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

House Democrats wasted no time Friday saying President TrumpDonald TrumpCIA chief threatened to resign over push to install Trump loyalist as deputy: report Azar in departure letter says Capitol riot threatens to 'tarnish' administration's accomplishments Justice Dept. argues Trump should get immunity from rape accuser's lawsuit 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 SpeierGlobal Gag Rule is just the tip of the iceberg: Why Repealing the Helms Amendment matters Democrats press to bar lawmakers from carrying guns in the Capitol The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress moves to avert shutdown as virus talks stall again MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters during a break in the hearing with Marie YovanovitchMarie YovanovitchTrump has discussed possible pardons for three eldest children, Kushner: report Former Giuliani associates plead not guilty to new fraud charges Why it's time for a majority female Cabinet 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 QuigleyDemocrats press to bar lawmakers from carrying guns in the Capitol House approves bill banning big cat ownership after Netflix's 'Tiger King' This week: Congress races to wrap work for the year 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 SwalwellSwalwell compares Trump to bin Laden: They 'inspired and radicalized' Pelosi names 9 impeachment managers House Judiciary Democrats ask Pence to invoke 25th Amendment to remove Trump MORE (D-Calif.), a member of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats point fingers on whether Capitol rioters had inside help Pelosi suggests criminal charges for any lawmaker who helped with Capitol riot Pelosi mum on when House will send impeachment article to Senate 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 SchiffWhat our kids should know after the Capitol Hill riot  Pelosi names 9 impeachment managers Democrats, GOP face defining moments after Capitol riot 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 ConawayThompson named top Republican on Agriculture Bottom line House Republican introduces amendment to include farm aid in stopgap funding bill 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 JordanMcCarthy won't back effort to oust Cheney Wyoming GOP shares 'outcry' it has received about Cheney's impeachment vote The Memo: Historic vote leaves Trump more isolated than ever 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 HimesCOVID-19 could complicate Pelosi's path to Speaker next year Democrats debate fate of Trump probes if Biden wins House Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education MORE (D-Conn.), another Intelligence Committee member. “So it’s clear witness intimidation.”