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Ambassador to Ukraine faced intense pressure, impeachment transcripts show: Here are 5 takeaways

Ambassador to Ukraine faced intense pressure, impeachment transcripts show: Here are 5 takeaways

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U.S. and Ukraine relations go further back than the now infamous phone call between Trump and Zelensky. We explain their relationship.
Just the FAQs, USA TODAYWASHINGTON – House committees leading the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump released transcripts Monday from closed-door depositions with Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and Michael McKinley, a former senior State Department adviser.Here are some highlights of the transcripts:Advice to ambassador: ‘Go big or go home’Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled this year as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine after criticism in conservative media, said that Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, suggested she support Trump on Twitter.“He said, you know, you need to go big or go home,” Yovanovitch said. “You need to, you know tweet out there that you support the president and that all these are lies and everything else.”Yovanovitch decided not to heed Sondland’s advice.“It was advice that I did not see how I could implement in my role as an ambassador and as a foreign service officer,” she said.Yovanovitch said Sondland may not have used the words “support President Trump” in urging the tweet, but his meaning was clear.“’You know the president. WeIl, maybe you don’t know him personally, but you know, you know, the sorts of things that he likes,’” Yovanovitch quoted Sondland as telling him. “You know, go out there battling aggressively and, you know, praise him or support him.”Senior aide describes ‘bullying tactics’ at State Dept.McKinley, a former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who quit abruptly before he testified, told lawmakers that a colleague felt the State Department was using “bullying tactics” to try to prevent him from cooperating with Congress.Pompeo had accused Congress of harassing officials for testimony for the inquiry that the administration considers illegitimate. But McKinley confirmed to lawmakers he spoke to George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary in the bureau of European and Eurasian affairs, who felt he was being bullied by the State Department – not Congress – according to McKinley’s testimony.Kent told McKinley he thought a State Department lawyer “was trying to shut him up,” according to the transcript, and subsequently wrote a memo detailing allegations of bullying as well as his concerns over the accuracy of Pompeo’s letter to Congress.”He definitely characterized it as bullying tactics,” McKinley said of Kent. “It includes allegations of intimidation and bullying and questions accuracy – I don’t know whether I used the word – and raises questions about whether there are lies in statements, you know.” McKinley said he then forwarded the memo to the undersecretary for political affairs, the department’s acting legal adviser, as well as the deputy secretary, but “didn’t get any answer from anybody.” The State Department has rejected congressional requests to hand over documents pertaining the impeachment inquiry, including Kent’s memo.Trump drove ambassador’s ousterYovanovitch testified that upon returning to Washington, she learned that the person driving her recall as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was none other than Trump.In a meeting at the State Department, her boss, Assistant Secretary Philip Reeker, told her that she would have to leave her post as soon as possible and that Trump had been wanting her to leave as far back as last summer.“I was shocked,” Yovanovitch said, adding that Reeker offered no details about why Trump wanted her out.Later, she said, Deputy Secretary John Sullivan explained that Trump had “lost confidence” in her and that she needed to depart, to avoid another tweet or public statement from the White House.Yovanovitch said she asked Sullivan what she’d done wrong.“He said, you’ve done nothing wrong,” she testified. “And he said that he had had to speak to ambassadors who had been recalled for cause, and this was not that.”Yovanovitch said Reeker told her that Pompeo had tried to “protect” her, but was no longer able to do so. At one point, she said, Pompeo or “someone around him” planned to call one of her critics, Fox News host Sean Hannity, and ask what proof he had for his attacks.Did she hear what was said on the call?No, Yovanovitch said, but “I was told that it did take place.”Criticism in conservative circlesYovanovitch said she knew the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, had been criticizing her. She urged the State Department to issue a strong statement of support for her as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine after articles attacking her in conservative media were amplified by the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and others. But the department declined because any statement could be undercut by a presidential tweet, she said. Donald Trump Jr. tweeted criticism of Yovanovitch on March 24, saying the country needed “less of these jokers as ambassadors,” with a link to an article about growing calls to remove former President Barack Obama’s ambassador to Ukraine.“Well, if you have the president’s son saying, you know, we need to pull these clowns, or however he referred to me, it makes it hard to be a credible ambassador in a country,” Yovanovitch said.Yovanovitch told to ‘be on the next plane’Yovanovitch revealed details of her abrupt exit from Kyiv, recounting a phone call around 1 a.m. local time on April 25 from Carol Perez, a top foreign service official, urging her to “be on the next plane home to Washington.”When the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine pressed about why she needed to leave so quickly, Perez said, “I don’t know, but this is about your security. You need to come home immediately. You need to come home on the next plane.”Yovanovitch said she argued it was unfair to pull her from her post without an explanation, but called her staff to her residence the next morning to begin making plans for her departure. She asked to stay another week to pack the remainder of her things, but was told she needed to leave immediately.Yovanovitch recalled Perez rebuffing her request, telling her: “You have to leave immediately. This is for you. We’re concerned about you.”Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/11/04/impeachment-inquiry-takeaways-yovanovitch-mckinley-transcripts/4158119002/
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