After two weeks of public testimony, the nation learned damaging details of President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, but administration officials who testified before Congress are now paying a heavy price.
The witnesses have endured threats of violence, harassment, and attacks on their personal character after detailing their experiences related to the Ukraine scandal during the impeachment inquiry.
President Trump himself has tweeted negatively about some of the witnesses, calling them “Never Trumpers,” slamming the quality of their service and questioning their loyalty.
Notably, he tweeted about former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, whom he removed from her post in May, while she testified.
“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go?” he wrote. “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.”
Yovanovitch described the tweet as “very intimidating,” saying, “I can’t speak to what the president is trying to do, but I think the effect is to be intimidating.”
The White House also tweeted a quote questioning the judgment and loyalty of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council Ukraine specialist, during his public testimony, and Trump previously called Vindman a “Never Trumper witness” on the day of his closed-door testimony.
An aide to Vice President Pence, Jennifer Williams, was also called a “Never Trumper” by the president. She and Vindman both pushed back.
Williams testified that while she did not know the “official definition” of a “Never Trumper,” she would not describe herself that way and “was not expecting to be called out by that name.”
Attacks from the president on Twitter have raised alarms and criticism in the past from people who say they can put the subjects he is targeting in danger.
The Army has taken steps to keep Vindman safe, an official told The Wall Street Journal. Officials told the paper the Army is ready to move him and his family onto a military base if they are in danger.
Former White House national security official Fiona Hill also revealed that she is facing online harassment and doxing amid the widely tweeted hearings.
“We’re constantly having to block Twitter posts of my name and address on the internet. We’ve been doing this over the last couple days,” Hill testified Thursday.
“We have to find ways of combating this, and, again, this gets back, sadly, to things that our adversaries can also exploit,” she added.
Hill also testified that she and other officials have been the target of conspiracy theories, some of which are anti-semitic.
The whistleblower’s attorney Mark Zaid has warned that his client’s anonymity should be protected and criticized some members of Congress who he said have sought to “intimidate” and “harm” his client, in part by making the whistleblower’s name public.
“I watched today’s hearing & repeatedly heard Members criticize & belittle significance of hearsay info. Yet same Members pushed to subpoena #whistleblower who they complain only has second hand info. #hypocrisy,” Zaid tweeted this month.
“Only reason is to intimidate & harm,” he added.
Democrats accused Trump of engaging in witness intimidation, and it’s possible his comments could be used in an article of impeachment.
Trump has defended the tweet, saying, “I have the right to speak. I have freedom of speech just like other people do.”