Marie Yovanovitch, the former US ambassador to Ukraine who has accused Donald Trump of leading a “concerted campaign” to have her removed from her post, appeared on Capitol Hill on Friday as the third witness to testify publicly in the impeachment inquiry into the US president.
A career diplomat, Ms Yovanovitch was the US ambassador to Ukraine from August 2016 to May 2019. In a closed-door deposition last month, she told House investigators that she was abruptly told in April of this year to go back to Washington “on the next plane”. Ms Yovanovitch accused Mr Trump of trying to oust her based on “unfounded and false claims”.
Ms Yovanovitch, who is now a fellow at Georgetown University and remains an employee of the state department, said she was “incredulous that the US government chose to remove an ambassador based . . . on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives”.
The former ambassador was recalled to testify in a live, televised hearing before the House intelligence committee on Friday. William Taylor, her successor in Kyiv, and George Kent, a senior state department official, appeared in a five-hour session before Congress on Wednesday.
Mr Taylor revealed on Wednesday that an unnamed member of his staff had overheard Mr Trump pressing Gordon Sondland, US ambassador to the EU, for a Ukrainian investigation into former US vice-president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Mr Taylor said his colleague heard that Mr Trump cared more about securing the probe into the Bidens than about Ukraine, which has been at war with Russia for years.
Mr Sondland is among eight additional witnesses scheduled to appear in public hearings next week. Others set to testify include Alexander Vindman, a US army officer and National Security Council official, and Fiona Hill, Mr Trump’s former top Russia adviser.
Mr Taylor did not identify the staff member who overheard the phone conversation between Messrs Sondland and Trump. But US media have reported that the staffer in question is David Holmes, an official working in the US embassy in Kyiv. Mr Holmes is scheduled to give a closed-door deposition to House investigators on Friday afternoon.
The House intelligence committee is expected to announce more public hearings in the coming days.
The impeachment process is expected to eventually move from the intelligence committee to the House judiciary committee, which will draft articles of impeachment to be voted on by the entire House.
While Mr Trump is expected to be impeached in the Democrat-controlled House, Republicans on Capitol Hill say it is unlikely he will be removed from office following a trial on the charges in the Senate. More than 20 Republican senators would have to vote to convict the president in order for him to be removed from office.