Democrats say Trump tweet is 'witness intimidation,' fuels impeachment push

House Democrats wasted no time Friday saying President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Trump administration planning to crack down on 'birth tourism': report George Conway on Trump adding Dershowitz, Starr to legal team: 'Hard to see how either could help' MORE’s real-time Twitter attack on a top U.S. diplomat — as she was testifying on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine — was more evidence of presidential misconduct as they charge ahead with their impeachment probe. 

“The president in real time is engaging in witness intimidation and witness tampering,” an exasperated Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierPoll: 69 percent of Americans say they are watching impeachment closely The Hill's Morning Report — Impeachment face-off; Dems go after Buttigieg in debate Democrats rally behind Pelosi on delay of articles MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters during a break in the hearing with Marie YovanovitchMarie YovanovitchHouse Democrats may call new impeachment witnesses if Senate doesn't Giuliani: 'I'd love to be a witness' at Senate impeachment trial Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for Senate impeachment trial MORE, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was removed abruptly in May.

“I don’t know how much more egregious it has to get before the American people are going to recognize we have someone in the White House who conducts himself in a criminal manner on a day-to-day basis.”

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Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyTransgender detainees need protection — a letter from lawmakers doesn't provide it Lawmakers to call on ICE to release all transgender detainees House votes to impeach Trump MORE (D-Ill.), another member of the Intelligence Committee, described the tweet as "real-time intimidation" and suggested it could become a part of articles of impeachment against Trump.

“I think it speaks for itself,” he said. “Everything the president does, from obstruction to intimidation, becomes part of the record. And we’ll decide later — or not — whether it’s part of the articles.”

Other Intelligence Committee Democrats said Trump’s intimidation tactics are simply evidence of his guilt. 

“Innocent people don’t intimidate witnesses. Guilty people do,” Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellMartha McSally fundraises off 'liberal hack' remark to CNN reporter Enes Kanter sees political stardom — after NBA and WWE Swalwell pens op-ed comparing Trump impeachment to XYZ Affair MORE (D-Calif.), a member of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats worry a speedy impeachment trial will shut out public Schiff huddles in Capitol with impeachment managers Media's selective outrage exposed in McSally-Raju kerfuffle MORE’s (D-Calif.) leadership team. “It should be considered for obstruction. It’s evidence of more obstruction, intimidating the witness, tampering with the witness’s testimony.

“But it really goes to his guilt ...  Innocent people just don’t do this.”

Yovanovitch is the third witness to appear publicly this week before the Intelligence Committee, which is investigating whether Trump abused his office by pressing foreign leaders in Kyiv to find dirt on his domestic political adversaries.

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Roughly an hour into her testimony, Trump took to Twitter to portray the respected 33-year veteran of the foreign service as ineffective and incompetent. The president appeared to suggest Yovanovitch was responsible for the 1993 botched military raid in Mogadishu, Somalia, that killed 19 American soldiers. 

The ambassador was in Somalia during her first tour abroad in the mid-1980s, Yovanovitch testified Friday, but she was in Moscow in 1993.

“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,” Trump tweeted. 

“It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.”

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDemocrats worry a speedy impeachment trial will shut out public Schiff huddles in Capitol with impeachment managers Trump defenders argue president can't be removed for abuse of power MORE (D-Calif.), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, read the tweet aloud during the hearing, then asked Yovanovitch for her reaction to the claims. 

It was, she said, “very intimidating.”

Schiff then suggested Democrats would keep the episode in mind as they weigh whether to draft impeachment articles. 

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

Even some Republicans on the Intelligence panel expressed uneasiness about the president’s real-time attacks on Yovanovitch.

Asked if the tweets amounted to witness intimidation, Rep. Mike ConawayKenneth (Mike) Michael ConawayLive coverage: Democrats, Republicans seek to win PR battle in final House impeachment hearing Laughter erupts at hearing after Democrat fires back: Trump 'has 5 Pinocchios on a daily basis' Live coverage: Schiff closes with speech highlighting claims of Trump's corruption MORE (R-Texas) told The Hill: “I am not a lawyer. It’s not something I would do.”

A reporter for The Hill asked Conaway if he would advise the president to stop tweeting about Yovanovitch.

“Again, he does not take a lot of advice from me, but it’s not something I would do,” Conaway replied.

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But Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanSunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for Senate impeachment trial Trump's legal team gets set for impeachment trial Five lingering questions as impeachment heads to Senate MORE (R-Ohio) defended Trump, saying the president was only venting justified frustrations in response to Democratic attacks he deemed inherently unfair.  

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

Jordan also said Trump's tweets attacking Yovanovitch could not constitute witness intimidation since she was testifying at the time and couldn't possibly have seen the message. 

"The witness is testifying, she wouldn't even know about the [tweet]," Jordan said.

Democrats viewed the interaction very differently, noting that Yovanovitch, though recalled to Washington, is still employed by Trump’s State Department. 

“He’s still her boss,” said Rep. Jim HimesJames (Jim) Andres HimesTwitter users invoke Merrick Garland after McConnell, Graham comments on impeachment trial Pelosi faces tough choices on impeachment managers This week: Impeachment inquiry moves to Judiciary Committee MORE (D-Conn.), another Intelligence Committee member. “So it’s clear witness intimidation.”