Former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch has told Congress she was ousted over “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives”.
She said she was “incredulous” at being dismissed by President Donald Trump in May.
Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony is part of an impeachment inquiry against President Trump.
The Democratic probe is looking into whether the Republican president improperly pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rival Joe Biden.
The scandal was sparked by a whistleblower complaint about a July phone call between President Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.
During that conversation, President Trump described Marie Yovanovitch as “bad news”, according to a rough transcript released by the White House.
The decision to dismiss Marie Yovanovitch several months earlier reportedly followed President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and other conservatives arguing she was biased against the president.
Rudy Giuliani had been working in Ukraine to press the authorities to investigate widely debunked corruption allegations against Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter, who was associated with a Ukrainian company.
The lawyer is coming under increasing scrutiny over his work for the president. Asked by reporters on October 11 if Rudy Giuliani was still his lawyer, President Trump answered ambiguously: “I don’t know. He’s a very good attorney and he has been my attorney.”
In a prepared statement, Marie Yovanovitch said:“Although I understand that I served at the pleasure of the president.
“I was nevertheless incredulous that the US government chose to remove an ambassador based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.”
Marie Yovanovitch said she did not know Rudy Giuliani’s reasons for attacking her.
“Equally fictitious is the notion that I am disloyal to President Trump,” she said.
“I have heard the allegation in the media that I supposedly told the embassy team to ignore the president’s orders ‘since he was going to be impeached.’ That allegation is false.”
She warned of the harm that will come to the US when “bad actors” realize “how easy it is to use fiction and innuendo to manipulate our system”.
Marie Yovanovitch said she had never met or spoken with Hunter Biden and that Joe Biden had never raised with her the subject of his son or the Ukrainian gas company that employed him.
She also said she learned that President Trump had called for her ousting since 2018 despite Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan telling her she had done nothing wrong.
Marie Yovanovitch said: “He said that the president had lost confidence in me and no longer wished me to serve as his ambassador. He added that there had been a concerted campaign against me.”
A Barack Obama-appointee, Marie Yovanovitch was confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate and served as US ambassador to Ukraine from August 2016 until last May.
The whistleblower complaint noted Marie Yovanovitch’s surprise dismissal was a red flag for some officials.