Ex-Ukraine ambassador says she was removed based on “false claims”

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch defended her tenure as ambassador in testimony before the House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry, telling lawmakers Friday she was “incredulous” the government recalled her “based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.”

According to her prepared remarks, obtained by The Washington Post, Yovanovitch said that although her Ukraine tour was supposed to end in 2020, she was “abruptly told” in late April to return to Washington “‘on the next plane.'” She did not know why she was being recalled, and she met with the deputy secretary of state, who told her Mr. Trump “had lost confidence in me and no longer wished me to serve as his ambassador.” The secretary also told her there had been “a concerted campaign against” her, and there had been pressure to remove her since 2018.

Yovanovitch said she was also told she “had done nothing wrong.”

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She denied allegations she had directed a Ukrainian official to refrain from investigating corruption, and she defended her record against attacks by President Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

“I want to categorically state that I have never myself or through others, directly or indirectly, ever directed, suggested, or in any other way asked for any government or government official in Ukraine (or elsewhere) to refrain from investigating or prosecuting actual corruption,” Yovanovitch said in her remarks, referring to allegations by former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, which he has since retracted.

“As Mr. Lutsenko, the former Ukrainian Prosecutor General has recently acknowledged, the notion that I created or disseminated a ‘do not prosecute’ list is completely false-a story that Mr. Lutsenko, himself, has since retracted,” Yovanovitch said.

She also denied she had been “disloyal” to Mr. Trump. She added that the Obama administration never asked her to help with the Clinton campaign or work against the Trump campaign, “nor would I have taken any such steps if they had.”

Yovanovitch said she had never met with Hunter Biden and had only met briefly with Giuliani.

“I do not know Mr. Giuliani’s motives for attacking me. But individuals who have been named in the press as contacts of Mr. Giuliani may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine,” Yovanovitch said.

Yovanovitch’s testimony comes a day after two foreign-born men who helped Giuliani in his efforts to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden were arrested on federal campaign finance charges, with prosecutors describing a sprawling effort to funnel foreign money into the American political process at the behest of Ukrainian officials.

She concluded by expressing “deep disappointment and dismay” she felt as the events in Ukraine unfolded, including her removal. She also said the State Department is being “hollowed out and attacked from within.”

“We need to rebuild diplomacy as the first resort to advance America’s interests and the front line of America’s defense. I fear that not doing so will harm our nation’s interest, perhaps irreparably,” Yovanovitch warned. She also expressed concern that bad actors in foreign countries will “see how easy it is to use fiction and innuendo to manipulate our system.”

“Our efforts were intended, and evidently succeeded, in thwarting corrupt interests in Ukraine, who fought back by selling baseless conspiracy theories to anyone who would listen. Sadly, someone was listening, and our nation is the worse off for that,” Yovanovitch concluded.

Yovanovitch is providing her deposition behind closed doors.

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