the effect is to be intimidating.”
Mr. Schiff responded in a stern tone that, “Some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously.”
Representative Jim Himes, Democrat of Connecticut and a member of the Intelligence panel, said it was an instance of “clear witness tampering” that could form the basis of an article of impeachment against Mr. Trump.
While Ms. Yovanovitch was removed from her post in Ukraine, she remains a State Department employee working in the government headed by Mr. Trump.
At an unrelated event later in the day, Mr. Trump denied trying to intimidate Ms. Yovanovitch. “I want freedom of speech,” he told reporters, and lashed out at Democrats for conducting what he called an unfair impeachment process.
Mr. Trump said he watched “a little bit” of the hearing and said “it’s really sad when you see people not allowed to ask questions,” referring to some squabbling between Mr. Schiff and Republican members about when they would get to ask their questions. “Nobody has such horrible due process,” Mr. Trump said. “It’s considered a joke all over Washington and all over the world.”
In the end, each of the Republicans was granted the same amount of time to ask questions as each Democrat.
Unlike Trump, House Republicans generally went easy on Yovanovitch in early questioning.
As they opened their own questioning, Republicans on the committee and the party’s lead lawyer took a strikingly different approach to Ms. Yovanovitch than Mr. Trump, avoiding any personal attacks and instead stressing that she was removed before the main events under scrutiny took place.
Representative Devin Nunes of California, the lead Republican on the panel, and Steve Castor, the committee’s Republican counsel, made no effort to undercut the former ambassador’s credibility but instead emphasized that her experience, whether justified or not, had no real bearing on whether the president had committed high crimes and misdemeanors.
Mr. Nunes characterized her removal as an “employment disagreement” and said she was “not a material fact witness to any of the allegations that are being hurled at the president.”
He led her through a series of quick questions meant to demonstrate that she had left Ukraine before the suspension of American aid and before the July 25 phone call when Mr. Trump asked Mr. Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats. “I’m not exactly sure what the ambassador is doing here today,” Mr. Nunes said.
Several of the Republicans led Ms. Yovanovitch through a series of questions that produced largely dry, fireworks-free exchanges intended to help the president, making the points that her removal did not change American policy, that her career was not permanently damaged and that the president had well-founded reasons to be concerned about corruption in Ukraine.
But while the president suggested in his tweet on Friday that Ms. Yovanovitch was a bad diplomat, the House Republicans largely offered the opposite assessment. “We are lucky to have you in Foreign Service,” said Representative Elise Stefanik, Republican of New York.
A bad day for Trump grew worse, as his friend Roger Stone was convicted of obstructing a previous congressional inquiry.
Mr. Stone was convicted of obstructing a congressional investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election in what prosecutors said was an effort to protect Mr. Trump. He was found guilty of lying to the House committee, trying to block the testimony of another potential witness, and concealing reams of evidence from investigators.
Prosecutors claimed he tried to thwart the committee’s work because the truth would have “looked terrible” for both the president and his campaign. In all, he faced seven felony charges and was found guilty on all counts.
Mr. Trump, having a bad day, vented frustration that his friend was convicted while his enemies have not been. Among those enemies he named: Mr. Schiff, the chairman of the House committee.
Hunter Biden made a cameo appearance as Republicans sought to shift attention to his dealings in Ukraine.
If generally reluctant to assail Ms. Yovanovitch, Republicans had no such hesitance about going after Hunter Biden, the son of the former vice president, in hopes of turning attention to what they portrayed as Democratic conflicts in Ukraine.
Republican lawmakers got Ms. Yovanovitch to say that when she was first nominated for her ambassador post by President Barack Obama, she was prepared for questions about Hunter Biden that might come up during her confirmation hearings. The younger Mr. Biden was on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, at the same time his father was managing policy toward Ukraine.
Ms. Yovanovitch testified that if questions came up about the situation, she was instructed to refer questions to the vice president’s office. Asked by Republicans why it would be a problem, she said, “It creates a concern that there would be an appearance of conflict of interest.”
Yovanovitch tied her personal experience to a broader, and more dangerous, undermining of American diplomacy under Mr. Trump.
Ms. Yovanovitch suggested that “the smear campaign against me” by Mr. Trump allies was orchestrated in tandem with corrupt Ukrainians leading to her removal from her post based on untrue allegations.
Ms. Yovanovitch flatly denied the “baseless allegations” raised against her by Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, and others working with him. She called them part of a “campaign of disinformation” that was orchestrated with Ukrainians because she was a powerful advocate of fighting corruption.
“Mr. Giuliani should have known those claims were suspect, coming as they reportedly did from individuals with questionable motives and with reason to believe that their political and financial ambitions would be stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine,” she told the House Intelligence Committee as it opened its second day of public impeachment hearings.
She added: “If our chief representative is kneecapped, it limits our effectiveness to safeguard the vital national security interests of the United States.”
Ms. Yovanovitch went on to say that the State Department’s failure to defend her and others subjected to partisan attacks had a profoundly negative impact on the institution as a whole.
“This is about far, far more than me or a couple of individuals,” she said. “As Foreign Service professionals are being denigrated and undermined, the institution is also being degraded. This will soon cause real harm, if it hasn’t already.”
On the defensive at the White House, Trump sought to show his innocence.
As the hearing was about to be gaveled to a start on Friday morning, the White House released a rough transcript of another phone call that Mr. Trump had with Ukraine’s president in an effort to demonstrate that there was nothing untoward in that conversation.
Mr. Nunes read the record of the conversation out loud as part of his opening statement in sort of a dramatic re-enactment of the conversation.
The record documented an April 21 call that Mr. Trump made from Air Force One to Mr. Zelensky congratulating him on his election. That call came three months before the July 25 call in which the president asked Mr. Zelensky to do him “a favor” and investigate Democrats including Mr. Biden.
The record of the original call reflected just a few minutes of pleasantries. “When you’re settled in and ready, I’d like to invite you to the White House,” Mr. Trump said. “We’ll have a lot of things to talk about, but we’re with you all the way.”
“Well, thank you for the invitation,” Mr. Zelensky replied. “We accept the invitation and look forward to the visit.”
According to the record, Mr. Trump made no mention of the desired investigations that he would raise later, but the promise of a White House meeting became a point of contention in the months to come. Text messages and testimony have indicated that the White House held up scheduling the promised meeting until Ukraine agreed to investigate Democrats.
The new White House record conflicted with the readout of the call that the White House put out to the media at the time. The official readout in April said that Mr. Trump “underscored the unwavering support of the United States for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” and expressed support for efforts “to root out corruption.” According to the record released on Friday, Mr. Trump made no mention of ei