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

House Democrats wasted no time Friday saying President TrumpDonald TrumpRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Jake Ellzey defeats Trump-backed candidate in Texas House runoff DOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot 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 SpeierJimmy and Rosalynn Carter celebrate 75th anniversary, longest-married presidential couple Military braces for sea change on justice reform House panel plans mid-July consideration of military justice overhaul MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters during a break in the hearing with Marie YovanovitchMarie YovanovitchGiuliani hires attorneys who defended Harvey Weinstein The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney Former Ukrainian prosecutor says he was fired for not investigating Hunter Biden: report 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 QuigleyCarole Baskin: People 'will be outraged' by conditions exotic animals face House panel includes 0 million election security grant in proposed appropriations bill Fitness industry group hires new CEO amid lobbying push 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 SwalwellDOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit Tech executives increased political donations amid lobbying push Justice in legal knot in Mo Brooks, Trump case MORE (D-Calif.), a member of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse to resume mask mandate after new CDC guidance McCarthy pulls GOP picks off House economic panel GOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger 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 SchiffOfficers offer harrowing accounts at first Jan. 6 committee hearing Live coverage: House panel holds first hearing on Jan. 6 probe Five things to watch as Jan. 6 panel begins its work 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 ConawayEx-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm If Congress can't work together to address child hunger we're doomed Ex-Rep. Mike Conaway, former aide launch lobbying firm 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 pulls GOP picks off House economic panel GOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger House GOP blames Pelosi — not Trump — for Jan. 6 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 HimesMcCarthy pulls GOP picks off House economic panel Pelosi picks Democrats for special panel tackling inequality House panel spars over GameStop frenzy, trading apps MORE (D-Conn.), another Intelligence Committee member. “So it’s clear witness intimidation.”