Trump Impeachment Probe
Ukraine envoy says she was ousted over 'false claims'
WASHINGTON, Oct 12: The former US ambassador to Ukraine reportedly told impeachment investigators on Friday that President Donald Trump had sought her removal for months, and that she was eventually pushed out on "false claims" by questionable actors.
In the first congressional appearance by a Trump administration official since it declared war on House Democrats' impeachment probe this week, Marie Yovanovitch issued a scathing critique of the Trump administration's conduct of foreign policy, reported The New York Times which obtained her opening statement.
Yovanovitch slammed "fictitious" reports circulated by Trump allies that she is disloyal to him, and said she never did anything to sabotage his campaign or presidency, the Times quoted her as saying.
She also found it alarming that the senior State Department official who informed her she was being recalled, while insisting Yovanovitch "had done nothing wrong," told her that there had been "a concerted campaign against me," and that the department had been under pressure from Trump since mid-2018 to remove her.
The very appearance on Capitol Hill by Yovanovitch, who remains a federal employee, is a victory for Democrats given the White House's public stance against cooperating with the probe.
Democrats leading it said the White House late Thursday directed the State Department to block Yovanovitch from testifying.
But after the House Intelligence Committee immediately issued a subpoena, Yovanovitch defied the Trump administration and testified.
"Any efforts by Trump Administration officials to prevent witness cooperation with the Committees will be deemed obstruction of a co-equal branch of government," the panel's chief Adam Schiff and two other committee chairmen said in a statement.
Her testimony could be a breakthrough for those seeking first-hand details about efforts by Trump, including through his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, to pressure Ukraine to investigate Trump political rival Joe Biden.
Those efforts, revealed through a whistleblower complaint and subsequent release of the White House record of a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, have become the focus of the impeachment investigation.
Yovanovitch's testimony came as US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland revealed he, too, will comply with a House subpoena and testify to Congress next Thursday, defying administration orders not to.
Sondland, a wealthy donor to Trump's 2016 campaign, was included in text message chains discussing the president's effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden, amid concern by some diplomats in the messages that the administration was leveraging military aid on that political favour. -AFP