Former US ambassador to Ukraine arrives for questioning in impeachment probe

Posted on: October 11th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

drnadig/iStock(WASHINGTON) — The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, arrived on Capitol Hill Friday for a closed-door deposition with House committees looking into whether President Donald Trump committed impeachable offenses in asking a foreign country to investigate his political rivals, according to multiple congressional officials with knowledge of the probe.

Yovanovitch’s appearance comes as the State Department has instructed multiple officials not to testify before Congress and the White House has refused to cooperate with the Democrats’ investigation, calling it a “dangerous” effort to “overturn the results of the 2016 election.”

The State Department apparently did not demand that she not appear, as it did earlier this week with U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. That refusal came just hours before Sondland, a Trump mega donor, was to appear. On Friday morning, however, Sondland’s lawyer issued a statement saying Sondland would appear after all on Oct. 17.

“Notwithstanding the State Department’s current direction to not testify, Ambassador Sondland will honor the Committees’ subpoena, and he looks forward to testifying on Thursday,” the statement said. “Ambassador Sondland has at all times acted with integrity and in the interests of the United States. He has no agenda apart from answering the Committees’ questions fully and truthfully,” it said.

Yovanovitch, who was recalled from her post in May after coming under attack from Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and other conservatives with unsubstantiated allegations that she tried to hold up anti-corruption efforts in the Ukraine, is still a member of the foreign service.

Democrats have sought to question Yovanovitch, who was abruptly recalled last spring, for her insight into the Trump administration’s relationship with Ukraine.

She is one of a handful of current and former diplomats and administration officials Democrats have sought to question about events surrounding Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, his attempts to encourage Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter, and the initial withholding of military aid to Ukraine.

The call, first revealed in a complaint from an intelligence community whistleblower, coupled with a resulting inquiry by the intelligence community inspector general, prompted House Democrats to open an impeachment inquiry, which could lead to a vote to impeach Trump by the end of the year.

ABC News has also learned that the president’s former Russia adviser Fiona Hill has agreed to sit down with congressional investigators on Monday. She is expected to face questions about her knowledge, if any, of the Ukraine episode.

Hill recently left her White House post at the National Security Council, and her testimony on Capitol Hill would come after an appearance by Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine.

Volker, who appeared on Capitol Hill last week, provided 67 pages of texts to Congress that show an apparent effort by Trump officials to force Ukrainian officials to look into possible corruption by Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of an oligarch-run Ukrainian energy company.

President Trump, despite admitting that he wanted the Bidens investigated, has said he did nothing wrong.

Democrats have accused Trump of abusing his office and potential campaign finance violations.

Yovanovitch, a respected 30-year career diplomat, was attacked by Giuliani and others who embraced an unproven, right wing conspiracy theory that the ambassador was part of a liberal scheme to bring down former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who pleaded guilty to fraud and lying to federal officials.

Trump, in his July phone call with Zelenskiy, referred to Yovanovitch as “bad news.”

“I heard very bad things about her,” Trump said to reporters at the White House last week. “And I don’t know if I recalled her or somebody recalled her, but I heard very, very bad things about her for a long period of time. Not good.”

Yovanovitch was accused of impeding a Ukrainian investigation into the Bidens – an allegation the State Department said at the time was “outright fabrication.”

ABC News has repeatedly asked the State Department for comment on Yovanovitch’s planned appearance. To date, there has been no response.

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