Audrey Conklin on November 15, 2019
Journalists, pundits and politicians accused President Donald Trump of witness tampering after he tweeted at former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during her testimony Friday.
Yovanovitch, who said she felt threatened by Trump while working under him, was testifying before the House Intelligence Committee during the second day of public impeachment hearings when the president tweeted about her.
“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors,” Trump tweeted during the testimony.
“They call it ‘serving at the pleasure of the President.’ The U.S. now has a very strong and powerful foreign policy, much different than proceeding administrations. It is called, quite simply, America First! With all of that, however, I have done FAR more for Ukraine than O.,” he continued.
House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff accused the president of witness intimidation during the hearing and read Trump’s tweet aloud to the room.
“As we sit here testifying the president is attacking you on Twitter,” Schiff said, adding, “I want to let you know, ambassador, that some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously.”
Fox News host Bret Baier called Schiff’s reading of the tweets a “turning point” in the hearing in a Friday tweet.
He added that Yovanovitch “was already a sympathetic witness [and] the President’s tweet ripping her allowed Schiff to point it out real time characterizing it as witness tampering or intimidation -adding an article of impeachment real-time.”
That was a turning point in this hearing so far. She was already a sympathetic witness & the President’s tweet ripping her allowed Schiff to point it out real time characterizing it as witness tampering or intimidation -adding an article of impeachment real-time. https://t.co/HSCkGMIqmH
— Bret Baier (@BretBaier) November 15, 2019
CNN legal analyst Elie Honig told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that Trump’s tweets are “textbook witness intimidation,” adding, “I’ve prosecuted witness tampering cases. I’ve tried witness tampering cases. To me this is right down the middle.”
Various pundits, journalists and politicians — both Republicans and Democrats — agreed with Schiff’s designation of the tweet as “witness intimidation.”
Witness intimidation is a crime, no matter who does it. Full stop.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) November 15, 2019
Trump himself is clearly not satisfied with only one article of impeachment.
His choice to publicly broadcast his own, personally authored witness intimidation means he’s wants to sign up for another article on obstruction of justice, too. https://t.co/wYvH92CMHb
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) November 15, 2019
The president just demonstrated witness intimidation & obstruction of justice in real time. Yuvanovitch is a dedicated, truth-telling, career foreign service official who knows how to put country first, over partisanship. Trumps actions are truly dangerous. https://t.co/Ex0W6iV1lT
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) November 15, 2019
Witness intimidation is a federal crime.
It is also an impeachable offense #AbuseOfPower.
Consider yourself warned.
No. One. Is. Above. The. Law. https://t.co/NEWIsbvy44
— Hakeem Jeffries (@RepJeffries) November 15, 2019
With Trumps tweets that’s obstruction and witness tampering live. He literally added an impeachment charge live.
— Bakari Sellers (@Bakari_Sellers) November 15, 2019
Expect witness tampering to be an article of impeachment. https://t.co/HtcXcbVgms
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) November 15, 2019
I mean, literally, Trump just committed a crime while we're watching. It's that simple.
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) November 15, 2019
Others, however, argued that Trump’s tweets should not be considered “witness tampering.” Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, for example, called the claim “ridiculous.”
This may be the single most ridiculous claim of the Dem show trial. No, the President’s tweeting is not “witness intimidation.” You may not like the tone of some or even many of his tweets, but it’s absurd to suggest that tweeting is an impeachable “high Crime [or] Misdemeanor.” https://t.co/afuu4OWUb3
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) November 15, 2019
“Furthermore, it clearly hasn’t changed the fact that the witness is testifying willingly and sticking to her script,” Mark R. Levin added.
2. Furthermore, it clearly hasn’t changed the fact that the witness is testifying willingly and sticking to her script.
— Mark R. Levin (@marklevinshow) November 15, 2019
As for Trump’s tweet, to call it witness intimidation is laughable. People can say whatever they want about Trump and he can’t say what he thinks? The witness has every right to speak her mind and he can speak his. If witnesses are so intimidated, why do they keep showing up?
