Audrey Conklin on November 15, 2019
Journalists, pundits and politicians accused President Donald Trump of witness tampering after he tweeted at former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during her testimony Friday.
Yovanovitch, who said she felt threatened by Trump while working under him, was testifying before the House Intelligence Committee during the second day of public impeachment hearings when the president tweeted about her.
“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors,” Trump tweeted during the testimony.
“They call it ‘serving at the pleasure of the President.’ The U.S. now has a very strong and powerful foreign policy, much different than proceeding administrations. It is called, quite simply, America First! With all of that, however, I have done FAR more for Ukraine than O.,” he continued.
House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff accused the president of witness intimidation during the hearing and read Trump’s tweet aloud to the room.
“As we sit here testifying the president is attacking you on Twitter,” Schiff said, adding, “I want to let you know, ambassador, that some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously.”
Fox News host Bret Baier called Schiff’s reading of the tweets a “turning point” in the hearing in a Friday tweet.
He added that Yovanovitch “was already a sympathetic witness [and] the President’s tweet ripping her allowed Schiff to point it out real time characterizing it as witness tampering or intimidation -adding an article of impeachment real-time.”
CNN legal analyst Elie Honig told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that Trump’s tweets are “textbook witness intimidation,” adding, “I’ve prosecuted witness tampering cases. I’ve tried witness tampering cases. To me this is right down the middle.”
Various pundits, journalists and politicians — both Republicans and Democrats — agreed with Schiff’s designation of the tweet as “witness intimidation.”
Others, however, argued that Trump’s tweets should not be considered “witness tampering.” Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, for example, called the claim “ridiculous.”
“Furthermore, it clearly hasn’t changed the fact that the witness is testifying willingly and sticking to her script,” Mark R. Levin added.
Hearings related to the president’s phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky concerning former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter and his business dealings with Ukrainian gas company Burisma holdings are scheduled to continue until Nov. 21.