Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, arrived on Capitol Hill Friday to testify in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump despite a vow from the White House to block cooperation in the probe.
Yovanovitch appeared for her scheduled closed-door deposition before the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees as part of those bodies' ongoing investigations into Trump's efforts to persuade Ukraine's new government to commit publicly to investigate corruption and the president's political opponents.
She had previously been scheduled to be deposed by the committees on Oct. 2, but the appearance was postponed.
In a letter to House Democrats last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed back against Democrats' request to interview five current and former State Department employees, including Yovanovitch.
It had been unclear right up until Yovanovitch arrived whether she would appear for her testimony, because she still works for the State Department.
Yovanovitch has emerged as a potentially key figure in the investigation by House Democrats.
In Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Zelenskiy, Trump referred to the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine as "bad news."
She was removed abruptly from her post in Ukraine in May, months ahead of her scheduled departure, after coming under attack from right-wing media, who alleged she was hostile to the president. Her departure set off alarm bells among Democrats in Congress but the State Department said at the time her exit was "as planned."
According to the intelligence community whistleblowercomplaint at the heart of Democrats' impeachment inquiry, Yovanovitch's tenure was cut short because she had run afoul of the then-prosecutor general, in Ukraine, Yuri Lutsenko, and Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Lutsenko at one point alleged she had given him a "do not prosecute" list. The State Department has said the assertion was an outright fabrication and Lutsenko himself later walked back his comments.
Yovanovitch's former colleagues, however, have described her as one of the State Department's most talented and conscientious diplomats, and that it would be totally out of character for her to engage in partisan politics.
During her tenure, Yovanovitch was outspoken in her calls for Ukraine to tackle corruption, a stance in keeping with U.S. policy over successive administrations.
After Yovanovitch gave a tough speech in March urging the government to sack a senior anti-corruption official, she came under fire from Lutsenko, conservative voices in the U.S. and the president's son, Donald Trump Jr.