The Real-Time Consequences Of the Trump Family Tweeting Threats


Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and a career diplomat, testified on Friday morning before the House Intelligence Committee as part of the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump. Much of her testimony focused on her reaction to the successful smear campaign orchestrated against her by Rudy Giuliani and other allies of Donald Trump to get her removed from her post, and her reaction upon learning that Trump had, in his July 25, 2019 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, described Yovanovitch, or in his words, “the woman,” as “bad news” and then, in what can only be read as a threat, said that she was “going to go through some things.”

“I was shocked, absolutely shocked, and devastated, frankly,” Yovanovitch testified on Friday, when asked about her reaction upon learning of what Trump said about her during that call. “A person who saw me actually reading the transcript said the color drained from my face.” She added, “Even now, words kind of fail me.”

She rightly described Trump’s warning that she was “going to go through some things” as a “threat,” an effort that not only made her a target, but one that was meant to chill other witnesses from coming forward. And remarkably but entirely unsurprisingly, Trump tweeted about Yovanovitch as she was testifying, a form of real-time witness harassment, all but underscoring her point that Trump’s threats against her were a form of intimidation. (And a gendered threat as well—Trump notably did not tweet similar threats against the two men yesterday, George Kent and Bill Taylor, who testified before Congress. To see a woman up on the witness stand must be particularly galling for him.)

In a chilling moment, Democrat Adam Schiff read aloud the tweet to Yovanovitch. “As we sit here testifying, the president is attacking you on Twitter,” Schiff said. “Ambassador, you’ve shown the courage to come forward today and testify, notwithstanding the fact that you were urged by the White House or State Department not to. And now the resident in real-time is attacking you. What effect do you think that has on other witnesses’ willingness to come forward and expose wrongdoing?”

“It’s very intimidating,” she replied.

“It’s designed to intimidate, is it not?” Schiff said.

“I think the effect is to be intimidating,” Yovanovitch said.

“I want to let you know, Ambassador, that some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously,” Schiff replied.

In March, Yovanovitch was also the target of a Don Jr. tweet, in which he called her a “joker,” and called for her removal. Yovanovitch was recalled shortly after, in May.

In her closed-door testimony, Yovanovitch told Congress that in the midst of the efforts to get her ousted, she was told to publicly affirm her support of Donald Trump. From the Daily Beast:

During this ordeal, Yovanovich did receive guidance from one of the president’s key point men on Ukraine, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. His proposal was that she tweet her support of Trump.
“He said, you know, you need to go big or go home… Tweet out there that you support the President, and that all these are lies and everything else.”

Yovanovitch refused.

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