We’ve already gone from “quid pro quo” to bribery, and now Democrats’ newest impeachment-related allegation against President Donald Trump is witness intimidation.
During the House Intelligence Committee’s Friday morning open impeachment probe hearing with former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, chairman Adam Schiff paused the proceedings to read a tweet from the president criticizing the career diplomat.
“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” Trump said. “She started off in Somalia, how did that go? 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.”
Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? 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.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2019
When asked to respond to her former boss, Yovanovitch said, “I don’t think I have such powers, not in Mogadishu, Somalia, and not in other places. I actually think that, where I served over the years, I and others have demonstrably made things better for the U.S. as well as for the countries that I’ve served in.”
Schiff asks Yovanovitch to respond to Trump's tweet, posted during her hearing, claiming that everywhere she worked "turned bad"
— CBS News (@CBSNews) November 15, 2019
Schiff then asked Yovanovitch whether she thought the tweet was meant to intimidate her or what kind of effect it would have on other witnesses willing to come forward. She replied that “it’s very intimidating.”
Schiff asked the witness if the tweet was “designed to intimidate,” she responded that she couldn’t speak to Trump’s motives but that she though that the “effect is to be intimidating.”
“Well,” Schiff responded, “I want to let you know, Ambassador, that some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously.”
After the hearing recessed for votes, Schiff told reporters that Trump’s actions constituted “witness intimidation in real time by the president of the United States.
After the exchange, several other congressional Democrats echoed Schiff’s assessment of the president’s tweet, including 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, Calif., failed presidential candidate Rep. Eric Swalwell, Calif., and far-left freshman “Squad” member Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minn.
"The president is trying to intimidate Ambassador Yovanovitch. It's not going to work…But I do worry that this could have a chilling effect on others who have seen wrongdoing and may not come forward because of what [Trump] is doing." —@RepSwalwell #ImpeachmentHearing pic.twitter.com/fwPrHJtF2t
— CAP Action (@CAPAction) November 15, 2019
This is witness intimidation. https://t.co/CbCYjprVYm
— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) November 15, 2019
The president just demonstrated witness intimidation & obstruction of justice in real time. Yuvanovitch is a dedicated, truth-telling, career foreign service official who knows how to put country first, over partisanship. Trumps actions are truly dangerous. https://t.co/Ex0W6iV1lT
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) November 15, 2019
— Sheila Jackson Lee (@JacksonLeeTX18) November 15, 2019
This is what witness intimidation looks like. https://t.co/685WY5uQ3m
— Rep. Jim McGovern (@RepMcGovern) November 15, 2019
Witness intimidation is a crime. pic.twitter.com/d7Ave23Dat
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) November 15, 2019
Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., even drew a line between the latest impeachment allegations and the impeachment effort against former President Richard Nixon.
In criminal proceedings, intimidating a witness to prevent or influence testimony is a felony.
In impeachment proceedings, obstruction of justice was an article of impeachment against Nixon.
Both facts are relevant to the President smearing Marie Yovanovitch as she testifies. https://t.co/WTe3QpXRlm
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) November 15, 2019
For reference, the federal law covering witness intimidation — 18 USC 1512 —can be found here.