Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified before Congress today and the results were incredibly damaging for the president.
Yovanovitch stated that she had a “physical reaction” when she read the transcript of Trump’s now-infamous phone call with the Ukrainian president during which he tried to strongarm his counterpart into opening a damaging investigation into Joe Biden while withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in much-needed aid as leverage. Trump mentioned the ambassador during the call and said she was “bad news” and that “she’s going to go through some things.” Yovanovitch said she was “shocked” and “devastated” by it and that she interpreted the comments as a threat.
Amb. Yovanovitch on seeing the Trump-Zelensky call for the first time: "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–I think, you know, even now words kind of fail me…I was devastated." pic.twitter.com/6OO2amC6qn
— House Foreign Affairs Committee (@HouseForeign) November 15, 2019
Rather than simply observe and brood quietly in the glow of his television set, Trump lashed out at her on Twitter.
Trump claimed that everywhere Yovanovitch went “turned bad.” He implied that she is singlehandedly responsible for the turmoil and violence in Somalia because she was once a diplomat to Mogadishu. It’s, of course, absurd to blame her for the region’s historic instability and doing so might just be one of Trump’s laziest smears to date. The president claimed that the Ukrainian president spoke “unfavorably” about her after she was assigned to the Eastern European country.
Trump then asserted his “absolute right” to appoint ambassadors and pointed out that such officials serve at the pleasure of the president. What he failed to acknowledge is that while presidents do get to choose their ambassadors, said ambassadors have no obligation to follow illegal orders or to keep quiet if they witness the president engaged in impeachable offenses.
Unable to resist the urge to indulge in some of his trademark baseless boasting, Trump bragged that the United States now has a “very strong and powerful foreign administration” and claimed he has done more for Ukraine than “O” which presumably means President Obama.
It cannot be stressed enough how deeply inappropriate these tweets were. The President of the United States attacked a Congressional witness in the middle of her testimony in what was clearly an effort to intimidate her. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) even paused the proceedings to give her a moment to defend herself, which she did admirably.
“I actually think that where I’ve served over the years, I and others have demonstrably made things better, you know, for the U.S. as well as for the countries that I’ve served in,” the former ambassador said in response to the accusation that she made things “bad” wherever she went.
After the hearing, Schiff outright accused Trump of witness intimidation and was right to do so. Just because we’ve come to expect lawbreaking from Trump doesn’t mean it should go unchallenged.
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.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2019
….They call it “serving at the pleasure of the President.” The U.S. now has a very strong and powerful foreign policy, much different than proceeding administrations. It is called, quite simply, America First! With all of that, however, I have done FAR more for Ukraine than O.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2019
Hillary Clinton agreed with Schiff’s analysis, and took to Twitter to say as much.
Witness intimidation is a crime, no matter who does it. Full stop.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) November 15, 2019
More problematically for the president, there are even Republicans denouncing his intimidating tweets. Fox’s Brett Baier called the real-time reading of Trump’s tweets to the ambassador as a “turning point” for the hearing. He added that Trump’s attack only made her a more sympathetic witness and that it allowed Schiff to accuse him of witness tampering and intimidation.
That was a turning point in this hearing so far. She was already a sympathetic witness & the President’s tweet ripping her allowed Schiff to point it out real time characterizing it as witness tampering or intimidation -adding an article of impeachment real-time. https://t.co/HSCkGMIqmH
— Bret Baier (@BretBaier) November 15, 2019
Ken Starr, the former counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton, admitted on Fox that Trump exercised “extraordinarily poor judgment” which could prove to be “quite injurious” for his defense.
On Fox News, Ken Starr says this about Trump's tweet:
“Extraordinarily poor judgment. … I think this was quite injurious.”
— Dan Zak (@MrDanZak) November 15, 2019
Fox’s Chris Wallace said that the only way someone could not have been moved by Yovanovitch’s patriotic testimony was if they lack a pulse.
Fox News' Chris Wallace: "If you were not moved by the testimony of Marie Yovanovitch today, you don't have a pulse. This is a woman who had served in seven posts for presidents of both parties over more than 30 years." pic.twitter.com/l7FgBQmpNi
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) November 15, 2019
At this rate, Trump is going to have a whole new batch of impeachable offenses under his belt by the end of these hearings.