WASHINGTON • The former US ambassador to Ukraine last Friday told a House of Representatives impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump that he ousted her based on "unfounded and false claims" after she came under attack by his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Ms Marie Yovanovitch, abruptly recalled as the US envoy to Ukraine in May, appeared for a closed-door deposition, according to Democratic lawmakers leading the inquiry, after she had been told by the State Department at the behest of the White House not to show up.
The lawmakers said they then issued a subpoena for her appearance and she complied.
Ms Yovanovitch, according to a copy of her opening statement to lawmakers posted online by the Washington Post, said she was told by a senior State Department official about "a concerted campaign against me" and that Mr Trump had pushed for her removal since the middle of last year even though the department believed "I had done nothing wrong".
She also expressed alarm over damage to American diplomacy under Mr Trump and warned about "private interests" circumventing "professional diplomats for their own gain, not the public good".
The impeachment inquiry focuses on a July 25 phone call in which Mr Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate a domestic political rival, Democrat Joe Biden, and Mr Biden's businessman son Hunter Biden.
Mr Giuliani has accused Ms Yovanovitch of blocking efforts to persuade Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
Mr Giuliani has said he provided information to both Mr Trump and the State Department about Ms Yovanovitch, who he suggested was biased against Mr Trump.
In her statement, Ms Yovanovitch said she did not know Mr Giuliani's motives for attacking her but that his associates "may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine".
Amid this, federal prosecutors in New York City are investigating whether Mr Giuliani broke lobbying laws in his dealings in Ukraine, according to two sources familiar with the inquiry.
The investigators are examining Mr Giuliani's efforts to undermine Ms Yovanovitch, one of the sources said.
The investigation into Mr Giuliani is tied to the case against two of his associates who were arrested last week on campaign finance-related charges, the people familiar with the inquiry said.
The associates were charged with funnelling illegal contributions to a congressman whose help they sought in removing Ms Yovanovitch.
Mr Giuliani has denied wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, Mr Trump last Friday urged a federal appeals court to block New York prosecutors from obtaining eight years of his tax returns, arguing that he was immune from criminal investigation as a sitting president.
In a filing with the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, Mr Trump said there was "broad bipartisan agreement, for decades if not centuries, that a sitting president cannot be subjected to criminal process".
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat, in August subpoenaed Mr Trump's personal and corporate tax returns from 2011 to last year and other records from the President's long-time accounting firm Mazars USA.
In a separate filing last Friday, the US Department of Justice argued that the court must block Mr Vance from getting the tax returns until they have made a "heightened and particularised showing of need for the documents' production".