The recalled U.S. ambassador to Ukraine said President Trump personally directed her ouster based on “false claims.”
Ms. Yovanovitch, who was abruptly recalled as the American ambassador to Ukraine in May, told impeachment investigators during a closed-door deposition on Capitol Hill that she believed Mr. Trump had intervened to have her removed “based, as far as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.”
The former ambassador, who spoke to the House Intelligence Committee in defiance of the White House’s declaration that administration officials would not cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry, delivered a scathing account of her own treatment and the Trump administration’s conduct of foreign policy.
According to a copy of her opening statement obtained by The New York Times, she said that the deputy secretary of state, who at the time was John Sullivan, had told her that Mr. Trump had pushed for her removal for months even though the department believed she had “done nothing wrong.”
She also described a “hollowed out State Department” under Mr. Trump, where private influence and personal gain have usurped diplomats’ judgment, threatening to undermine the nation’s interests and drive talented professionals out of public service.
Ms. Yovanovitch’s searing account, delivered at the risk of losing her job, contradicts the State Department’s initial claim that her term had simply ended.
Her account could lend new momentum to the impeachment inquiry that threatens to swamp Mr. Trump’s presidency. She said undermining loyal diplomats would embolden “bad actors” who would “see how easy it is to use fiction and innuendo to manipulate our system” and serve the interests of adversaries, including Russia.
“Today we see the State Department attacked and hollowed out from within,” she said. She said the allegations that she was disloyal to Mr. Trump, circulated by allies of Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, were totally “fictitious.”
House Democrats try to protect their witnesses.
The House Democratic committee chairmen leading the impeachment inquiry know that any witnesses who defy the president’s order not to cooperate risk retaliation, even the loss of their jobs. So they announced witnesses like Ms. Yovanovitch have no choice but to cooperate.
Representatives Adam B. Schiff of California, Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, and Eliot L. Engel of New York said on Friday that the State Department on Thursday tried to block the appearance of Ms. Yovanovitch, so the committees issued a subpoena Friday morning.
“This duly authorized subpoena is mandatory, and the illegitimate order from the Trump Administration not to cooperate has no force. As is required of her, the Ambassador is now complying,” they said in a joint statement Friday afternoon.
“Any efforts by Trump Administration officials to prevent witness cooperation with the Committees will be deemed obstruction of a coequal branch of government and an adverse inference may be drawn against the President on the underlying allegations of corruption and cover-up.”
In judge’s dissent, did a Trump appointee bolster impeachment?
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-1 on Friday against the White House’s effort to crush an effort by House Democrats to extract Mr. Trump’s tax returns from his accounting firm, Mazars USA.
That had nothing to do with the House’s impeachment inquiry, but the dissenter, a Trump appointee, Judge Neomi Rao, raised it, saying that the House’s efforts were clearly looking for illegality and therefore those efforts should be done through an impeachment inquiry.
“Impeachment provides the exclusive method for Congress to investigate actions of illegal conduct by impeachable officials, particularly with the aid of compulsory process,” she wrote.
“Throughout our history, Congress, the President, and the courts have insisted upon maintaining the separation between the legislative and impeachment powers of the House and recognized the gravity and accountability that follow impeachment,” she argued, echoing House Judiciary Committee Democrats who have said an impeachment inquiry would have legal powers unavailable to other investigations.
As Democrats consider how wide their inquiry should be, Judge Rao may have given them an invitation to expand the scope of their “compulsory process.”
Another conspirator in the Ukraine matter gets arraigned.
Andrey Kukushkin, a third player caught in the Ukraine controversy and accused of campaign finance violations, was arraigned in San Francisco on Friday, with bail set at $1 million.
The government argued that Mr. Kukushkin presented a flight risk and demanded that he be confined to his home in San Francisco until the case is heard in New York next week.
Mr. Kukushkin helped two clients of Rudolph W. Giuliani, Lev. Parnas and Igor Fruman, funnel money from a Russian businessman to state and local candidates with the hope of expediting the licensing process for marijuana businesses, according to court papers. The foreign businessman wanted to keep his involvement private because of “his Russian roots and the current political paranoia about it,” Mr. Kukushkin said, according to the indictment.
Ambassador Sondland will testify next week over the State Department’s objections, his lawyer says.
Gordon D. Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union, has agreed to comply with a House subpoena and testify next week, despite the State Department’s instruction to him not to appear before lawmakers, Mr. Sondland’s lawyer said Friday. He was prepared to testify on Tuesday, but the Trump administration directed him not to in the 11th hour.
“Ambassador Sondland has at all times acted with integrity and in the interests of the United States,” his lawyers said in a statement Friday. “He has no agenda apart from answering the Committees’ questions fully and truthfully.”
Lawmakers have requested documents related to Ukraine, but Mr. Sondland’s attorneys said he would not be able to provide them because doing so would violate federal law and State Department regulations.
Impeachment investigators want to know more about Mr. Sondland’s role in the pressure campaign to get Ukraine to investigate one of Mr. Trump’s political rivals and other inquiries that could personally benefit the president.
Maryland’s Republican governor supports the impeachment inquiry.
Maryland’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, is nobody’s idea of a stalwart supporter of President Trump, but his embrace of the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry on Thursday night was not helpful to the Republican effort to delegitimize the investigation.
“I think we do need an inquiry because we have to get to the bottom of it,” Mr. Hogan, a moderate Republican, said on P.B.S.’ Firing Line. “I’m not ready to say I support impeachment and the removal of the president, but I do think we should have an impeachment inquiry.”
Along with the governors of Massachusetts and Vermont, Mr. Hogan is part of the “Never Trump” Republican gubernatorial brigade. Mr. Hogan did implore Democrats to use “a fair, objective” process, but he did not say moving forward should depend on new rules.
“I don’t see any other way to get the facts,” he said.
A clearer picture emerges of Giuliani’s helpers in Ukraine.
The indictment of two associates of Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, added new details to the narrative at the heart of the impeachment inquiry. The two men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, helped Mr. Giuliani navigate connections in Ukraine in pursuit of evidence that would undercut the legitimacy of the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and lift Mr. Trump against his political rivals heading into 2020.
The two men also appear to have made illegal campaign donations to Representative Pete Sessions, Republican of Texas, from whom Mr. Parnas sought support in pressing the Trump administration to remove the United States ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch. Some Trump allies believed Ms. Yovanovitch was trying impede their effort to dig up damaging information about former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter, according to a former Ukrainian official.
Catch up on impeachment: What you need to know about the inquiry.
President Trump repeatedly pressured President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate people and issues of political concern to Mr. Trump, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Here’s a timeline of events since January.
A C.I.A. officer who was once detailed to the White House filed a whistle-blower complaint on Mr. Trump’s interactions with Mr. Zelensky. Read the complaint.