Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, testified Friday that she was removed early from her position because President Donald Trump pressured the State Department to do so, according to NBC News.
Yovanovitch testified in a closed-door session before House impeachment investigators from the Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs committees.
Who is Marie Yovanovitch?
Yovanovitch is a longtime diplomat who was first appointed as ambassador to Ukraine in 2016 by former President Barack Obama. She previously served in diplomatic roles under Obama and former President George W. Bush in locations, including Russia and Somalia.
She was removed from her Ukraine post and returned to Washington, D.C., in May, even though her assignment was scheduled to run through July. She had found herself on the wrong side of powerful individuals such as President Trump and then-Ukraine Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko. Lutsenko has claimed Yovanovitch gave him a list of people he was not allowed to prosecute.
What does the State Department say about her removal?
The State Department denied that there was anything unusual about her removal, saying her assignment ended as normal and she was simply removed early to align the change with a new Ukrainian administration.
What does Yovanovitch say about it?
Yovanovitch said she was told by Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan that she had lost the confidence of the president and that there was a “concerted campaign” against her, leading to pressure on the State Department from Trump to remove her from the post.
She also said the nature of her removal, which she claimed was based on “false claims by people with clearly questionable motives,” will cause long-term harm to the U.S.
“The harm will come when private interests circumvent professional diplomats for their own gain, not the public good,” Yovanovitch testified. “The harm will come when bad actors in countries beyond Ukraine see how easy it is to use fiction and innuendo to manipulate our system.”
What does this have to do with impeachment?
President Trump mentioned Yovanovitch in a July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodomyr Zelensky, referring to her as “bad news” and saying she was “going to go through some things.”
That was the same call on which Trump requested Zelensky work with his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, for potential corruption. Democrats are focusing on that call as grounds for their impeachment inquiry
Two Giuliani associates, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, were indicted Thursday for allegedly trying to buy U.S. political influence with illegal campaign donations using foreign money.
The two men donated to former Texas GOP Rep. Pete Sessions in 2018. Sessions sent a letter to Pompeo asking for Yovanovitch to be removed, and also met with them. He denies that they influenced him to ask for Yovanovitch’s removal.