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Ousted Diplomat Testifies Friday       11/15 06:36

   On Friday, diplomat Marie Yovanovitch gets her turn to testify in public 
impeachment hearings.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine watched in 
disbelief as her reputation was publicly sullied in a slow-burning campaign to 
discredit her. She was unceremoniously ousted from her job even as her boss 
assured her she had done nothing wrong.

   On Friday, diplomat Marie Yovanovitch gets her turn to tell the public how 
she feels about her treatment by the Trump administration.

   Yovanovitch, 60, is a career foreign service officer with a solid reputation 
who suddenly found herself labeled "bad news" by President Donald Trump over 
the summer. She will be in the spotlight as the lone witness when public 
impeachment hearings resume for a second day.

   She's already laid out her story for legislators in private. 

   "You're going to think that I'm incredibly naive," Yovanovitch told House 
impeachment investigators at a marathon, closed-door deposition hearing in 
October. "But I couldn't imagine all the things that have happened over the 
last six or seven months. I just couldn't imagine it."

   Yovanovitch was pushed out of her job in late April, so it's unlikely she 
can offer much of substance about the central allegations against Trump. 
Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry contend Trump pressured Ukraine's 
newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to investigate former Vice 
President Joe Biden and his son and withheld much-needed U.S. military aid to 
nudge the Ukrainian leader to do his bidding.

   Instead, Democratic lawmakers are expected to point to the circumstances of 
her ouster as they try to make their case that Trump, with the help of his 
personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, mounted an inappropriate pressure campaign to 
enlist Zelenskiy in the effort to damage Democratic political rival Biden.

   "Giuliani also conducted a smear campaign against the U.S. Ambassador to 
Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff 
said at the first public impeachment hearing earlier this week. "A senior State 
Department official told her that although she had done nothing wrong, 
President Trump had lost confidence in her."

   Trump was convinced that Yovanovitch was a rogue actor who held a political 
bias against him, according to a rough transcript of the July 25 call between 
the president and Zelenskiy.

   She was recalled from Kyiv by Trump months before the call in which Trump 
asked Zelenskiy to do him a "favor" and look into Biden and his son Hunter's 
dealings in Ukraine. At the time of the call, the Trump administration had put 
a hold on nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine and Zelenskiy and his 
team were trying to get Trump to commit to a date for a White House meeting.

   The intelligence community whistleblower who spurred the House investigation 
cited Yovanovitch's ouster as one in a series of events that amounted to an 
abuse of power by the president.

   Yovanovitch, a State Department employee for 33 years who also led U.S. 
embassies in Kyrgyzstan and Armenia, is well known in diplomatic circles for 
her measured demeanor and diligence in representing both Republican and 
Democratic administrations, according to former colleagues.

   Colleagues, in interviews and closed-door depositions, expressed anger and 
concern about the effort to oust Yovanovitch, who testified that she was 
apparently seen as an obstacle to the business interests of Trump's allies.

   "Mr. Giuliani was almost unmissable starting in mid-March," said George 
Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state. "As the news campaign, or campaign 
of slander, against not only Ambassador Yovanovitch unfolded ... he was on TV, 
his Twitter feed ramped up and it was all focused on Ukraine."

   After the ambassador's recall, Giuliani told Ukrainian journalists that 
Yovanovitch was pulled from Kyiv because she was part of efforts against the 
president. The former New York mayor also has said that he told the president 
there were concerns among Trump supporters that she had displayed anti-Trump 
bias in private conversations.

   Trump didn't mince words about his disdain for Yovanovitch in his July call 
with Zelenskiy.

   "The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news," 
Trump said, according to the rough transcript released by the White House. 
"She's going to go through some things."

   Yovanovitch said she was later told that the State Department had been under 
pressure from Trump to remove her from Ukraine since the summer of 2018.

   In her own deposition session last month, Yovanovitch showed flickers of raw 
emotion about her firing and described watching from a distance as she faced 
critical coverage in conservative media outlets.

   John Solomon, a columnist for the Washington news outlet The Hill, published 
a March interview with Yuriy Lutsenko, a former prosecutor general in Ukraine. 
Lutsenko claimed that the ambassador had given him a "do not prosecute" 
list---an accusation both she and State denied. Lutsenko himself later 
backtracked.

   Around the same time in late March, the president's eldest son, Donald Trump 
Jr., posted a tweet referring to her as a "joker," and linked to an article 
from the conservative website Daily Wire that detailed a growing call for 
Yovanovitch's ouster. Fox News commentators weighed in and questioned her 
loyalty to the president.

   Yovanovitch raised concerns about the U.S. media reports with Gordon 
Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. In response, Sondland 
encouraged her to tweet her support for Trump on social media.

   "He said, ?You know, you need to go big or go home,'" she recalled. "?You 
need to, you know, tweet out there that you support the president.'"

   The advice floored Yovanovitch, who like most career diplomats who have 
served both Republican and Democratic administrations, try to avoid even the 
scent of partisanship.

   "I just didn't see that there would be any advantage to publicly taking on a 
fight with those who were criticizing me in the United States," she said.

   Now Yovanovitch, hardly a marquee name in Washington, finds herself thrust 
into the spotlight of just the fourth impeachment inquiry in U.S. history.

   Nancy McEldowney, a former U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria who has known 
Yovanovitch for three decades, said the accusations levied by Trump and 
Giuliani don't add up with the professional envoy whose focus throughout her 
career has remained on "serving American national interests and supporting the 
people around her."


(KR)

 
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