The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine on Friday told a House of Representatives impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump that Trump ousted her based on “unfounded and false claims” after she had come under attack by his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Marie Yovanovitch, the ambassador who was abruptly recalled from Kiev in May, spent more than nine hours in a closed-door meeting with House members and staff. She had been expected to appear last week but was told not to by the State Department at the behest of the White House, according to Democratic House members. Lawmakers then issued a subpoena for her appearance and she complied.
Yovanovitch, according to a copy of her opening statement posted online by U.S. media, said she was told by a senior State Department official about “a concerted campaign against me” and said Trump had pushed for her removal since the middle of 2018 even though the department believed “I had done nothing wrong.”
She expressed alarm over damage to diplomacy under Trump and warned about “private interests” circumventing “professional diplomats for their own gain, not the public good.”
The impeachment inquiry focuses on a July 25 phone call in which Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate a leading rival seeking to face Trump in the 2020 presidential election, former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, and Biden’s businessman son Hunter Biden.
Giuliani has accused Yovanovitch of blocking efforts to persuade Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. The former New York mayor has said he provided information to both Trump and State about Yovanovitch, who he suggested was biased against Trump.
On Friday, Giuliani said: “I was doing it in my role as a defense lawyer” for Trump.
Trump was asked on Friday whether Giuliani was still his personal attorney. He answered, “I don’t know.”
A person familiar with the situation said Giuliani was still Trump’s outside counsel, but would not represent him on matters dealing with Ukraine, as reported by Reuters.
In her statement, Yovanovitch denied any bias. She said Giuliani’s associates “may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”