Donald Trump has attacked Marie Yovanovitch just as the former ambassador to Ukraine delivered public testimony before House investigators in his impeachment inquiry, saying everywhere she went “turned bad”.
The president wrote on Twitter: “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 US President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors”, Mr Trump added.
His tweet came as Ms Yovanovitch told lawmakers that she was the victim of “a campaign of disinformation” that used “unofficial back channels” leading to her removal from Ukraine.
She also said it “continues to amaze” her that Americans partnered with “Ukrainians who preferred to play by the old corrupt rules” in pushing for her removal.
Ms Yovanovitch was also sounding the alarm that senior State Department officials did not defend her from attacks from the president’s allies, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. She described to lawmakers a “crisis in the State Department.”
She said: “The State Department is being hollowed out from within at a competitive and complex time on the world stage.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said the former ambassador was “smeared and cast aside” by Mr Trump because she was considered an obstacle to his personal and political agenda.
Opening the second public House impeachment hearing, Mr Schiff said the question isn’t whether Mr Trump could recall Ms Yovanovitch but “why would he want to?”
Ms Yovanovitch testified behind closed doors last month that she was told to “watch her back” before she was ousted in May as Mr Giuliani led a shadow foreign policy.
Mr Schiff said pushback at the State Department failed when it became clear that Mr Trump wanted her gone.
The president went on to defend his decision to oust Ms Yovanovitch from her post On Friday, writing in an additional tweet: “They call it ‘serving at the pleasure of the President.’”
He added: “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.”
Ms Yovanovitch was read Mr Trump's tweets a few minutes later during the impeachment hearing, to which she responded: "I don't think I have such powers."
"I actually think that where I've served over the years ... I and others have demonstrably made things better", she added. "Ukraine, for example, where there are huge challenges ... The Ukrainian people get the most credit for that, but a part of that credit goes to the United States, and to me, as the ambassador".
Additional reporting by AP
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