- The Washington Times - Monday, November 4, 2019

House Democrats released the first transcripts Monday from their monthlong impeachment proceedings, making a down payment on their promises to bring more transparency to what has been a secret investigation.

The two transcripts are from testimony given by the ousted ambassador to Ukraine and a former top counselor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — though neither was able to shed much light on the central issues of the inquiry, including whether President Trump used the threat of withholding aid to gain a commitment for Ukraine to investigate a political opponent.

But the two, former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and former top department counselor Michael McKinley, described fears of politics seeping into the goings-on, particularly when it came to Trump confidante Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Ms. Yovanovitch testified that she felt she was the victim of a whisper campaign by Mr. Giuliani — something Democrats leading the impeachment probe said was key evidence against the president.

“The transcripts of interviews with Ambassadors Yovanovitch and McKinley demonstrate clearly how President Trump approved the removal of a highly respected and effective diplomat based on public falsehoods and smears against Ambassador Yovanovitch’s character and her work in support of long-held U.S. foreign policy anticorruption goals,” said the three committee chairs who are leading the investigation.



Yet Ms. Yovanovitch also had praise for Mr. Trump, saying his approach toward Ukraine was paying off.

“I actually felt that in the 3 years that I was there, partly because of my efforts, but also the interagency team, and President Trump’s decision to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine, that our policy actually got stronger over the three last 3 years,” she said.

Democrats say Mr. Trump pressured the Ukraine government to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son, Hunter, who took a job with a Ukrainian gas interest.

They say Mr. Trump’s decision to withhold some military aid amounted to the president trying to use U.S. policy to advance his own personal interest.

The matter erupted after a July 25 phone call between Mr. Trump and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. At least one whistleblower complained about Mr. Trump’s behavior.

The president released a transcript in late September, and that reconstructed version of the conversation does not show an explicit quid pro quo, but other officials have reportedly told Congress they understood it to be a quid pro quo.

Ms. Yovanovitch said Mr. Trump’s interest in rooting out corruption in Ukraine was well known and dated back before the current Ukrainian president took office.

But both ambassadors said they fretted over mixed messages coming from the Trump administration on policy, and worried that politics was intruding into the department’s work, including with Mr. Trump telling

Mr. McKinley resigned his position because he was frustrated that the department did not object to Mr. Trump’s disparaging Ms. Yovanovitch in the July phone call with Mr. Zelensky.

“In this context, frankly, to see the emerging information on the engagement of our missions to procure negative political information for domestic purposes, combined with the failure I saw in the building to provide support for our professional cadre in a particularly trying time, I think the combination was a pretty good reason to decide enough, that I had—I had no longer a useful role to play,” he said.

Still, he said he had no personal knowledge of the Trump-Zelensky interactions, and didn’t even know about the July phone call until the transcripts were released.

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