Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified to lawmakers on Friday that when she read how President Trump had talked about her to his Ukrainian counterpart in a July phone call — saying ominously that “she’s going to go through some things” — the color drained from her face. “It sounded like a threat,” she said.
As Ambassador Yovanovitch was testifying about feeling intimidated, the Twitter-troll-in-chief engaged in illegal witness intimidation on Twitter in real time, live on TV. Trump attacks ambassador even as she describes feeling threatened by him:
The president’s denigration of a widely respected Foreign Service officer — while she calmly but forcefully denounced his earlier attacks against her — drew widespread criticism, with many Democratic lawmakers calling it witness intimidation.
House Intelligence committee chairman Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) told reporters during a break in the hearing that the nation had seen “witness intimidation in real time” by the president.
Conservatives also criticized his tweet.
Speaking on Fox News, former independent counsel Ken Starr, a frequent Trump defender, told viewers the president “was not advised by counsel in deciding to do this tweet. Extraordinarily poor judgment … Obviously this was quite injurious.”
The No. 3 Republican in the House, Rep. Liz Cheney, said President Donald Trump “was wrong” to post tweets critical of former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch during her testimony in the impeachment hearings. GOP Rep. Liz Cheney criticizes Trump for tweet on Yovanovitch. Rep. Cheney said Yovanovitch “clearly is somebody who’s been a public servant to the United States for decades and I don’t think the president should have done that.”
Yovanovitch [was describing] in detail how it felt to read a rough transcript was published of Trump’s July phone call with new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in September — and to learn that the two world leaders had discussed her.
On the call, Trump called Yovanovitch “bad news” and then ominously added, “She’s going to go through some things.”
Yovanovitch testified that when she first read those words, a friend who was with her at the time told her she looked stricken.
“I even had a physical reaction,” she said. “Even now, words kind of fail me.”
She said Trump’s statements sounded like “a vague threat, so I wondered what that meant.”
“I didn’t sound good,” she said. “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 couldn’t believe it.”
“She started off in Somalia, how did that go?” Trump added, referring one of the numerous hardship postings the veteran diplomat held in her 33-year career.
“Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him,” Trump continued. “It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.”
Back in the hearing room, Schiff informed Yovanovitch the president had been tweeting about her, even as she spoke, and said he wished to give her an opportunity to respond.
She at first appeared taken aback. Schiff began to read aloud. A small smile crept onto Yovanovitch’s face, as she heard the president had blamed her for troubles in war-torn Somalia.
“I don’t think I have such powers,” she replied. “Not in Mogadishu, Somalia. Not in other places.”
She went on to say she believes she and other U.S. diplomats have made things “demonstrably better” in the nations where they have served, particularly in Ukraine, which she said has made strides in strengthening democratic institutions in recent years.
But, she testified, the president’s attacks carried weight.
“It’s very intimidating,” she said. “I can’t speak to what the president is trying to do. But I think the effect is to be intimidating.”
This is witness intimidation, and is a crime. Donald Trump is committing crimes in real time, live on TV. Any other person would be charged today with witness intimidation and an arrest warrant issued.
This has to stop.