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Impeachment records: Ex-diplomat, adviser say State Dept. backed Trump

By Clyde Hughes & Nicholas Sakelaris
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Impeachment records: Ex-diplomat, adviser say State Dept. backed Trump
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., talks to media during a closed-door deposition on Capitol Hill on Monday. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 4 (UPI) -- House Democrats leading the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump on Monday released transcripts detailing two private depositions, from the former ambassador to Ukraine and a State Department adviser -- beginning a new public phase of the proceeding.

The transcripts are the first fully disclosed details of the testimony, which has so far been conducted behind closed doors at the U.S. Capitol. They detail what former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was removed from the post by Trump in May, and State Department adviser P. Michael McKinley told investigators last month.

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"As we move [toward] this new public phase of the impeachment inquiry, the American public will begin to see for themselves the evidence the committees have collected," Intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., foreign affairs committee Chair Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and acting oversight committee Chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said in a joint statement.

"With each new interview, we learn more about the president's attempt to manipulate the levers of power to his personal benefit."

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The transcripts detail concerns by both former administration officials about the way Trump had dealt with Ukraine, how Yovanovitch was removed from her post and that the State Department was throwing them overboard to serve Trump's political agenda.

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Yovanovitch, who spent her entire career as a foreign service officer, told lawmakers she met with the deputy secretary of state to ask why her deployment to Ukraine was terminated. He said she'd done nothing wrong, according to her testimony, but said she'd been removed at the insistence of Trump and his allies, including attorney Rudy Giuliani. Yovanovitch said Giuliani first began looking into Ukraine in late 2018.

"With respect to [former New York City] Mayor Giuliani, I have only had minimal contact with him, a total of three that I recall," Yovanovitch said in her transcript. "None related to the events at issue. I do not know Mr. Giuliani's motives for attacking me. But individuals who have been named in the press who have contact with Mr. Giuliani may well have believed that their personal and financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine."

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Yovanovitch said she was "incredulous" the U.S. government would remove an ambassador on "unfounded and false claims" by persons with "clearly questionable motives" -- and at a time "bilateral relations" are needed most.

In his testimony, McKinley said Trump had told Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky that Yovanovitch is "bad news," and added, "she's going to go through some things."

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"I didn't try to read into it or understand it," McKinley told investigators when asked what Trump meant. "The words themselves spoke for themselves."

Yovanovitch and McKinley both told investigators they hoped the department would support her in the face of Trump's efforts to remove her.

"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," she said.

"My reaction was, well, there's a simple solution for this. We think she's a strong, professional career diplomat who's still on the rolls, who's still a full-time department employee," McKinley said of the issue. "It shouldn't be difficult to put out a short statement that's not political, stating clearly that we respect the professionalism, the tenure of Ambassador Yovanovitch in the Ukraine."

Yovanovitch said McKinley left his post because he'd grown concerned about how the State Department was handling certain issues, and because it was not standing by its officers.

Schiff said the committees will release two more transcripts on Tuesday -- from former Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.

Earlier Monday, four White House officials who'd been summoned by investigators to give testimony declined to appear before the committees. National Security Council attorneys John Eisenberg and Michael Ellis, Robert Blair, senior adviser to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and budget officer Brian McCormick had all been scheduled for depositions.

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More testimony is scheduled for later this week, including Energy Secretary Rick Perry, acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought, and State Department officials David Hale and T. Ulrich Brechbuhl. Former national security adviser John Bolton has also been requested to provide a deposition.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was the first active White House official to testify in the case last week. The House last Thursday approved a resolution formally authorizing the impeachment investigation. Two Democrats, Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drews of New Jersey, were the only members of the party to vote against the investigation.

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