President Trump removed the ambassador to Ukraine from her role after complaints from Rudy Giuliani that she was was obstructing his efforts to convince the country to open a probe into the Bidens, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
Giuliani admitted to the Journal that he advocated for the removal of Ambassador Maria Yovanovitch from her post, in part because he thought she was blocking his smear endeavor, which is now the focus of a House impeachment inquiry. Giuliani also alleged that he told Trump that Yovanovitch had made comments critical of the President in private conversation, according to the Journal.
At the time that she was recalled from Ukraine in May, the State Department described the move as “planned.” She is still a State Department employee and the House is planning to interview her behind closed doors next week.
The effort to oust her is one of several episodes described in a whistleblower complaint alleging presidential misconduct that have since been confirmed.The Journal report describes months of pleas to Trump by Giuliani and other Trump allies asking that Yovanovitch, who was appointed during the end of the Obama administration after serving as diplomat in the George W. Bush administration, be removed.
Among them was then-Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), who wrote a May 2018 letter alleging Yovanovitch had an “anti-Trump bias.” Sessions would not tell the Journal the source of the claim, but said he didn’t follow up on the request and didn’t hear until much later that Trump was interested in her ouster.
According to the Journal, Giuliani began his push to remove her after he met in early 2019 with Yuriy Lutsenko, then Ukraine’s top prosecutor.
Joe diGenova — a lawyer close to Trump said to be involved in the Ukraine smear gambit — bashed Yovanovitch on Fox News in March 2019, in an interview where he claimed the President “has ordered her dismissal from her post.”
Giuliani recalled to the Journal mentioning Yovanovitch to the President that spring and Trump believing that she had already been removed.
A month later, when Ukraine was ushering in a new administration, State Department officials were telling the country’s officials that Yovanovitch would be staying in her post, the Journal reported.
But before her recall in May, a packet of what Democrats have described as “propaganda” materials made its way to the State Department; the inspect general turned over the materials — which were packaged in Trump Hotel stationary and with a coversheet claiming it was from the White House — to Congress this week.
Among the documents, the Journal reported, was research Giuliani had put together alleging that Yovanovitch was close to Vice President Joe Biden — a claim the Biden campaign denied.d.