Trump ‘intimidating’ as new call details revealed

WASHINGTON: A US ambassador ousted by Donald Trump told a riveting impeachment hearing on Friday she felt intimidated by the president, after he launched an extraordinary real-time attack midway through her testimony to Congress.
Testifying under oath before a national television audience, Marie Yovanovitch cut a resolute figure as she was grilled for five hours on her fraught dealings with Trump allies she accuses of undermining US foreign policy in Ukraine.
The 33-year diplomatic veteran earned a standing ovation from the public at the conclusion of her marathon testimony, during which spoke in personal terms about how she was subjected to a “painful” smear campaign before being abruptly pulled from Kiev.
Setting the scene less than an hour into the hearing, the president erupted spectacularly on Twitter with an attack on the highly-regarded former envoy.
“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” he wrote.
Asked what effect Trump’s tweet might have on her and other witnesses, Yovanovitch appeared unnerved.
“It’s very intimidating,” she told the panel. “I can’t speak to what the president is trying to do but I think the effect is to be intimidating.”
On a momentous day on Capitol Hill, another official provided damning closed-door testimony to impeachment investigators, reportedly outlining how he overheard a phone call on which Trump asked about “investigations” he had requested from Ukraine into domestic political rivals.
Trump’s Twitter outburst highlighted the intensity of the public hearings that seek to establish whether the president abused the power of his office for personal political gain.
The impeachment hearings kicked off on Wednesday with testimony by two senior diplomats including the current top envoy to Ukraine, William Taylor.
Friday’s testimony proved richer in drama, with the president leveling attacks from afar as Yovanovitch explained to lawmakers how “dangerous” it was for US diplomats not to have the backing of their own administration.
House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, who presides over the impeachment inquiry, hit out at “witness intimidation in real-time by the president”.
Witness tampering including intimidation is a crime, but Schiff would not say whether it was an impeachable offense, or if democrats would make it the subject of an article of impeachment. — AFP