Laying out the anatomy of a chilling smear campaign, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch told House investigators that Ukrainian officials warned her in advance that Rudy Giuliani and other allies of President Donald Trump were planning to "do things, including to me" and were "looking to hurt" her.
The former envoy, who was recalled from her post by Trump, testified that a senior Ukrainian official told her that "I really need to watch my back." Her testimony was included in transcripts released Monday by the three committees leading Democrats' impeachment probe into Trump's dealings with Ukraine.
Yovanovitch testified that she was told Giuliani and two others, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, were working to set up meetings between Giuliani and a Ukrainian prosecutor "and that they were interested in having a different ambassador at post, I guess for — because they wanted to have business dealings in Ukraine, or additional business dealings."
The two Soviet-born Florida businessmen were arrested in October, charged with making illegal campaign donations. Yovanovitch testified that as she learned of Giuliani's role, she also was told of Parnas and Fruman, who she understood were looking to expand their business interests in Ukraine "and that they needed a better ambassador to sort of facilitate their business' efforts here."
Yovanovitch she said was told by Ukrainian officials last November or December that Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, was in touch with Ukraine's former top prosecutor, Yuri Lutsenko, "and that they had plans, and that they were going to, you know, do things, including to me."
She said she was told Lutsenko "was looking to hurt me in the U.S.," adding: "I couldn't imagine what that was."
Yovanovitch was recalled from Kiev as Giuliani pressed Ukrainian officials to investigate baseless corruption allegations against Democrat Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who was involved with a gas company there.
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Yovanovitch said she received a call from Carol Perez, a top foreign service official, at around 1 A.M. on April 25 Ukraine time, abruptly telling her she needed to immediately fly back to Washington. Yovanovitch said when she asked why, Perez told her, "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 said she didn't think Perez meant it was to protect her physical security. Instead, Yovanovitch said, Perez told her it was for "my well-being, people were concerned."
The former envoy also told investigators that she was not disloyal to the president.
"I have heard the allegation in the media that I supposedly told our embassy team to ignore the president's orders since he was going to be impeached," she said. "That allegation is false. I have never said such a thing to my embassy colleagues or anyone eIse."
The impeachment panels released testimony from Yovanovitch and Michael McKinley, a former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Yovanovitch was pushed out of her job in May on Trump's orders.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says the panels are releasing the transcripts so "the American public will begin to see for themselves."
Republicans have called for the release of the transcripts as Democrats have held the initial interviews in private, though Republican lawmakers have been present for those closed-door meetings.