A new transcript released Friday by the White House appeared to end speculation that President Donald Trump attacked former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch in his first phone call in April with then-newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) had asked Yovanovitch during a closed-door Oct. 11 deposition if she knew if Trump had brought her up before. She responded, “I don’t know. I had assumed it was the April 21st phone call, that first phone call, because that, to my knowledge, is the only time—other time that they talked.”
She said that “it’s possible” that Trump criticized her after Schiff suggested that she didn’t get a briefing, or readout, on the first call because he may have been “bashing her.”
On Friday, the day of the House hearing featuring Yovanovitch, the White House released a full transcript of the April call, showing that her name never came up.
Yovanovitch said on Friday in front of the House Intelligence Committee that she was upset that Trump removed her over what she thought was a smear campaign.
She said, “Ukrainians who preferred to play by the old, corrupt rules sought to remove me. What continues to amaze me is that they found Americans willing to partner with them and, working together, they apparently succeeded in orchestrating the removal of a U.S. Ambassador.”
But Yovanovitch also mentioned she had no direct knowledge about any withheld U.S. military aid to Ukraine or the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky—the subject of the impeachment inquiry.
“I cannot bring any firsthand knowledge to … the July 25th phone call, the discussions surrounding the call, or any discussions surrounding the delay of security assistance,” she said.
On Thursday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said Thursday that U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland “never” linked aid to Ukrainian investigations into the 2016 elections or former Vice President Joe Biden, who Trump, during the July call, had asked Zelensky to “look into” the business dealings of Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, with Ukrainian energy giant Burisma.
Biden in 2016 threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees unless the Ukrainian president at the time, Petro Poroshenko, removed a top anti-corruption prosecutor who was investigating Burisma. The Ukrainian gas giant was paying Hunter Biden tens of thousands of dollars a month to sit on its board of directors. Hunter Biden stepped down from the board in April.
“[U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon] Sondland did not tell us, and certainly did not tell me, about a connection between the assistance and the investigations. You should ask him,” Prystaiko said about Sondland, reported Reuters. He added, “I have never seen a direct relationship between investigations and security assistance.”
But during the hearing, Yovanovitch said her office was “kneecapped” when she served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in the days before she was removed.
During the July 25 phone call, Trump and Zelensky had discussed Yovanovitch’s job performance. She is “going to go through some things,” Trump said.
In the hearing, Yovanovitch responded to the Trump-Zelensky call: “I was shocked and devastated that I would feature in a phonecall between two heads of state in such a manner. It was a terrible moment.”