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Ex-Ukraine envoy claims Trump tried to remove her, inquiry told

Investigation: Donald Trump
Investigation: Donald Trump

By AP Reporter

Former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch has told a Capitol committee that the State Department was pressed by President Donald Trump to remove her from her position.

In her opening statement to the Democrats' impeachment inquiry into Mr Trump, Ms Yovanovitch said she was "abruptly" recalled from her post in May and told the president had lost confidence in her.

She said she was told by an official there was a "concerted campaign against me" and Mr Trump had pressured officials to remove her for almost a year.

She said: "Although I understand that I served at the pleasure of the president, I was nevertheless incredulous that the US government chose to remove an ambassador based on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives."

Ms Yovanovitch appeared on Capitol Hill yesterday for a deposition in the impeachment inquiry, accepting an invitation to testify despite Mr Trump's declaration no-one in his administration would co-operate with the probe.

She is now a State Department fellow at Georgetown University. It is unclear if her appearance signals a shift in Mr Trump's strategy or if she is breaking with White House orders.

Democrats are investigating Mr Trump's pleas to Ukrainian officials to launch investigations of political rival Joe Biden and his family and to probe Ukraine's involvement in the 2016 presidential election.

Ms Yovanovitch was recalled from Kiev as Rudy Giuliani - who is Mr Trump's personal lawyer and has no official role in the US government - pushed Ukrainian officials to investigate baseless corruption allegations against the Bidens.

She was removed from her post after insisting Mr Giuliani's requests to Ukrainian officials for investigations be relayed through official channels, according to a former diplomat who has spoken with her.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has said America is "absolutely ruthless in enforcing the code of diplomatic immunity" after it emerged the suspect in the death of Harry Dunn would not return to the UK.

Harry Dunn died when his motorbike crashed into a car outside an RAF base on August 27.

The 19-year-old's family said they would be flying out to the US to "spread our campaign" and try and convince Donald Trump to reverse his decision on diplomatic immunity.

The suspect, 42-year-old Anne Sacoolas, who is reportedly married to a US intelligence official, was granted diplomatic immunity following the crash.

Yesterday, Boris Johnson said although President Trump was sympathetic towards Harry's family's views on the use of diplomatic immunity, the US are "very reluctant" to allow citizens to be tried abroad.

Commenting on the US's safeguarding of Mrs Sacoolas, the Prime Minister said: "In my experience, America is very, very reluctant to allow its nationals to be tried overseas, and is absolutely ruthless in enforcing the code of diplomatic immunity.

"I must say, I don't think it was appropriate for that provision to be used in this case.

"I made that point to the President, and he is sympathetic.

"I think we've just got to keep working on that and see what we can do to get justice for Harry Dunn and his family."

When asked about the diplomatic immunity row by reporters, Mr Trump called the incident a "terrible accident", but suggested driving on the opposite side of road was confusing - saying "it happens".

Lawyer Radd Seiger said Harry's parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, were engaging lawyers to take a civil case against Mrs Sacoolas in America.

In a post on the Justice 4 Harry GoFundMe page, the family said: "We are overwhelmed by the generosity and the support from all of you and want to say thank you again."

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