Schiff defends FBI investigation into Trump campaign, saying errors were not 'apparent' two years ago
Yovanovitch says John Solomon's columns were used to push false allegations
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified Friday that a shadow campaign led by Rudy Giuliani and his associates appeared to be behind what she said were false attacks against her that led to her ouster.
She singled out columns in The Hill written by former conservative opinion contributor John Solomon, which the staff counsel to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) highlighted during the committee's second public impeachment hearing.
In response to questions from staff counsel Daniel Goldman, Yovanovich said the origin of the attacks against her was a series of opinion articles in The Hill authored by Solomon. She also said the allegations came in part from Yuriy Lutsenko, the former prosecutor general of Ukraine.
"This effort by Giuliani and his associates resulted in a series of articles in The Hill publication that were based on allegations in part from Lutsenko," she said.
Goldman in his questioning highlighted three categories of attacks against Yovanovitch.
"One category included the attacks against you, which you referenced in your opening statement including that you had bad-mouthed the president and had given the prosecutor general a do-not-prosecute list," Goldman said. "There was another that included allegations of Ukrainian interference in a 2016 election and then there was a third that related to allegations concerning Burisma and the Bidens, is that accurate?"
"Yes," Yovanovitch answered, adding that they "seemed to be promoted by those around Mayor Giuliani."
"These attacks were being repeated by the president himself and his son," she added, which she said made her "worried."
Such allegations also received pickup on Fox News, she noted.
Yovanovitch said it was false that she had bad-mouthed the president and handed Lutsenko a do-not-prosecute list, a charge initially included in a column by Solomon in The Hill after an interview with Lutsenko.
Yovanovitch and the State Department have pushed back on that claim, saying it is false there was such a list.
Ukrainian media quoted Lutsenko as changing his story, though in an interview with The New York Times last month, Lutsenko blamed the confusion on an interpreter for his interview with Solomon and said Yovanovitch had asked him to target certain politicians and activists who worked with the embassy on its anti-corruption efforts.
Yovanovitch has maintained on Wednesday that she did not speak negatively about the president, which was a point that led some to press for her removal.
"Also untrue are unsourced allegations that I told unidentified embassy employees that President Trump's orders should be ignored because 'he was not going to be impeached' - or for any other reason," Yovanovitch testified Wednesday. She added that such remarks would be inconsistent with her training as both a U.S. foreign officer and an American ambassador.
She said it was also false that Ukraine was seeking to interfere in the 2016 election, a narrative other witnesses in the impeachment inquiry have said was intended to help shift scrutiny from Russia's interference in that election. Solomon is among those who have embraced claims that Ukraine sought to dig up damaging information about Trump campaign officials by reaching out to Alexandra Chalupa, a Democratic National Committee (DNC) contractor.
A Politico article in 2017 claimed that Chalupa, who left the DNC in 2016, continued to research ties between former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, during which she is said to have asked Ukrainian Embassy officials for help. She then, the story says, turned over some of her findings to officials at the DNC and the Clinton campaign.
But Chalupa denied how her work got framed in the story, and it also remains unclear what role the embassy officials played.
"I was not an opposition researcher for the DNC, and the DNC never asked me to go to the Ukrainian Embassy to collect information," she told CNN in July 2017. She said she was "alarmed" by the Trump campaign hiring Manafort, which she viewed as a move linked to Russia, so she "flagged for the DNC the significance of his hire based on information in the public domain."
Additionally, both DNC and former Clinton campaign officials have denied receiving information from Chalupa, CNN reported in 2017.
Goldman highlighted a column by Solomon that claimed that former Vice President Joe Biden "strong-armed Ukraine to fire its chief prosecutor solely" to shield the Ukrainian energy company Burisma and his son Hunter Biden from scrutiny. Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma Holdings at the time.
Solomon, who no longer works for The Hill, has stood by his columns.
"I stand by each and every one of the columns that I wrote," Solomon said in a statement to The Hill.
This story was updated at 3:09 p.m.