Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) said President Donald Trump’s tweet attacking former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch as she testified before Congress on Friday was “generally unfortunate” but did not amount to witness intimidation.
In his tweet, Trump claimed everywhere Yovanovitch went “turned bad.” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) read Yovanovitch the tweet during the hearing Friday ― minutes after it was sent ― and asked for her reaction. She responded that Trump’s comments were “very intimidating.”
But Turner, a member of House Intelligence Committee, appeared to shrug off the president’s timely tweet during an appearance Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“Does it concern you at all that a witness found what President Trump tweeted to be intimidating?” host Jake Tapper asked Turner.
“I think along with most people I find Trump’s tweet generally unfortunate,” the Republican congressman responded before attacking Schiff and accusing him of being “obsessed with impeachment.”
“It’s kind of laughable that in the middle of the hearing [Schiff] reads a witness a tweet that she’s, up to that point, unaware of and then says, ‘Shazam! Eureka! I have another reason to impeach the president,’” Turner continued.
Tapper pressed him again: “I get you don’t like Congressman Schiff, but you do find it concerning that a witness in real time found the president’s tweet to be ... intimidating?”
“It’s certainly not impeachable,” Turner said. “And it’s certainly not criminal. And it’s certainly not witness intimidation. It certainly wasn’t trying to prevent her ― or wouldn’t have prevented her ― from testifying. She was actually in the process of testifying.”
But Tapper continued to grill him, asking how the tweet doesn’t amount to witness intimidation if Yovanovitch herself said she felt intimidated by it.
“Clearly, she testified completely and fully. ... She was in no means intimidated and prevented from testifying,” Turner claimed, prompting Tapper to note that he’s “not a mind reader” and has no idea whether Trump’s tweet caused her to hold back during her testimony.
Though Republicans have largely defended Trump’s comments, his tweet drew significant backlash from Democrats and some members of the GOP.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said Sunday, during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” that the House may want to consider the tweet as an article of impeachment. Though Trump abruptly recalled Yovanovitch from her position as ambassador in May, Murphy said, she continues to work in the State Department.
“The president is basically telling her during her testimony is that there may be consequences to you and your family and your paycheck if you don’t shut up,” Murphy said. “And the message that’s being sent to everybody else who’s thinking about testifying is chilling as well.”