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Marie Yovanovitch says Trump ousted her over ‘unfounded and false claims’

Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told House impeachment investigators Friday that she was abruptly forced out of her role in May at the direction of President Donald Trump.
In her opening statement, obtained by POLITICO, Yovanovitch said Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan told her that there was “a concerted campaign” against her — one based on “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.” Yovanovitch attended her deposition in defiance of the State Department’s orders.
“He also said that I had done nothing wrong and that this was not like other situations where he had recalled ambassadors for cause,” Yovanovitch said of her conversation with Sullivan. Trump announced earlier Friday his intention to nominate Sullivan to be his new ambassador to Russia.
Yovanovich’s statement represented a top-to-bottom rebuke of the president, his associates, and his foreign policy — a rare takedown from a career diplomat who has sought to avoid the spotlight ever since her ouster. Yovanovitch expressed her “deep disappointment and dismay” at efforts to undermine trust in American institutions, and warned that “this nation’s most loyal and talented public servants” are running for the exits. She also said other countries would likely exploit the same dynamic that led to her ouster to undermine U.S. foreign policy.
Yovanovitch, who remains a State Department employee, was the latest firsthand witness to testify about Trump’s interactions with Ukraine, as he ramped up efforts to pressure the country’s new president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 contender.
The chairs of the three House committees leading the investigation said the State Department and the White House had ordered Yovanovitch not to attend, prompting them to issue a subpoena. Yovanovitch, they said, agreed to comply with the subpoena over her agency’s objections, sitting for more than nine hours behind closed doors on Friday.
“Any efforts by Trump administration officials to prevent witness cooperation with the committees will be deemed obstruction of a co-equal branch of government and an adverse inference may be drawn against the president on the underlying allegations of corruption and cover-up,” said Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).
Unlike the most recent witness in the Ukraine matter to testify — Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations — Yovanovitch is still employed by the State Department, which raises questions about whether she will face punishment for defying orders. Legal experts and State Department officials have been trying to resolve the question of whether a congressional subpoena trumps a State Department direction to a Foreign Service officer.
“Her willingness when served with compulsory process to follow the law and testify — I think she is a courageous example for others,” Schiff told reporters.
According to her statement, Yovanovitch was told “abruptly” in late April to return to Washington “on the next plane.” Her removal came amid a campaign by Trump’s allies to accuse her of disloyalty, a charge she said was “fictitious.” Trump himself attacked Yovanovitch during a phone call with Ukraine’s newly elected president Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25, which is at the center of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. Trump referred to her as “bad news,” according to a summary of the conversation released by the White House. He also said, without elaboration, that she was “going to go through some things.”