Former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch says she felt threatened, was told to 'watch my back': Impeachment deposition

Adviser to Secretary Pompeo says he resigned in part because of Trump's actions

November 4, 2019, 4:09 PM

House Democrats on Monday released hundreds of pages of deposition transcripts that included testimony by a former top diplomat of feeling personally "threatened" by President Donald Trump's phone call to Ukraine's president and that a former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo resigned in large part because Pompeo didn't do enough to protect her.

The transcripts of interviews with former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and former Pompeo aide Michael McKinley were the first of what is expected to be more than a dozen transcripts released in the coming days ahead of public impeachment hearings as early as next week.

Democrats have been under fire from Republicans to make the impeachment probe more transparent, including giving insight into the closed-door depositions that they have been conducting with current and former officials.

At issue is whether Trump used his power as a sitting president for personal gain by trying to convince a foreign government to investigate a U.S. citizen -- in this case former vice president and potential 2020 presidential rival Joe Biden.


McKinley said the idea of a president using the America's diplomatic staff to dig up dirt on a political opponent was a first for him and in part why he decided to resign.

"If I can underscore, in 37 years in the Foreign Service and different parts of the globe and working on many controversial issues, working 10 years back in Washington, I had never seen that," McKinley told lawmakers, according to the transcript.

According to Yovanovitch, she said a Ukrainian politician had already told her to "watch my back."

Then in April, Yovanovitch received a call from the director general of the Foreign Service, Carol Perez, and told to board the next plane home.

"I was like, 'What? What happened?' And she said, 'I don't know, but this is about your security. You need to come home immediately. You need to come home on the next plane,'" Yovanovitch told lawmakers about her conversation with Perez.

In his July 25 phone call to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Trump called Yovanovitch "bad news" and urged the leader to work with his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani instead.

"Well, she's going to go through some things," Trump told Zelenskiy on the phone call, according to a memo of the call released by the White House.

Yovanovitch testified that she was "shocked" upon hearing details of the president's transcript of the call and didn't know what Trump meant.

"Did you feel threatened?" an investigator asked Yovanovitch about Trump's remark that she was going to "go through things."

"Yes," she replied.

Yovanovitch also testified that she was told by her superiors at the State Department that Trump had wanted her out in summer of 2018 and that Pompeo "had tried to protect me but was no longer able to do that."

In one conversation with Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, Yovanovitch recalled asking what she had done wrong. According to her account, Sullivan said to her "you've done nothing wrong."

"The reason they pulled me back is that they were worried that if I wasn't, you know, physically out of Ukraine that there would be, you know, some sort of public … tweet or something else from the White House," she said. "And so this was to make sure that I would be treated with as much respect as possible."

In his testimony, McKinley told lawmakers that he had three separate conversations with Pompeo about the need to defend Yovanovitch, but did not receive a response.

In an Oct. 20 interview with ABC's "This Week," Pompeo denied hearing McKinley express any concerns. Pompeo said, "I never heard him say a single thing about his concerns with respect to the decision that was made."

McKinley said he resigned in part because he was concerned about "the lack of public support for department employees."

He also said he was disturbed by a push to use U.S. diplomatic missions "to procure negative political information for domestic purposes," as well as a "failure" at the State Department to support the American diplomatic corps.

"I think the combination was a pretty good reason to decide (that) I had no longer a useful role to play," McKinley said.

Related Topics