WASHINGTON (CN) — The House committees leading the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump released transcript excerpts Monday of the closed-door depositions of two Trump administration officials who testified in mid-October.
The documents show that former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and Michael McKinley, a former adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, both raised concerns with actions of individuals inside and outside the State Department, to State Department officials. According to testimony, those concerns fell on deaf ears.
Excerpts from Yovanovitch’s deposition outline her concern with that Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was meeting with Ukrainian officials, including Yuriy Lutsenko, the country’s prosecutor general. Yovanovitch said these meetings involved discussions uses to hurt her reputation in the U.S., and that Lutsenko had spread lies about her after she pushed his office for reforms.
Yovanovitch testified that Ukrainian Minister of the Interior Arsen Avakov first notified her that two of Giuliani’s associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were facilitating meetings with Giuliani and Lutsenko, something she found it “exceedingly strange.”
Yovanovitch said Avakov told her these meetings concerned replacing her as ambassador and that she needed to watch her back, with respect to Giuliani.
Avakov also expressed to Yovanovitch that Ukrainian involvement with U.S. politics was “a dangerous place for Ukraine to be,” after speaking with Giuliani. Yovanovitch said Avakov advised her that issues such as whether Ukraine or Russia colluded in the 2016 U.S. presidential election would be “dangerous terrain for another country to be in.”
Yovanovtich also said Giuliani tried to overturn the visa denial of former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, which Yovanovitch said had been rejected due to “known corrupt activities.” Yovanovitch said Giuliani was contacting officials directly after Shokin’s visa was denied.
“And the next thing we knew, Mayor Giuliani was calling the White House as well as the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs, saying that I was blocking the visa for Mr. Shokin, and that Mr. Shokin was coming to meet him and provide information about corruption at the embassy, including my corruption,” Yovanovitch testified.
Yovanovitch said she was surprised to see her name mentioned in Trump’s July 25 call where he urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden — a demand he made while simultaneously refusing to distribute military aid that Congress had earmarked for Ukraine.
To date a transcript of the call remains under wraps, but a White House did release a summary where Trump refers to Yovanovitch by saying, “she’s going to go through some things.”
Yovanovitch said she saw a threat in the remark.
“I mean, I was very surprised that President Trump would — first of all, that I would feature repeatedly in a presidential phone call, but secondly, that the president would speak about me or any ambassador in that way to a foreign counterpart,” Yovanovitch testified.
McKinley testified his resignation came after finding that his department’s missions were to “procure negative political information for domestic purposes.” This, and his department’s refusal to protect Yovanovitch after the release of the partial transcript of Trump’s July 25 call, were good reasons for his resignation, he said.
In 37 years of Foreign Service, he had never seen efforts to use the State Department to dig up dirt on a political opponent, McKinley testified.
McKinley also testified that he rallied for the State Department to issue a statement in support of Yovanovitch with Pompeo three times after the former ambassador appeared in a partial transcript of Trump’s July 25 call. McKinley never received a response, but said he raised the issue of “the lack of public support for department employees” with the secretary.
“So, I presented my resignation on September 30th. I spoke with the Secretary again when he called from Europe to discuss my resignation,” McKinley testified. “I said, you know, this situation isn’t acceptable. We need to—you know, I’ve already made my recommendation, but I do—I am resigning. And that was the conversation. Again, I didn’t get a reaction on that point.”
Before raising the issue to Pompeo, McKinley said he had emailed five separate State Department officials about issuing a statement and had spoken to four who had reacted positively, however, other State Department officials halted his action.
“Probably a couple hours later [State Department spokesperson] Morgan [Ortagus] reached out to me by phone and told me that the Secretary had decided that it was better not to release a statement at this time and that it would be in part to protect Ambassador Yovanovitch not draw undue attention to her,” McKinley testified.