During her testimony to the House Intelligence Committee on Friday (November 15) as part of the second public hearing of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch had harsh words for how the Trump administration is handling diplomacy. She said that the administration's attacks on career diplomats and the failure to fill critical posts have made it harder for officials at the State Department to do their jobs.
"The attacks are leading to a crisis in the State Department as the policy process is visibly unraveling, leadership vacancies going unfilled, and senior and mid-level officers ponder an uncertain future and head for the doors," Yovanovitch testified. "This not a time to undercut our diplomats."
Yovanovitch was ousted from her post after clashing with Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, over his attempts to subvert the normal channels of diplomacy in an effort to get Ukraine to open up investigations into alleged corruption by Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. She described a smear campaign led by Giuliani and blamed officials at the State Department for failing to defend her from the allegations.
"At the closed deposition, I expressed grave concerns about the degradation of the Foreign Service over the past few years, and the failure of the State Department leadership to push back as foreign and corrupt interests apparently hijacked our Ukraine policy," she said in her opening remarks. “I remain disappointed that the Department’s leadership and others have declined to acknowledge that the attacks against me and others are dangerously wrong."
Yovanovitch said that she was shocked and upset when she learned President Trump called her out during a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“I was shocked, absolutely shocked, and devastated frankly,” she said. “I was shocked and devastated that I would feature in a phone call between two heads of state in such a manner, where President Trump said that I was ‘bad news’ to another head of state.”
The hearing took a strange turn when President Trump weighed in on the proceedings on Twitter. He blasted Yovanovitch and claimed that Zelensky "spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him."
Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. 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.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff accused Trump of trying to intimidate Yovanovitch with his tweet.
"What we saw today is, it wasn’t enough that Ambassador Yovanovitch was smeared, it wasn’t enough that she was attacked, it wasn’t enough that she was recalled for no reason, at least no good reason," Schiff told reporters during a break in the hearing. "But we saw today, witness intimidation in real time by the President of the United States, once again going after this dedicated and respected career public servant in an effort to not only chill her, but to chill others who may come forward. We take this kind of witness intimidation and obstruction of inquiry very seriously."
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