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) November 15, 2019
Democrats bemoaning the lack of explanation for Ambassador Yovanovitch's dismissal. The President is TRYING to explain the reason behind the reason behind his constitutionally sanctioned action on Twitter, & it's called "witness intimidation." He can't win with these Democrats. pic.twitter.com/f8otyfw0Wr
— Rep Andy Biggs (@RepAndyBiggsAZ) November 15, 2019
Hearings related to the president’s phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky concerning former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter and his business dealings with Ukrainian gas company Burisma holdings are scheduled to continue until Nov. 21.
Shelby Talcott on November 15, 2019
The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified Friday about President Donald Trump firing her amid an alleged “smear campaign,” but firing ambassadors appointed by former presidents is commonplace.
Former President Barack Obama fired all ambassadors appointed by former President George W. Bush in 2008, the Washington Post previously reported. Yovanovitch testified Friday that the Trump administration, including the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, “kneecapped” her. She said that she was not supported by State Department leaders after being recalled in May.
“Political ambassadors sometimes are permitted to stay on briefly during a new administration, but the sweeping nature of the directive suggests that Obama has little interest in retaining any of Bush’s ambassadorial appointees,” WaPo’s 2008 article about Obama’s decision to fire all political ambassadors reads.
Yovanovitch was appointed by Obama in 2016, and newly-elected presidents typically re-vamp the positions with their own choices once taking office. Yovanovitch was allowed to stay on for three years after Trump took office, but has testified that senior officials “declined to acknowledge” the “smear campaign” against her leading up to her firing, Politico reported.
“Often the posts involving the most important bilateral relations (such as with Great Britain, Japan and India) or desirable locales (such as the Bahamas) are given to close friends and well-heeled contributors of the president,” the WaPo article adds.
A 2017 Snopes fact check also noted that Trump firing appointed ambassadors was not an unprecedented move.
“The resignation and replacement of ambassadors at the end of an administration is routine,” the fact check reads, adding that some presidents have fired everyone at once while others decide on a case-by-case basis.
The other ambassador to have testified is Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the E.U. He testified Oct. 17 that he communicated a quid pro quo to Ukraine. Sondland linked giving military aid to Ukraine with the country agreeing to take part in investigations that Trump asked for in a revised statement, USA Today reported. Trump selected Sondland to the position in 2018.
Democrats said during Friday’s public testimony that they were angry at Yovanovitch’s sudden dismissal, despite Obama doing the same thing when he became president in 2008. The testimony comes amid an impeachment inquiry into Trump following an August whistleblower complaint. The whistleblower complaint accused the president of pressuring Ukraine to look into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
The post Flashback: Obama Fired All Bush Appointed Ambassadors In 2008 appeared first on The Political Insider.
Chuck Ross on November 15, 2019
Democratic California Rep. Adam Schiff accused President Donald Trump of witness intimidation over a tweet he published during the testimony of former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch during her congressional testimony Friday, signaling that Democrats could use the charge in their push to impeach the president.
In a dramatic moment during Yovanovitch’s testimony, Schiff read aloud a tweet that Trump published while the career diplomat was testifying.
Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2019
“As we sit here testifying the president is attacking you on Twitter,” Schiff said.
“It’s designed to intimidate, is it not?” he asked after reading the tweet.
Schiff then previewed one direction he might take in the impeachment proceedings against Trump.
“I want to let you know, ambassador, that some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously,” he said.
Democrats have suggested so far during the impeachment inquiry that Trump abused his office in his dealings toward Ukraine. The investigation centers on whether Trump pressured the Ukrainian government to open investigations into a company linked to Hunter Biden, as well as into whether Ukrainians meddled in the 2016 presidential election to help Hillary Clinton.
Democrats have not said exactly what high crimes and misdemeanors they believe Trump committed, though some have hinted at the crimes of bribery or extortion.
Schiff reiterated the witness intimidation allegation during an intermission in Yovanovitch’s testimony.
“We saw today witness intimidation in real-time by the president of the United States, once again going after this dedicated, respected, career public servant in an effort not only to chill her, but to chill others who might come forward,” he told CNN’s Manu Raju.
“We take this kind of witness intimidation … very seriously.”
The post Schiff Shifts Toward Witness Intimidation Charge Against Trump appeared first on The Political Insider.