The former US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, described before the congressmen on October 11 a smear campaign against her orchestrated by Donald Trump's most intimate circle. This is revealed in the transcript, made public on Monday, of the interrogation before the legislators investigating the impeachment of the president. To date, the testimonies of the witnesses have been carried out behind closed doors, and they had barely transcended the copies of the initial interventions they had prepared. But now, after the House voted last week a resolution that obliges the committees involved to publish the transcripts and start conducting the interrogations with light and stenographers, the story gains in details. This Monday, the interrogations of Yovanovitch and former State Department adviser Michael McKinley have been published. On Tuesday, it will be the turn of the two key witnesses: Kurt Volker, special ex-sender to Ukraine, and Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union.
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Yovanovitch refers to President Trump himself, whose administration he represented in the ex-Soviet country. In a telephone conversation on July 25 with Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelenski, Donald Trump asks for the "favor" of investigating certain activities in the country of his Democratic rivals. That call, which transcended thanks to the complaint of an anonymous informant, is what led the Democrats to start the impeachment process. In it, President Trump talks to his counterpart about Yovanovitch, whom he refers to as "bad news" and who says "some things are going to happen to him."
"That shocked me." I was very surprised that, first of all, I appeared repeatedly in a telephone conversation, but, secondly, that the president talk about me or any ambassador that way to a foreign counterpart.
"What did you understand what he meant?"
"I didn't know what he meant. I was very worried." I still am.
By then the ambassador had already been called back to the United States. It took time, he explained, knowing in the spotlight of the president and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who led that kind of parallel diplomatic channel that was established for Ukraine, of which numerous witnesses have spoken. The striking thing is that Yovanovitch found out, he says, by Ukrainian officials.
—When did you first know that Giuliani had any interest or was communicating with someone in Ukraine?
—Probably in November or December 2018.
—Describe the circumstances on how you found out.
– Basically, it was people in the Ukrainian government who told me that [Yuriy] Lutsenko, the former general prosecutor, was in communication with Giuliani and that they had plans, and that they were going, you know, to do things, including me.
Later, they ask him if he had more conversations with Ukrainian officials about Giuliani between the end of 2018 and May 2019, when Yovanovitch left. "I think it was in February," he says. "One of the senior Ukrainian officials was very worried and told me that I needed to cover my back."
The transcript of the interrogation, nine hours embodied in 317 pages, does not provide explosive news about what transpired after his testimony. But it does add juicy details about the alleged campaign that ends with the dismissal of the prestigious diplomat, with four decades of experience, to clear the way to Giuliani's efforts to investigate allegations of unfounded corruption against former Vice President Joe Biden, one of the favorites to face Trump in the presidential elections of 2020, and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a large Ukrainian gas company.
The ambassador said she knew Giuliani's efforts to "find things that could harm Biden's presidential career." And it involved the former mayor of New York and two businessmen related to him, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, accused in the US of illegal campaign financing, of being part of the campaign to end it. "They needed a better ambassador to facilitate their business there," Yovanovitch said.
In April, Yovanovitch received a call at one o'clock in the morning. It was Carol Perez, an American diplomat, who told her she had to return immediately. "You have to come on the next plane," he said. She consulted him with Donald Sondland, ambassador to the EU, and he suggested that, if he didn't want to leave, he had to "tweet that he supported the president." "It was advice that I didn't see how I could implement in my position as ambassador," he explained.