President Trump’s advisers and allies didn’t get the heads up before he launched attacks against ousted Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch Friday morning while her public testimony in the House impeachment probe was underway.
Only an hour into Yovanovitch’s testimony, Trump tweeted that “everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad” and that it is a President’s “absolute right to appoint ambassadors.” His attacks were swiftly met with backlash, which included accusations of witness tampering and noted how he didn’t react to the public testimony of acting ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor and top State Department official George Kent the same way.
According to a Saturday morning report in the New York Times, Trump’s tweets raised new doubts among the President’s advisers and allies, given the upcoming public testimonies next week of eight witnesses over the course of three days.
The Times reported that Trump did not get approval for his Friday tweets targeting Yovanovitch with top White House aides prior to posting them. Privately, Trump’s advisers admitted that his tweets had done damage.
Given how Trump’s congressional allies had largely held back from directly attacking career diplomat Bill Taylor and top State Department official George Kent during their public testimonies, the Times reported that they had planned to be especially careful with Yovanovitch’s testimony.
According to one person close to the House Republican leadership who spoke to the Times, during a Thursday practice session in the Capitol aimed at coordinating their overall message, Trump’s congressional allies planned to use the same care in questioning Yovanovitch that Republican senators tried to employ during the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford last year, when she testified that Justice Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were in high school.
Trump clearly wasn’t on the same page, which spurred House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff Democrats to read the President’s attacks aloud during Yovanovitch’s testimony.
“Now the President, in real time, is attacking you,” Schiff told Yovanovitch. “What effect do you think that has on other witnesses willingness to come forward and expose wrongdoing?”
Yovanovitch responded that she found Trump’s real-time attack to be “very intimidating.”
According to a pool report Friday, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham defended Trump’s tweets by arguing that they were “simply the President’s opinion.”
Later Friday, according to CNN, Trump argued that he has “the right to speak,” regarding his tweets about Yovanovitch, and admitted to watching Yovanovitch’s public testimony, which he characterized as “a joke.” Grisham initially claimed that the President would not watch the hearing after taking in Intel Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) conspiracy theory-laden opening statement.
During a press conference Friday following the conclusion of Yovanovitch’s testimony, House Republicans gave Trump cover on his tweets that swiftly garnered backlash.
Read the New York Times’ report here.