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FACTBOX-'Take witness intimidation very, very seriously' - Quotes from Trump impeachment hearing

by Reuters
Friday, 15 November 2019 16:55 GMT

(Adds new Schiff quote during break, Jordan)

WASHINGTON, Nov 15 (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee held its second public hearing on Friday in an impeachment inquiry examining President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine. The witness was Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

Below are some quotations from Friday's hearing.


Yovanovitch said not all Ukrainians "embraced" U.S. anti-corruption work. "Thus, perhaps, it was not surprising, that when our anti-corruption efforts got in the way of a desire for profit or power, Ukrainians who preferred to play by the old, corrupt rules sought to remove me. What continues to amaze me is that they found Americans willing to partner with them and, working together, they apparently succeeded in orchestrating the removal of a U.S. ambassador.

"I do not understand Mr Giuliani's motives for attacking me," she said, referring to the president's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani ... What I can say is that Mr. Giuliani should have known those claims were suspect, coming as they reportedly did from individuals with questionable motives and with reason to believe that their political and financial ambitions would be stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine."

"These events should concern everyone in this room. Ambassadors are the symbol of the United States abroad, they are the personal representative of the president," Yovanovitch said. "If our chief representative is kneecapped, it limits our effectiveness to safeguard the vital national security interests of the United States."

Yovanovitch was asked to respond to President Trump's tweet Friday in which the president said that "everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad," including Somalia, as well as Ukraine.

She replied: "I don't think I have such powers, not in Mogadishu, Somalia, and not in other places. I actually think that where I've served over the years, I and others have demonstrably made things better for the U.S. as well as for the countries that I've served in."

Asked by the committee's chairman, Representative Adam Schiff, what effect the attacks on her could have on the willingness of other witnesses to come forward, Yovanovitch said: "I can't speak to what the president is trying to do, but I think the effect is to be intimidating."

Schiff replied: "Well, I want to let you know, ambassador, that some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously."


Schiff, a Democrat, opened the impeachment hearing explaining how Yovanovitch was removed from her post earlier this year "because she did not have the confidence of the president."

"Getting rid of Ambassador Yovanovitch helped set stage for an irregular channel that could pursue the two investigations that mattered so much to the president, the 2016 conspiracy theory, and most important, an investigation into the 2020 political opponent he apparently feared most, Joe Biden. And the president's scheme might have worked but for the fact that the man who would succeed Ambassador Yovanovitch, whom we heard from on Wednesday, acting Ambassador Taylor, would eventually discover the effort to press Ukraine into conducting these investigations and would push back hard, but for the fact that someone blew the whistle," Schiff said.

"Ambassador Yovanovitch was serving our nation's interest in fighting corruption in Ukraine, but she was considered an obstacle to the furtherance of the president's personal and political agenda. For that she was smeared and cast aside," Schiff said. "The powers of the presidency are immense, but they are not absolute and cannot be used for a corrupt purpose."

Schiff also responded to Representative Devin Nunes' reading aloud of the first telephone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

"I'm grateful the president has released the call record. I would now ask the president to release the thousands of other records that he has instructed the State Department not to release. ... We would ask the president to stop obstructing the impeachment inquiry," Schiff said.

During a break in proceedings, Schiff told reporters: "What we saw today is it wasn't enough that Ambassador Yovanovitch was smeared, it wasn't enough that she was attacked, it wasn't enough that she was recalled for no reason, at least no good reason. But we saw today witness intimidation in real time by the president of the United States. Once again going after this dedicated and respected career public servant in an effort to not only chill her but to chill others who may come forward. We take this kind of witness intimidation and obstruction of inquiry very seriously."


The top Republican on the committee, Devin Nunes, said Democrats had gone "too far" in their efforts to impeach Trump, castigating them for accusing the president of being a "Russian agent" and comparing them to "some kind of strange cult."

"Democrats have been vowing to oust President Trump since the day he was elected. So Americans can rightly suspect that his phone call with President Zelenskiy was used as an excuse for the Democrats to fulfill their Watergate fantasies," Nunes said.

Much of the testimony so far relied on rumors, the Republican said.

"The problem with trying to overthrow a president based on this type of evidence is obvious. But that's what their whole case relies on, beginning with secondhand and thirdhand information cited by the whistleblower," Nunes said.

"And just when you thought this spectacle couldn't get more bizarre, committee Republicans received a memo from the Democrats threatening ethics referrals if we out the whistleblower. As the Democrats are well aware, no Republicans here know the whistleblower's identity because the whistleblower only met with the Democrats — not with Republicans."

"I'll note that House Democrats vowed they would not put the American people through a wrenching impeachment process without bipartisan support — and they have none. Add that to their ever-growing list of broken promises and destructive deceptions," Nunes said.


Republican Representative Jim Jordan dismissed a reporter's suggestion that Trump's tweeting during the testimony might not be helpful to Republicans on the committee.

"Look, the president has been frustrated with this relentless attack on him that started even before he was president. I think the America people can relate to the frustration of Democrats starting in July 2016 with their crazy investigation and now they move into this. So I think that's what drives that."

Asked to comment on Democratic claims of witness intimidation, Jordan said: "The witness is testifying. She wouldn't even have known about the quote, if Mr. Schiff hadn't read the tweet." (Reporting by Susan Cornwell, Patricia Zengerle, David Morgan and Richard Cowan; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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