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House members debate possible ‘witness intimidation’ by Trump

Democrat Sean Maloney says “it’s obviously wrong.” Republican Chris Stewart doubts Marie Yovanovitch was intimidated by “a single tweet.”

Sean Maloney
Democratic Rep. Sean Maloney said President Donald Trump’s tweets aimed at former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch were “obviously wrong.” | Susan Walsh/AP Photo

Two House Intelligence Committee members on opposite sides of the aisle squared off Sunday over President Donald Trump’s tweets aimed at discrediting former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during her public testimony.

“It’s obviously wrong,” Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “The president is intimidating a witness in real-time. How have we come to the point where decent people like Chris Stewart have to defend that kind of conduct?”

“In the hearing room, the Republicans are praising her and calling her a great American,” Maloney said. “And the president is attacking her viciously.”

In emotional testimony Friday, Yovanovitch said she was the target of a “smear campaign” by Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. She was “shocked, appalled, devastated” when she learned Trump had attacked her in a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

As she spoke, Trump doubled down on Twitter: “Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go?”

Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) read the tweet aloud. Schiff’s action raised questions of whether Trump’s actions constituted witness intimidation — and, therefore, whether that might be grounds for an article of impeachment. After her testimony, the former ambassador exited the room to a rare standing ovation.

But Stewart on Sunday dismissed any notion of “witness intimidation,” calling that accusation “nonsense.”
Republican Rep. Chris Stewart dismissed any notion of “witness intimidation,” calling that accusation “nonsense.” | Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

If the basis for impeachment includes this tweet, then the evidence for impeachment is weak, he said.

“Look, the president communicates in ways that sometimes I wouldn’t,” Stewart said. However, he added, Yovanovitch is “an extraordinarily strong and powerful individual. I really doubt she’s intimidated by a single tweet.”

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