President Donald Trump launched a Twitter attack on a former US ambassador to Ukraine on Friday while she was testifying to an impeachment hearing in Congress, in an extraordinary moment that Democrats said amounted to witness intimidation.
Marie Yovanovitch, a career diplomat, was explaining to the second day of televised impeachment hearings how she fought corruption in Ukraine and how the Trump administration abruptly pulled her back to Washington when Trump blasted her on Twitter.
As Yovanovitch testified, Trump fired off his criticism on Twitter. “Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go?” Trump asked.
Adam Schiff, the Democrat chairing the hearing in the House Intelligence Committee, asked Yovanovitch for her reaction to the tweet.
“I can’t speak to what the president is trying to do, but I think the effect is to be intimidating,” she said.
Schiff replied: “Well, I want to let you know, ambassador, that some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously.”
Democrats say Yovanovitch’s removal from her post earlier this year was aimed at clearing the way for Trump allies to persuade Ukraine to launch corruption investigations into Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
Trump’s pressure on Ukraine is at the heart of the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry into whether the Republican president misused US foreign policy to undermine one of his potential opponents in the 2020 election.