Ousted Ambassador Talks; Trump Tweets 11/16 09:19
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The box of white tissues stood by, two seats to Maria
Yovanovitch's right, as she told the world about being "shocked, appalled,
devastated" that the president had badmouthed her after firing her as
ambassador to Ukraine. But Yovanovitch stayed a picture of soft-spoken reserve,
even as her former boss disparaged her again, in real time, during her solo
testimony in the House's impeachment proceedings.
"It's very intimidating," she said of President Donald Trump's tweet, which
was displayed on screens in the hearing room.
Whatever the president's intent, the moment seemed consistent with
Yovanovitch's account that she was "kneecapped" by a smear campaign, then
ousted, as Trump and his allies pushed Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his
It was also hard not to notice that Trump, who has an extensive history of
putting down women who challenge him, had abstained from attacking a pair of
tweedy male diplomats who had told a similar story Wednesday. But when
Yovanovitch sat at the same witness table and relayed her experience, Trump
fired off a tweet that weaponized her three-decade record of diplomatic
"Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad," Trump wrote in part,
referencing Somalia, the first of her 13 assignments.
Yovanovitch, 60, shrugged and smiled. "Well," she said. "I don't think I
have such power, not in Mogadishu and some other places."
By the end of the day, the dark-suited career diplomat and daughter of
immigrants who fled the former Soviet Union and Nazi Germany had her own
Twitter hashtag and her version of a mic drop moment.
It was far from the first time Yovanovitch felt threatened by Trump and his
associates, according to her testimony. But Democrats conducting impeachment
proceedings against the nation's 45th president said his tweets amounted to
evidence of witness intimidation, potentially for a separate article of
impeachment. Republicans, too, were stunned by Trump's tweet and declined to
defend it, if they were willing to talk about it at all.
"The president's going to defend himself," said Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y.
The House's No. 3 Republican said Trump had been "wrong."
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," said
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.
For her part, Yovanovitch offered chilling detail about the lead-up to her
firing, in which she said she felt pressured to put out public shows of support
for Trump and got none in return. She said she was told during a 1 a.m. phone
call from a State Department official to return to the United States "on the
next plane" because of concerns from "up the street," which she believed to
mean the White House. She said Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan told her
the president had lost confidence in her. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo,
Sullivan said, "was no longer able to protect" her from attacks led by Trump's
personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
But months after her firing, Yovanovitch said she felt alarmed again as she
read a transcript of Trump's July 25th phone call. On it, he asked Ukrainian
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for the "favor" of the investigations. Trump also
made clear that Yovanovitch, though gone, was very much on his mind.
"The woman," Trump said, according to a rough transcript released by the
White House, "she's going to go through some things."
"It was a terrible moment," Yovanovitch recalled Friday. Someone who watched
her read the White House's rough transcript told her "that the color drained
from my face. I think I even had a physical reaction."
It sounded, she said, "like a threat."
In private testimony, she had grown emotional retelling the story and at one
point agreed to take a break.
That didn't happen Friday, so there was no need for tissues. But Yovanovitch
made clear she was still unnerved by the ordeal. It's hard to believe, she
said, "the president would talk to any ambassador like that to a foreign head
of state, and it was me."
Watching from the rows reserved for the public were some women from Long
Island who had taken the train to Washington to see the proceedings firsthand.
When Yovanovitch was done, Schiff delivered a stemwinder of a closing
statement, telling her, "You were viewed as an obstacle that had to go."
He gaveled the proceedings, which had stretched over six hours, to a close.
Republicans shouted for his attention but Schiff walked out.
Members of the public jumped to their feet and applauded Yovanovitch as she,
her lawyers and others in her retinue stood. Yovanovich heard the hoots and
looked over her shoulder. Then she smiled and headed out a side door, her turn
in the public eye complete.
"It touched my soul, the way Schiff just ended it," said Ann Orton, of North
Port, N.Y., a retired teacher who took the train to the hearings with two
friends. "I wanted to cheer."
Her friend, Cathy Benjamin of Bayshore, said it was Yovanovitch who had
"Having to testify in front of the world to Congress," she said. "What
By the end of the day, someone had removed the box of tissues from the