Former Ambassador to Ukraine Tells Congress: Trump Pressured State to Remove Me

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch on Friday told House Democrats pursuing the impeachment inquiry that President Donald Trump pressured the State Department to remove her from her post because he had “lost confidence” in her.

In written testimony prepared for her deposition in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, Yovanovitch declared that she was “abruptly” told to return to Washington in late April.

Yovanovitch served as the American ambassador to Ukraine from August 2016 through May 20, 2019. She now serves as a State Department fellow at Georgetown University.

In her written remarks, obtained by the Washington Post and other news outlets, the former ambassador noted that she met with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan to discuss “why my posting ended so suddenly,” adding:

He said that the President had lost confidence in me and no longer wished me to serve as his ambassador. He added that there had been a concerted campaign against me, and that the [State] Department had been under pressure from the President to remove me since the Summer of 2018. He also said that I had done nothing wrong and that this was not like other situations where he had recalled ambassadors for cause. I departed Ukraine for good this past May.

Yovanovitch testified before House Democrats pursuing the impeachment inquiry despite the White House indicating earlier this week it would block all officials from testifying.

In a letter to House Democrat leaders, the White House dismissed the probe as unfair and “illegitimate.” The Trump administration attempted to block her deposition, prompting House Democrats to issue a subpoena for her appearance that ultimately compelled her to testify, the chairmen of the House panels leading the impeachment probe said in a joint statement.

On Tuesday, the State Department ordered U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland not to testify, prompting House Democrats to subpoena him.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the following day vowed that his department would fulfill its legal obligations in responding to the impeachment inquiry. Pompeo noted, however, that the State Department would take its cues from the White House

Citing people familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reported in early October that Trump ousted Yovanovitch “after months of complaints from allies outside the administration, including his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, that she was undermining him abroad and obstructing efforts to persuade Kyiv to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. ”

The former ambassador denied those allegations in her written remarks, saying:

[F]ictitious is the notion that I am disloyal to President Trump. I have heard the allegation in the media that I supposedly told the Embassy team to ignore the President’s orders “since he was going to be impeached.” That allegation is false. I have never said such a thing, to my Embassy colleagues or to anyone else.

Next, the Obama administration did not ask me to help the Clinton campaign or harm the Trump campaign, nor would I have taken any such steps if they had.

Although I understand that I served at the pleasure of the President, I was nevertheless incredulous that the U.S. government chose to remove an Ambassador based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.

The former ambassador said she had “minimal contacts” with Giuliani.

The “whistleblower’s” complaint fueling the impeachment inquiry mentions Yovanovitch’s ouster as an example of what the leaker described as the U.S. president’s abuse of power.

According to the “whistleblower,” Trump attempted to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating allegations of corruption against Biden and his son, Hunter, in exchange for aid during a July 25 call. Trump and Zelensky have denied the allegations.

A partial transcript of the calls released by the White House cites Trump as telling Zelensky the former U.S. ambassador is “bad news.”