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Trump Defends Tweet About Impeachment Witness: ‘I Have The Right To Speak’

By  Joseph
US President Donald Trump is pictured in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on November 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump discussed transparency in health care prices..
Zach Gibson/Getty Images

As former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was testifying Friday before the House committee conducting an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, the Twitterer in Chief took to social media.

“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,” Trump wrote.

“…. They call it ‘serving at the pleasure of the President,'” Trump continued.  “The U.S. now has a very strong and powerful foreign policy, much different than proceeding administrations. It is called, quite simply, America First! With all of that, however, I have done FAR more for Ukraine than O.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) immediately charged that Trump’s tweet could be considered witness intimidation.

“As we sit here testifying, the president is attacking you on Twitter,” Schiff said in the hearing shortly after Trump posted, reading the tweet.

Then he said to Yovanovitch, “Ambassador, you’ve shown the courage to come forward today and testify, notwithstanding the fact that you were encouraged by the White House and the State Department not to, notwithstanding the fact that as you testified earlier the president implicitly threatened you in that call record, and now the president in real time is attacking you.”

“What effect do you think that has on other witnesses’ willingness to come forward and expose wrongdoing?” Schiff asked the former ambassador.

Yovanovitch said it was “very intimidating.” Then Schiff asked, “It’s designed to be intimidating, is it not?” Yovanovitch said she didn’t know if it was intended to do so, but that was the “effect.”

“I want to let you know, ambassador, that some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously,” Schiff said.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), among other Democrats, also said “it’s witness intimidation — and innocent people don’t intimidate witnesses. Intimidating a witness and tampering with witness testimony is an obstructive act. And we have evidence that that’s happened here.”

But Trump said he has First Amendment rights, just like every American.

“I have the right to speak. I have freedom of speech just like other people do,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday.

Asked by a reporter if Trump thought his tweets could be intimidating, he answered, “I don’t think so at all.”

Fox anchor Bret Baier said Trump may have given Schiff new ammunition in his impeachment inquiry by posting the tweet.

“That enabled Schiff to then characterize that tweet as intimidating the witness, or tampering with the witness, which is a crime, adding essentially an article of impeachment in real-time as this hearing is going on,” Baier said.

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