The latest on the Trump impeachment inquiry
US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch said Rudy Giuliani’s shadow diplomacy “cut the ground out from underneath us” at the US embassy and hampered her efforts to represent the US as the senior-most diplomat in Ukraine.
“Ukrainians were wondering whether I was going to be leaving, whether we really represented the President, US policy, et cetera,” Yovanovitch said. “And so I think it was — you know, it really kind of cut the ground out from underneath us.”
She blamed Giuliani’s torrent of television interviews and social media posts. For months this spring and summer, Giuliani, President Trump's personal lawyer, spread conspiracy theories and unfounded rumors about Ukraine, former Vice President Joe Biden and his family, Yovanovitch’s loyalties, alleged corruption and much more.
Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified that she and George Kent — who was the deputy chief of mission in Kiev until summer of 2018 — “never discussed Hunter Biden and his board role and all of that, or to my recollection, I should say."
She added that Kent “did share with me his understanding of what happened, what occurred with regard to the British court case against Zlochevsky, the head of Burisma."
"That, you know, again, happened before my arrival. That was, you know, pretty much it,” she said," she said.
Some background on Burisma: President Trump has repeatedly claimed that former Vice President Joe Biden had called for the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor who was "investigating his son." There is no evidence Hunter Biden was ever under investigation.
The investigation was into the business dealings of the owner of a Ukrainian natural gas company, Burisma Holdings, where Hunter Biden sat on the board of directors.
Michael McKinley, former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, told lawmakers that he spoke with a fellow ambassador about what McKinley believed sounded like “bullying tactics” within the State Department toward officials who might comply with the impeachment investigation.
Ambassador George Kent, who oversees Ukraine and other countries in Eastern Europe, told McKinley that Kent had been questioning why the document requests from Congress were not being delivered to him from higher-ups at the State Department on a “timely basis.”
“He challenged the deadline they were working against,” McKinley recalled Kent telling him. “Why weren’t they given the request for documents on a timely basis and why were they having to pull together whatever they were pulling together days after the congressional request had come in.”
McKinley said Kent also raised concerns that a letter from Pompeo back to the House committees contained “inaccuracies” about protecting or providing legal support to State employees who might speak with Congress. McKinley said he was “absolutely appalled” that the State Department was declaring that there would be no financial support for officials’ private counsel.
McKinley, relaying his conversation with Kent said, that "he also mentioned that he thought that the [State Department] lawyer was trying to shut him up, and so I didn’t tell him to write it up.” McKinley said Kent wrote up the details of what he conveyed to McKinley and sent it in an email to McKinley that evening.
McKinley went on to send that memo to “other people on the 7th floor” – that is, the floor of the State Department where Pompeo and other senior officials have their offices – because he thought it was a “serious memorandum.”
“I thought it indicated a lack of support that was broader than simply a question of statements,” McKinley said, adding that he was concerned about “bullying tactics” against other State officials who might cooperate with the congressional investigation.
McKinley testified he received no response from anyone on the Seventh floor to the Kent memo he sent around.
Ambassador Michael McKinley, former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, testified that he never had any discussions with anyone at the State Department about President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
“I don’t think his name ever crossed my lips,” McKinley said.
See the transcript:
Former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch described in her deposition a sense of shock at efforts to oust her from her post. And she said officials in Washington made no effort to verify whether any of the claims made against her were true before she was recalled.
Speaking to the committees, Yovanovitch said she couldn’t grasp at the time what was happening because it was so outside the realm of normal.
“You're going to think that I'm incredibly naive, but I couldn't imagine all of the things that have happened over the last five or seven months, I just couldn't imagine it,” she told lawmakers during her Oct. 11 deposition.
She told the committees that she first learned from Ukrainian officials in late 2018 about attempts by Rudy Giuliani and his associate, the ex-prosecutor general of Ukraine Yuriy Lutsenko, to damage her reputation.
She said it was people inside the Ukrainian government who told her Giuliani and Lutsenko “had plans, and that they were going to, you know, do things, including to me.”
In her conversations with officials at the State Department and the National Security Council, Yovanovitch said she received only support. And she said there was no attempt by the Trump administration to verify any of the claims against her, even after she was recalled from her post.
"Until today, nobody has ever actually asked me the question from the US government of whether I am actually guilty of all of these things I’m supposed to have done. Nobody even asked, because I think everybody just thought it was so outrageous," she said.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters today on Capitol Hill that two more transcripts will be released on Tuesday.
The transcripts include interviews with former special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker and US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.
Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovtich testified that Mike McKinley, a former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, reached out to her after the release of the July 25 call.
“He wanted to see how I was doing, and he was concerned there had been no outreach and no kind of public support from the Department,” she said, according to the transcripts.
At that point, McKinley was still at the State Department. Yovanovitch said that McKinley called to give her a heads up about his resignation. He told that he told her he was leaving because "he was concerned about how the Department was handling, you know, this cluster of issues.”
“I think he felt that the Department should stand by its officers,” she said, adding that he was referring to her and “perhaps George Kent as well.” Kent, a deputy assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs, also testified in the inquiry.
Yovanovitch went on to say that McKinley told her “there had been a difficult conversation with the State Department lawyers and that George had shared that with him.” She said it was related a “disagreement” to the subpoena for documents.
“He said that there had been an argument and that he was going to, you know, share this further up, is what he said — I don't know what ‘up’ means or who that means — and that because he didn't feel that ostracizing employees and bullying employees was the appropriate reaction from the Department,” Yovanovitch said.
Yovanovitch said she did not know if the disagreement was about whether the State Department should produce the documents, if Kent was arguing for the production of documents, or if it was related to whether Kent should testify to the committees.
Ambassador Michael McKinley, former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, testified that there was “no discussion whatsoever, at least in my presence, by senior State Department leadership on what was developing,” after the whistleblower account appeared in the press and the White House released a rough transcript of President Trump’s July 25 call with the Ukrainian president.
“It was in this environment that the whistleblower account appeared in the press. I was disturbed by the implication that foreign governments were being approached to procure negative information on political opponents. I was convinced that this would also have a serious impact on Foreign Service morale and the integrity of our work overseas. The initial reports were followed on September 25 by the release of the transcript of the President's telephone conversation with President Zelensky, which included negative comments on Ambassador Yovanovitch. The disparagement of a career diplomat doing her job was unacceptable to me. Inside the building, meanwhile, there was no discussion whatsoever, at least in my presence, by senior State Department leadership on what was developing,” McKinley said.
US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch said she was “shocked” and “apprehensive” when she learned that President Trump privately told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that she was “going to go through some things.”
That detail came out in September when the White House released a rough transcript of a July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky, though Trump did not use Yovanovitch’s name, it was clear he was talking about her.
“I was shocked,” Yovanovitch said of her reaction to Trump’s comments. “I was shocked and I was I was shocked and I was apprehensive about what that meant.”