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Did Trump engage in 'witness intimidation in real time'?

Trump apparently thought it'd be a good idea to go after former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during her testimony. He thought wrong.

As a rule, I'm sympathetic to those who argue that Donald Trump's tweets rarely constitute actual, legitimate news. There are, however, exceptions.

This morning, for example, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was ousted as part of Team Trump's political scheme, testified publicly as part of the impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill. During her appearance, the president thought it'd be a good idea to publish a tweet, smearing her career in public service.

"Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad," Trump wrote. "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."

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told the former ambassador about Trump's missive and offered her a chance to respond.

"I don't think I have such powers, not in Mogadishu, Somalia and not in other places. I actually think that where I've served over the years, I and others have demonstrably made things better for the U.S. as well as for the countries that I've served in."Ukraine, for example, where there are huge challenges, including, you know, the issue that we are discussing today, of corruption, huge challenges. But they've made a lot of progress since 2014, including in the years that I was there.... The Ukrainian people get the most credit for that. But a part of that credit goes to the work of the United States and to me as the ambassador in Ukraine."

Schiff wasted little time in shining a light on the obvious, asking Yovanovitch about the effects of Trump's attacks on other witnesses and their willingness to come forward and expose wrongdoing. "Well, it's very intimidating," she replied.

The committee chairman added, "Well, I want to let you know, ambassador, that some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously."

During a break in the proceedings, Schiff stopped to briefly speak with reporters.

"What we saw today is, it wasn't enough that Ambassador Yovanovitch was smeared, it wasn't enough that she was attacked, it wasn't enough that she was recalled for no reason, at least no good reason," Schiff told reporters. "But we saw today, witness intimidation in real time by the President of the United States, once again going after this dedicated and respected career public servant in an effort to not only chill her, but to chill others who may come forward. We take this kind of witness intimidation and obstruction of inquiry very seriously."

It's almost as if Trump wanted to add an article of impeachment against himself.

Though I didn't see this myself, none other than Ken Starr reportedly appeared on Fox News soon after, and told viewers, "The president was not advised by counsel in deciding to do this tweet. Extraordinarily poor judgment.... Obviously this was quite injurious."