Trump criticizes Yovanovitch during her public testimony

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump second-term plans remain a mystery to GOP Trump to hold outdoor rally in New Hampshire on Saturday Eighty-eight years of debt pieties MORE harshly criticized the tenure of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie YovanovitchMarie YovanovitchCheney clashes with Trump Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November Bolton book puts spotlight on Pompeo-Trump relationship MORE as she testified at a House impeachment hearing and emphasized he had the right to remove her from the post.

Trump asserted that “everywhere” Yovanovitch served “turned bad,” and noted that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke negatively of her during their July 25 phone call. 

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? 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,” Trump tweeted.

“They call it ‘serving at the pleasure of the President.’ The U.S. now has a very strong and powerful foreign policy, much different than proceeding administrations. It is called, quite simply, America First!” Trump continued. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Trump then claimed he has done “FAR more” for Ukraine than former President Obama.

Asked to respond to Trump's criticism at the hearing later Friday morning, Yovanovitch said the tweets were "intimidating." 

“I can’t speak to what the president is trying to do, but I think the effect is to be intimidating," Yovanovitch replied when asked about them by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDemocrats hit Trump for handling of Russian bounty allegations after White House briefing Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November Democrats face tough questions with Bolton MORE (D-Calif.). Schiff then said the committee takes witness intimidation "very seriously."

ADVERTISEMENT

Yovanovitch also defended her tenure at the State Department, saying she believed she and others "have made things demonstrably better for the U.S. as well as for the countries that I’ve served in.” 

Later, the White House pushed back on Schiff's accusation that Trump was intimidating a witness. 

"The tweet was not witness intimidation, it was simply the President’s opinion, which he is entitled to," said White House press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamMelania Trump's spokeswoman slams 'inappropriate and insensitive comments' about Barron Trump Melania Trump is 'behind-the-scenes' but 'unbelievably influential': book East Wing rips book saying Melania Trump renegotiated prenup before moving to White House MORE.

"This is not a trial, it is a partisan political process — or to put it more accurately, a totally illegitimate, charade stacked against the President. There is less due process in this hearing than any such event in the history of our country. It’s a true disgrace,” she added.

Yovanovitch, a career foreign service officer who has served in Republican and Democratic administrations, was abruptly recalled from her ambassadorship by Trump in the spring after the president’s personal attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiOusted Manhattan US Attorney Berman to testify before House next week Sunday shows preview: With coronavirus cases surging, lawmakers and health officials weigh in Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill banning federal government use of facial recognition tech | House lawmakers roll out legislation to establish national cyber director | Top federal IT official to step down MORE and his allies engaged in a smear campaign to oust her, according to testimony in connection with the impeachment inquiry.

ADVERTISEMENT

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said that Trump had lost confidence in Yovanovitch at the time of her ouster. Sullivan has said she did nothing wrong.

House Democrats called Yovanovitch to testify on Friday about her ouster, which preceded an effort by Giuliani to get Ukraine to pursue investigations that could benefit Trump politically. House Democrats are investigating whether Trump abused his office to pressure Ukraine to pursue the investigations, which he raised on the July 25 call with Zelensky. 

Trump also raised Yovanovitch during the call, describing her as “bad news” and saying she was “going to go through some things.” Zelensky also later told Trump he agreed she was a "bad ambassador." 

Yovanovitch testified Friday that she felt threatened when she saw Trump had raised her on the call.

“I was shocked and devastated,” she said. “It was a terrible moment.” 

-- Updated at 1:47 p.m.