Trump defends Yovanovitch attack: ‘I have freedom of speech’ | TheHill – The Hill

Posted: November 17, 2019 at 2:11 pm

President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Official testifies that Bolton had 'one-on-one meeting' with Trump over Ukraine aid Louisiana governor wins re-election MORE on Friday defended his tweet earlier in the day attacking former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie YovanovitchMarie Yovanovitch'Saturday Night Live' presents Trump impeachment hearings with 'pizzazz' of soap opera Trump makes social media player in impeachment White House official arrives to testify in impeachment probe MORE in the middle of her public testimony in the House impeachment hearing, insisting he has the right tospeakout.

"I have the right to speak. I have freedom of speech just like other people do,"Trump told reporters at the White House after making remarks on a health care initiative, adding that he's "allowed to speak up" if others are speaking about him.

Pressed on whether his words can be intimidating, as Yovanovitch and Democrats have said, Trump said no.

I dont think so at all," he said.

The remarks were Trump's first public commentsof the day, which has largely been dominated by testimony from Yovanovitch.Asthe former ambassador testified about a smear campaign by Trump's allies to oust her from her post in Kyiv, the president took aim at her on Twitter.

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," Trump tweeted. "It is a U.S. Presidents absolute right to appoint ambassadors.

In a stunning moment, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy READ: Top NSC aide Tim Morrison's closed-door impeachment inquiry testimony Top NSC aide puts Sondland at front lines of Ukraine campaign, speaking for Trump MORE (D-Calif.) interrupted questioning from his staff counsel to read the presidents tweet aloud to Yovanovitch and asked for her reaction.

I dont think I have such powers, Yovanovitch said with a slight laugh. Not in Mogadishu, Somalia, not in other places.

Asked what effect Trumps tweet might have on future witnesses facing pressure from the White House not to testify, Yovanovitch described it as very intimidating.

Democrats on the committee and elsewhere in the House equated Trump's tweet to witness intimidation and suggested that it could be considered when mulling articles of impeachment later in the process.

The White House on Friday morning issued a statement that Trump would not be watching Yovanovitch's testimony beyond opening statements. But Trump himself said that he had tuned in.

"I watched a little bit of it today. I wasn't able to yesterday because we had the president of Turkey here, and I wasnt able to watch much," Trump said. "I watched some of it this morning and I thought it was a disgrace."

Trump complained that Republicans were not given a fair shake, referencing an instance where Schiff stopped Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikFive takeaways from ex-ambassador's dramatic testimony Trump defends Yovanovitch attack: 'I have freedom of speech' Live coverage: Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies in public impeachment hearing MORE (R-N.Y.) from questioning Yovanovitch because the rules stipulated that only the ranking member or Republican counsel could ask questions during that period.

"Its a disgrace and its an embarrassment to our nation," Trump said.

Yovanovitch is the third witness to testify publicly in the House impeachment inquiry. Several other current and former administration officials are scheduled to give public testimony next week.

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Trump defends Yovanovitch attack: 'I have freedom of speech' | TheHill - The Hill

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