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‘Witness intimidation is a crime’: Why Trump’s tweets about Marie Yovanovitch are a problem

‘Witness intimidation is a crime’: Why Trump’s tweets about Marie Yovanovitch are a problem
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch departs for a short recess during the House Select Intelligence Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. [Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images]

“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:

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:

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