President Trump dismissed criticism that he had tried to intimidate a witness in the impeachment inquiry, saying a disparaging tweet about former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch as she testified before a House panel was "free speech."

"I have the right to speak," Trump said at an afternoon event in the Oval Office.

Trump's tweet — in which he said everything "turned bad" in various places Yovanovitch was posted as a diplomat — came as she testified that she was the target of a "campaign of disinformation" that involved Trump's personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Yovanovitch also told the House Intelligence Committee that she felt threatened when she read how Trump talked about her to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on a July 25 call.

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Later, David Holmes, a career diplomat, told lawmakers that he overheard a phone call in Kyiv between Trump and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, during which Trump pressed for updates on Zelensky's willingness to "do the investigation" — testimony that could significantly advance the House's impeachment inquiry.

Democrats are seeking to build a case that Trump sought to withhold military assistance and an Oval Office meeting until Zelensky announced investigations into former vice president Joe Biden and his son, as well as an unfounded theory that Ukrainians interfered in the 2016 presidential election to hurt Trump.

President Donald Trump. Photo / Getty Images
President Donald Trump. Photo / Getty Images