House Democrats released transcripts of interviews with former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and former senior State Department adviser Michael McKinley Monday. Read them here.
House Democrats began releasing transcripts from their closed-door impeachment hearings on Monday. The first two transcripts to be made public are congressional investigators’ interviews with former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who was ousted by President Donald Trump, and former senior State Department adviser Michael McKinley.
The testimony released Monday sheds more light on the investigation into Trump, who asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on a July 25 call for a “favor” to help him investigate the origins of the Russia investigation and former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, as well as former vice president Joe Biden, a top candidate for president, and his son Hunter. House Democrats are investigating that request as well as whether Trump’s decision to withhold financial aid to Ukraine was directly connected to it.
According to the transcript, Yovanovitch told congressional investigators that she was told by a senior Ukrainian official around February of this year that Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were working with Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer working for Trump, to try to replace her as ambassador to Ukraine. The Ukrainian official told her “I really needed to watch my back,” she said, according to the transcript.
Yovanovitch later identified the senior Ukrainian official as Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, who told her that Giuliani had reached out to him in “either late January or early February” to try to set up a meeting while Avakov was in the US. Avakov told her that he had spoken with Giuliani on the phone, but that he did not want to meet with Giuliani “because of his concerns about what they were doing,” according to the transcript. Avakov avoided the meeting because he believed that Ukraine getting involved in US politics “was a dangerous place for Ukraine to be,” given the country’s bipartisan support from the US, she added.
Avakov told Yovanovitch that he was concerned about Giuliani and his associates pressing Ukraine for information on former vice president Joe Biden and Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company where his son Hunter Biden served on the board, “with a view to finding things that could be possibly damaging to a [Biden] Presidential run,” she told Congress.
Yovanovitch testified that amid myriad attacks against her by the president’s allies and Ukrainian opponents, she asked the State Department to release a “strong” statement to indicate “that I, in fact, am the ambassador in Ukraine, and that I speak for the President, for the Secretary of State, for our country.”