WASHINGTON (AP) — Truth was lost in the first round of historic impeachment hearings as President Donald Trump launched a tweet attack on a senior U.S. diplomat that distorted reality and made even some Republicans cried foul.
Over two days, the hearings by the House Intelligence Committee featured statements at odds with known facts.
Reacting to testimony from former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, Trump in a few choice words portrayed her as a wrecking ball in every country where she served U.S. interests. Her long diplomatic career has spanned danger zones and emerging democracies.
The tweet jolted hearings where Yovanovitch was testifying to the personal threat she has been feeling from the president.
Each day, the committee’s top Republican put forth the provocative claim that Democrats went on a hunt for naked pictures of Trump in a flailing attempt to come up with dirt on him. The lawmaker didn’t tell the story straight.
And in a ploy drawing applause from the White House, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York accused Democrats of improperly stifling her questioning. Actually, it was she who spoke out of turn.
Here is a look at some of the claims, heading into round 2 of the hearings:
TRUMP: “Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go?” — tweet Friday
THE FACTS: The notion that countries “turned bad” when Yovanovitch went to them has no credence.
Yovanovitch served as a low-level diplomat in Somalia in her first foreign tour after joining the Foreign Service in her 20s. She had nothing to do with the 1984 famine that preceded her arrival in Somalia and contributed to that country’s unraveling, nor anything to do with the government’s collapse and the onset of anarchy after she left.
“I don't think I have such powers,” she said pointedly when asked about Trump’s tweet during Friday’s hearing.
Of the seven countries where Yovanovitch served, five were designated hardship posts. In that sense, they were “bad” before she got there.
Mogadishu, Somalia, was her first tour after she joined the Foreign Service in 1986. She was a general-services officer with little clout, before she moved to other countries in increasingly senior positions.
The Somali civil war began in earnest in 1988, leading to a collapse in law and order by 1990, the overthrow of the government in 1991 and eventually to the ill-starred, U.S.-led U.N. peacekeeping intervention in 1992.
By then, she had moved on. After several years in Somalia, she went to Uzbekistan to help open the post-Soviet-era U.S. Embassy in Tashkent.
After a series of promotions from Republican and Democratic administrations, Yovanovitch worked from 2001 to 2004 as the U.S. deputy chief of mission in Ukraine before being named ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, then to Armenia. She returned to Ukraine after President Barack Obama nominated her to be U.S. ambassador in 2016.
TRUMP: “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.” — tweet Friday
THE FACTS: His description of appointment powers is problematic — ambassadors must be confirmed by the Senate. But he’s correct that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky criticized Yovanovitch in his July 25 phone call with Trump.