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.
Rudy Giuliani said: “That money was not campaign money. Sorry, I’m giving you a fact now that you don’t know. It’s not campaign money. No campaign finance violation.
“They funneled it through a law firm and the president repaid it.”
He said the repayment was made “over a period of several months”.
Rudy Giuliani added that the president “didn’t know about the specifics of it, as far as I know, but he did know about the general arrangement that Michael would take care of things like this”.
When asked by reporters a month ago if he knew about the payment to Stormy Daniels, President Trump said: “No.”
When asked why the payment was given to Stormy Daniels, the president added: “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen.”
President Trump might argue that the lawyer “took care of things like this”, as Rudy Giuliani suggested and that he knew nothing of the “specifics”, making the repayment personally later.
Speaking on Fox TV last week, President Trump suggested some knowledge of the matter in admitting Michael Cohen had represented him during the “crazy Stormy Daniels deal”, but did not go into specifics.
Michael Cohen, for his part, told the New York Times in February: “Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly.”
If Michael Cohen did co-ordinate with the Trump campaign, the $130,000 payment would be a violation of federal election law.
Rudy Giuliani’s comments also raise the question of whether President Trump was repaying an undisclosed loan. Donald Trump’s personal financial disclosure form from June 2017 makes no mention of a debt to Michael Cohen.
Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said that Americans “should be outraged” at Rudy Giuliani’s comments.
He tweeted: “We predicted months ago that it would be proven that the American people had been lied to as to the $130k payment and what Mr. Trump knew.”
The payment relates to allegations by Stormy Daniels that she had relations with Donald Trump in 2006, allegations he denies.
After initially denying the payment, Michael Cohen eventually admitted he had paid the sum privately to Stormy Daniels, real name Stephanie Clifford, in October 2016 out of his own funds in exchange for her silence in a non-disclosure agreement.
Michael Cohen denied that Donald Trump was a party to the transaction.
The lawyer is now facing a criminal investigation. FBI agents searched his home and office in New York recently in relation to the nondisclosure agreement.
Two months ago, Stormy Daniels filed a lawsuit against the president, alleging that the agreement was invalid because Donald Trump did not sign it.
Ex-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani has said there were “pockets” of people celebrating when the World Trade Center towers fell on September 11, 2001.
Rudy Giuliani, who was mayor at the time, disputed claims by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump that thousands of people were involved.
Donald Trump’s comments have been refuted by local political leaders because of a lack of evidence.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie simply said “it didn’t happen”.
Rudy Giuliani, who ran unsuccessfully for the 2008 Republican nomination himself, said: “We did have some [reports of] celebrations, there were pockets of celebration, some in Queens, some in Brooklyn.”
The former mayor said in one specific report which was later proved to be true, owners of a sweet shop were celebrating and children from a nearby housing development “beat them up”.
However, Rudy Giuliani said Donald Trump was willfully exaggerating the numbers and he himself “would’ve been thrown out of the race” had he made such an inflated claim during his 2008 campaign.
Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik later backed up Rudy Giuliani’s comments, saying “10-50” people were reported to be celebrating in different areas throughout the city.
Donald Trump, who comes from New York and runs his billionaire property empire from the city, has come under constant attack for days, ever since he made his controversial 9/11 remarks at a rally in Alabama.
The mayor of Jersey City, which Donald Trump named, said no such thing happened and accused the Republican of “shameful politicizing”.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, his Republican rival in the race for the White House, said it was not true.
“It didn’t happen and the fact is, people can say anything, but the facts are the facts, and that didn’t happen in New Jersey that day and hasn’t happened since.”
Donald Trump leads the Republican race to be presidential nominee, two months before voting begins in the primary contests.
The Republican presidential hopeful has also urged increased surveillance of Muslims in the US, in light of the Paris terror attacks that killed 130 people.