(Bloomberg) -- Marie Yovanovitch, who was stripped of her post as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told House impeachment investigators Friday she was ousted after a “concerted campaign” by President Donald Trump and his allies, including Rudy Giuliani.
In prepared testimony delivered behind closed doors, Yovanovitch also delivered scathing criticism of the Trump administration’s foreign policy, warning that the State Department is being “attacked and hollowed out from within.”
“Although I understand that I served at the pleasure of the president, I was nevertheless incredulous that the U.S. government chose to remove an ambassador based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives,” said Yovanovitch, a career foreign service officer for more than three decades who served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from August 2016 to May 2019.
The testimony from Yovanovitch is likely to be key in the case that House Democrats are attempting to build for Trump’s impeachment. The chairmen of the committees on Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight said they issued a subpoena to compel the former ambassador to testify after the State Department directed her not to appear.
The committees have already heard from the president’s special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, and are scheduled to hear from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland on Oct. 17.
Vovanovitch defended her record as a career diplomat and cited Giuliani’s role in pushing for her ouster.
“I do not know Mr. Giuliani’s motives for attacking me,” she said, according to her prepared remarks. “But individuals who have been named in the press as contacts of Mr. Giuliani may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”
Two men who worked closely with Giuliani since he became Trump’s personal lawyer, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were charged Thursday with illegally funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars in foreign money into efforts to support Trump and other candidates for office.
Parnas, who was born in Ukraine, and Fruman, born in Belarus, also have been under scrutiny by Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry because of their work in Kyiv over the past year with Giuliani to dig up incriminating information on Joe Biden, the leading contender to challenge Trump in next year’s presidential election, and his son.
According to the indictment, the men, both now U.S. citizens, also played a role in another incident House Democrats are zeroing in on: Parnas allegedly pressed an unidentified congressman to push for Vovanovitch to be recalled as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
Giuliani has admitted that he did push the newly elected Ukrainian government to investigate Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
Vovanovitch said there have been a number of falsehoods spread about her. Among them, she said she never told U.S. embassy staff in Ukraine to ignore the president’s orders “since he was going to be impeached.” Nor, she said, did anyone from former President Barack Obama’s administration ask her to help Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid or hurt Trump’s White House bid.
She also said she never met Hunter Biden’s son nor did she talk about him with Joe Biden. She said she never asked officials in Ukraine to not prosecute corruption.
She said that her tenure as a diplomat, which includes service in seven countries and three ambassadorships, came to an abrupt end in late April 2019, just a month after the State Department had extended her tour in Ukraine until 2020.
She said she was suddenly ordered to return to Washington “on the next plane.” She met with the Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, who told her that her tenure was over.
“He said that the president had lost confidence in me and no longer wished me to serve as his ambassador,” according to her testimony. “He added that there had been a concerted campaign against me, and that the department had been under pressure from the president to remove me since the summer of 2018.”
A White House memo of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy shows that he referred to her as “bad news.”
She warned that her removal came at a time that continuity in U.S.-Ukraine relations is most needed, as Ukraine works to integrate into Europe and battle Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. She warned of the “significant tension” between those who are trying to transform Ukraine and those trying to “continue profiting from the old ways.”
She also warned that “bad actors in countries beyond Ukraine” will more easily be able to use falsehoods and innuendo to “manipulate our system.”
“In such circumstances, the only interests that will be served are those of our strategic adversaries, like Russia, that spread chaos and attack the institutions and norms that the U.S,” she said.
--With assistance from Erik Wasson.
To contact the reporters on this story: Billy House in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org;Laura Litvan in Washington at email@example.com
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