Trump attacks US diplomat as she testifies in impeachment probe

Washington (AFP) –


President Donald Trump on Friday tweeted an attack against the former US ambassador to Ukraine while she was in the middle of testifying in his impeachment probe, prompting her to complain she was being intimidated.

The president's furious tweet came as Marie Yovanovitch testified in the House of Representatives about her abrupt firing from her post in Ukraine following an alleged smear campaign by Trump's allies.

"Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad," Trump said, finishing his tweet with a reminder that presidents have the "absolute right" to hire and fire ambassadors.

Adding to the extraordinary nature of the president commenting on testimony against him in real time, Yovanovitch was asked to respond on live television.

She called the tweet "very intimidating."

"I can't speak to what the president is trying to do but the effect is to be intimidated," she said.

Trump suggested that her earlier work as a US diplomat in Somalia was linked to the country's decades of catastrophic instability.

"She started off in Somalia, how did that go?" he tweeted.

"I don't think I have such powers, not in Mogadishu and Somalia and not in other places," the visibly shaken Yovanovitch told the impeachment committee hearing her testimony.

"I actually think that where I've served over the years I and others have demonstrably made things better, you know, for the US as well as for the countries that I've served in."

The impeachment inquiry in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives centers on accusations that Trump froze US military aid in an effort to get Ukraine to launch political investigations against his potential 2020 election rival Joe Biden, and his son Hunter.

The investigation threatens to make Trump the third US president to be impeached, after Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998, although the Senate -- where Republicans enjoy a majority -- would need to convict him to remove him from office.