Biggest takeaways in Marie Yovanovitch testimony in impeachment probe – Business Insider

Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, arrives on Capitol Hill, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, in Washington, as she is scheduled to testify before congressional lawmakers on Friday as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald TrumpScott J. Applewhite/AP

  • A partial transcript of the testimony of Marie Yovanovitch, the former US ambassador to Ukraine, shows that President Donald Trump and his allies’ efforts to intimidate and bully her went much farther than previously known.
  • Yovanovitch testified that she felt threatened by Trump’s comments about her during a July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president.
  • She also said Ukrainian officials told her that a top Ukrainian ally of Rudy Giuliani was looking to “hurt” her “in the US.”
  • Ukraine’s minister of the interior, Arsen Avakov, told Yovanovitch he was “very concerned” about Giuliani and that she needed to watch her back.
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Marie Yovanovitch, the US’s former ambassador to Ukraine, laid out a trail of breadcrumbs for Congress to follow in her bombshell testimony last month as part of an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Lawmakers released a partial transcript of her closed-door hearing on Monday. The public was already aware of the broad outlines of Yovanovitch’s testimony based on her opening statement. But the transcript released this week shows that the effort by Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani to intimidate and bully her went much farther than previously known.

Yovanovitch is a central figure in the Trump administration’s shadow foreign policy campaign in Ukraine. The effort revolves around the president and his allies’ efforts to leverage US policy and strongarm the Ukrainian government into delivering Trump dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son ahead of the 2020 election.

Legal experts also told Insider that Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani — who spearheaded the shadow campaign — could have opened themselves up to allegations of bribery, extortion, and misappropriation of taxpayer funds by holding up a nearly $400 million military-aid package to Ukraine while pushing for political investigations that would personally benefit Trump.

Yovanovitch testified to Congress that Trump and Giuliani had been engaged in a smear campaign against her since the summer of 2018 because she refused to let Giuliani use the US embassy in Ukraine in his efforts to obtain dirt on the Bidens.

Here are some of the biggest takeaways from her blockbuster testimony, according to the partial transcript:

  • Yovanovitch felt “shocked” and threatened by Trump’s comments about her during a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. A White House summary of the call shows Trump calling her “bad news” and telling Zelensky “she’s going to go through some things.”
  • When Yovanovitch asked Gordon Sondland, the US’s ambassador to the EU, for advice on dealing with Trump, he told her to go on Twitter and praise Trump.
    • Yovanovitch testified that Sondland told her she needed to “go big or go home.” She added that he said, “you need to, you know, tweet out there that you support the President, and that all these are lies and everything else.”
    • She said she didn’t know how she could implement that advice “in my role as an Ambassador, and as a foreign service officer.”
    • When lawmakers asked Yovanovitch to specify what Sondland told her, she said he said something to the effect of, “You know the President. Well, maybe you don’t know him personally, but you know, you know, the sorts of things that he likes. You know, go out there battling aggressively and, you know, praise him or support him.”
  • Ukrainian officials told Yovanovitch in November or December 2018 about Giuliani’s plans to target her. 
    • “Basically, it was people in the Ukrainian Government who said that Mr. Lutsenko, the former prosecutor general, was in communication with Mayor Giuliani, and that they had plans, and that they were going to, you know, do things, including to me,” she testified.
    • Yovanovitch elaborated and said Lutsenko and Giuliani had met several times, and Lutsenko “was looking to hurt me in the US. I couldn’t imagine what that was. But, you know, now I see.”
  • Arsen Avakov, the Ukrainian Minister of the Interior, spoke to Giuliani in February about Biden and the 2016 election and subsequently warned Yovanovitch it would be “dangerous” for Ukraine to get into domestic US politics.
    • When a lawmaker asked Yovanovitch why Avakov tied Giuliani to Ukraine getting involved in the US, she said it related to the issue of the “black ledger.”
    • The “black ledger” is a handwritten list of $2 billion of allegedly illicit payments the pro-Russia Party of Regions made to people including former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The revelation of those payments led to Manafort’s resignation from the campaign.
    • Ukraine’s investigation into those payments and Manafort’s role stalled just days after Giuliani visited Ukraine in June 2017 and met with Lutsenko and Ukraine’s president at the time, Petro Poroshenko. The Manafort investigation was handed off from Ukraine’s anticorruption unit to Lutsenko, and the Kyiv Post quoted a former Ukrainian official as saying, “It is clear for me that somebody gave an order to bury the black ledger.” A little over a week later, the US made a sale of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.
    • Referring to that investigation, Yovanovitch testified that Avakov told her it was dangerous for Ukraine to get involved to look at “how did all of that come about; the issue of whether, you know, it was Russia collusion or whether it was really Ukraine collusion, and, you know, looking forward to the 2020 election campaign, and whether this would somehow hurt” Biden.
    • Asked whether Giuliani and his associates’ interest in Biden came up during her conversation with Avakov, Yovanovitch testified, “Yeah, I mean looking backwards to what happened in the past, with a view to finding things that could be possibly damaging to a presidential run” by Biden.
  • Avakov warned Yovanovitch he was “very concerned” about Giuliani and that she needed to watch her back.
  • Yovanovitch raised concerns about Giuliani with senior State Department officials but despite having their own concerns, they didn’t think they could stop him.
  • State Department officials were reluctant to issue a statement supporting Yovanovitch in light of the attacks on her because they were afraid “the rug would be pulled out” from under them by Trump.
  • After Yovanovitch was recalled, the acting Assistant Secretary of State Philip T. Reeker told her Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “was no longer able to” protect her from Trump.


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