Ousted Ukraine ambassador Yovanovitch says she was told to tweet praise of Trump to save her job

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By Adam Edelman and Josh Lederman  with NBC News Politics
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch leaves Capitol on Oct. 11, 2019 after testifying behind closed doors to the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees.   -  Copyright  Olivier Douliery AFP - Getty Images

Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told House impeachment investigators last month that U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told her she should tweet out support or praise for President Donald Trump if she wanted to save her job, according to a transcript of her testimony made public Monday.

The three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump released two transcripts of the behind-closed-doors interviews they have so far conducted as part of their investigation, as the probe moves to a more public phase.

The release of the transcripts triggered an immediate influx of interest that seemed to overload the House website where the transcripts were posted, with the digital copies briefly unable to be accessed.

Yovanovitch was interviewed by House investigators in October for more than nine hours and has emerged as a key figure in the investigation into Trump's efforts to persuade Ukraine's new government to commit publicly to investigate corruption and the president's political opponents.

In Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Trump referred to Yovanovitch as "bad news."

Yovanovitch departed Ukraine in May, months ahead of her scheduled departure, after coming under attack from right-wing media, which 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 planned.

Yovanovitch testified to House investigators Oct. 11 that Trump had personally pressured the State Department to remove her, even though a top department official assured her that she had "done nothing wrong."

Yovanovitch said during her testimony that after she was abruptly recalled from her post in the spring, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan told her that the president had lost confidence in her.

Yovanovitch, a career diplomat who said she was informed of her ouster in April, said in her opening statement that she was "incredulous that the U.S. government chose to remove an ambassador based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives."

According to the intelligence community whistleblower complaint 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 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.