May 17, 2022

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Yovanovitch Says She Lost Her Appetite During ‘Disastrous’ Trump-Putin Presser

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  • Marie Yovanovitch wrote that she lost her appetite while watching Trump’s 2018 presser with Putin.
  • It was “a spectacle that left observers pondering the depths to which Trump had sunk,” she wrote.
  • “God only knows what Trump said” to Putin in private, the former Ukraine ambassador wrote.

The US’s former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, writes in her new book that she lost her appetite and couldn’t finish her french fries while watching then President Donald Trump’s joint press conference with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in 2018.

Yovanovitch was serving as the US’s ambassador to Ukraine when Trump and Putin held a bilateral summit in Helsinki in 2018. At the time, she writes in her memoir, “Lessons From the Edge,” the US Navy was conducting maritime exercises with Ukraine in a show of solidarity against Russia’s aggression.

“It was quite a show, and as I watched the display of US sea power and leadership … I was proud to be an American,” the book says.

But the same day, Trump held “what turned out to be a disastrous meeting with President Putin in Helsinki,” she continues. “The summit wrapped up with a joint press conference between the two leaders, a spectacle that left observers pondering the depths to which Trump had sunk in his pandering to Putin.”

“I watched the infamous Trump-Putin press conference at my Odesa hotel that evening while pecking at room-service french fries,” the book says. “I quickly lost my appetite as I saw our president toady up to Putin and take the Russian’s word over that of our own intelligence agencies, which assessed that Russia had interfered in the 2016 US presidential election.”

Trump’s presser with Putin shocked US allies and provoked severe backlash from national security and foreign policy experts, and even some of Trump’s own supporters. Among other things, he said he didn’t “see any reason” why Russia would have meddled in the 2016 election.

When asked whether he believed the US intelligence community or Putin, Trump said Putin was “extremely strong and powerful in his denial.” Trump also recycled nonsense conspiracy theories about the FBI and the Democratic National Committee, and refused to say he supported the findings of US officials over the Russian leader’s claims.

And those statements were “what was said publicly,” Yovanovitch writes in her memoir. “God only knows what Trump said in the two-hour one-on-one meeting with Putin, a meeting unusual not only for its length but because Trump did not brief US officials on the discussion later. That raised all sorts of questions.”

After being roundly criticized for his handling of the press conference, Trump read from a written statement, saying that he misspoke when he said he didn’t see why Russia would have interfered in the 2016 election. 

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said he had “full faith” in US intelligence agencies and wanted to clarify his statements from the bilateral summit.

“I’ve said this many times,” Trump said, reading from the written statement. “I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place. Could be other people also. There’s a lot of people out there.”

Yovanovitch, meanwhile, made headlines as one of the key witnesses in Trump’s first impeachment inquiry, which centered on his efforts to strong-arm the Ukrainian government into publicly announcing investigations into the Biden family ahead of the 2020 US election.

More than a dozen witnesses, including Yovanovitch, testified about Trump’s pressure campaign, which included withholding nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine and dangling a White House meeting for Ukraine’s president while demanding the investigations.

Yovanovitch’s testimony focused on her work as ambassador to Ukraine and how corrupt forces — both in the US and Ukraine — led to her unceremonious ouster and abrupt recall back to the US before the end of her term.

She also described how “shocked and devastated” she felt when she learned the details of a July 2019 call between Trump and Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in which Trump pressured Zelenskyy to investigate the Bidens, called Yovanovitch “bad news,” and said that she was “going to go through some things.”

While she testified, Trump lobbed attacks against Yovanovitch on Twitter in a move legal experts said amounted to witness intimidation.

Yovanovitch, when asked to respond to the attacks mid-testimony, said they were “very intimidating.”

Trump’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.