“Witness intimidation is a crime,” tweeted Kamala Harris, moments after Adam Schiff paused the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment hearing today. Schiff, the top Democrat leading the hearing, stopped the proceedings to ask Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, for her response to President Trump’s real-time tweets during her testimony:
Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. 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.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2019
Yovanovitch’s facial expressions—pained, defeated, wronged, exasperated—said it all. She nervously shrugged and then calmly explained that conditions in the regions she’d worked in had demonstrably improved, and at Schiff’s prompting, added that the president does not, in fact, appoint ambassadors alone—there is a Senate confirmation process. When asked about the effect of the tweets, she said, “It’s very intimidating.”
Democrats, including Schiff, swiftly rallied to label the tweets “witness intimidation.” This phrasing is pivotal because witness intimidation is a federal crime and could be seen as an impeachable offense, in addition to the alleged offense already being explored at this week’s hearings (the infamous quid pro quo). Specifically, it’s illegal to “tamper with a witness, victim or an informant” by “knowingly using intimidation” to influence her testimony. Democratic Representative Mike Quigley of Illinois suggested that the incident might become part of the articles of impeachment against Trump.
You can watch the exchange in the embedded video below:
Witness intimidation is a crime. pic.twitter.com/d7Ave23Dat
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) November 15, 2019