The former US ambassador to Ukraine who was branded “bad news” by President Donald Trump and removed, defended her record and told a televised impeachment hearing on Friday she did not pursue a political agenda in Ukraine.
“I had no agenda other than to pursue our stated foreign policy goals,” the ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, said in her opening statement on the second day of televised impeachment hearings in the US House of Representatives, Reuters reported.
The session before the House Intelligence Committee is part of the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry that threatens Trump’s presidency even as he seeks re-election in November 2020.
Yovanovitch was removed from her post as ambassador to Kiev in May after coming under attack by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, at a time when he was working to persuade Ukraine to carry out two investigations that would benefit the Republican president politically.
Giuliani was trying to engineer Ukrainian investigations of Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden and the former US vice president’s son, Hunter, who had served as a board member for Ukrainian energy company Burisma, as well as a debunked conspiracy theory embraced by some Trump allies that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 US election.
The focus of the impeachment inquiry is a July 25 phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who was elected in May, to open the investigations.
Democrats are looking into whether Trump abused his power by withholding $391 million in US security aid to Ukraine as leverage to pressure Kiev. The money, approved by the US Congress to help a US ally combat separatists in the eastern part of the country, was later provided to Ukraine.
“Ambassador Yovanovitch was serving our nation’s interest in fighting corruption in Ukraine, but she was considered an obstacle to the furtherance of the president’s personal and political agenda. For that she was smeared and cast aside,” Democratic committee chairman Adam Schiff said in his opening statement.
“The powers of the presidency are immense, but they are not absolute and cannot be used for a corrupt purpose,” he said.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and calls the impeachment probe a sham.