Jersey Dems accuse Trump of witness intimidation for his tweet during impeachment hearing

Jersey Dems accuse Trump of witness intimidation for his tweet during impeachment hearing

By:  Jonathan D. Salant

WASHINGTON — As former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch began her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee Friday, President Donald Trump jumped in via Twitter.

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” Trump tweeted. “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.”

Yovanovitch, who was recalled by Trump, was the sole witness on the second day of the committee’s investigation of whether there is enough evidence to impeach Trump.

The president is accused of withholding congressionally approved aid to Ukraine to pressure its leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Trump’s tweet against Yovanovitch immediately set off a Twitter war, with several New Jersey members of Congress firing back.

“It is outrageous and, far as I’m concerned, witness intimidation,” said U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “This to me is an effort to obstruct Congress’ will and obstruction of justice at the end of the day.”

The outrage extended to the House as well.

“America is fortunate to have remarkable public servants like Ambassador Yovanovitch,” tweeted Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-6th Dist. “As Trump intimidated her on Twitter, she exemplified public servitude by meticulously outlining Trump’s attempts to bribe the Ukrainian President for personal benefit.”

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-9th Dist., added: “Right as she testifies that she felt threatened by trump’s attacks, Trump attacks her again with more lies. Do my Republican colleagues see a damn pattern?”

Trump said later he was just exercising his right to speak.

“I’m allowed to speak up," he said. “I have freedom of speech, just as other people do.”