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Former US Ambassador to the Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, on November 15, 2019.
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

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Trump attacked Marie Yovanovitch on Twitter during her testimony. She responded in real time.

Even Fox News thought Trump’s tweets strayed dangerously close to witness intimidation.

Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch delivered a powerful opening statement during her testimony before House impeachment investigators on Friday. She detailed her decades of service as a diplomat, and expressed concern that her sudden ouster due to a Trumpworld smear campaign this past spring could have a chilling effect on those who are sincerely committed to rooting out corruption in Ukraine and elsewhere.

“I remain disappointed that the department’s leadership and others have declined to acknowledge that the attacks against me and others are dangerously wrong,” she said, alluding to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “The policy process is visibly unraveling ... the State Department is being hollowed out.”

Shortly after Yovanovitch concluded her opening statement, President Donald Trump responded to it by attacking her, going so far as to blame her for decades of civil unrest in Somalia. (Yovanovitch began her posting in Mogadishu in 1986, when she was about 28 years old.)

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go?” Trump tweeted. “Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.”

In a second tweet, Trump touted his own “very strong and powerful foreign policy” before taking a shot at former President Barack Obama. But the irony is that just hours earlier, at a rally in Louisiana, Trump mocked and ridiculed William Taylor — the State Department official who testified before impeachment investigators on Wednesday and is currently serving as the acting ambassador to Ukraine.

And with regard to Trump’s claim that Ukrainian President Zelensky “spoke unfavorably about [Yovanovitch] in my second phone call with him,” a call summary released by the White House indicates that Trump brought her up and criticized her as “bad news,” and that Zelensky mostly just went along with what he was saying.

“She’s going to go through some things,” Trump said during that call, in a comment that Yovanovitch said during her testimony that she regarded as a “threat.”

“I wondered what that meant. It concerned me,” she said.

Shortly after Trump posted his tweets, the Democrat leading the impeachment inquiry, Rep. Adam Schiff, asked Yovanovitch to respond to them.

“Well, I don’t think I have such powers — not in Mogadishu, Somalia, not in other places,” she began. “I actually think that where I served over the years, I and others have demonstrably made things better for the US as well as for the countries that I’ve served in.”

Schiff went on to characterize Trump’s tweets as a form of witness intimidation.

“I want to let you know, ambassador, that some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously,” he said.

Even Fox News’s Bret Baier thought Trump’s tweets were ill-advised. After Yovanovitch’s hearing adjourned for a break, Baier said that “this whole hearing turned on a dime when the president tweeted about her [in] real time and during the questioning Adam Schiff stopped the Democratic questioning to read the president’s tweet to her and get her response.”

“Now that enabled Schiff to then characterize that tweet as intimidating the witness or tampering the witness, which is a crime — adding essentially an article of impeachment in real time as this hearing is going on,” Baier continued. “That changed this entire dynamic of this first part of this hearing, and Republicans now are going to have to take the rest of this hearing to probably clean that up.”

During another Fox News segment, former independent counsel Ken Starr said Trump’s tweet showed “extraordinarily poor judgment” and “was quite injurious.” But one of the Republicans partaking in the impeachment inquiry, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), defended the president, saying he “has been frustrated with this relentless attack on him by the Democrats that started even before he was president. I think the American people can relate to the frustration.”

The news moves fast. To stay updated, follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter, and read more of Vox’s policy and politics coverage


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