Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch gave public testimony Friday regarding the circumstances of her abrupt ouster from her post as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Catch up quickly:
5 things we learned from Yovanovitch's public testimony
- Including stirring testimony, a GOP strategy and how Russia benefited ...
Trump defends attacking Yovanovitch after Dems accuse him of 'witness intimidation'
- “I have the right to speak. I have the freedom of speech just as other people do,” Trump told reporters.
Analysis: The devastating day Trump's presidency came into sharp focus
- Also: A fate worse than firing — humiliation. "All we have is our reputations," Yovanovitch said.
Yovanovitch says Trump admin kneecapped her diplomatic efforts
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Yovanovitch describes the moment she was recalled
Yovanovitch is re-telling the story of the late-night April 2019 phone call she received from the State Department abruptly calling her back to the U.S. During the call, Carol Perez, the director general of the Foreign Service, told Yovanovitch there was “great concern” for her safety and that she needed to return to Washington on “the next plane.”
Yovanovitch had shared this story with House investigators during her closed-door testimony last month but revealed new details on Friday, including that she had just finished hosting a dinner party at her residence in Ukraine honoring an anti-corruption activist in the country who had died after being attacked with acid.
Close Trump ally Mark Meadows spotted at hearing
Jordan left his seat to talk to two staff members at the end of the dias. At about the same time, South Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, who is sitting in the audience, stood up and walked to the back of the room. After Jordan finished talking to his staff, the staff walked to Meadows and the three walked out the hearing door
Meadows, a fierce Trump ally, is not on the Intelligence Committee but is extremely involved in the Republican strategy. Meadows was spotted at the White House yesterday afternoon.
No mention of Trump's desire to reform corruption in notes on first call
Flashback to April 21 and this readout from the White House about the initial call between President Trump and President Zelenskiy:
The White House, at the time, said the president expressed commitment to work with Ukraine “to implement reforms that strengthen democracy, increase prosperity, and root out corruption.”
There’s nothing in the so-called transcript just released by the White House that specifically reflects the president’s desire for corruption reform. As we’ve noted before, the administration itself specifically notes that this memo “is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion” and is instead compiled from notes and recollections of staffers listening in.
Rep. Speier praises Yovanovitch
Yovanovitch says Trump admin 'kneecapped' her diplomatic efforts in Ukraine
Yovanovitch excoriated the Trump administration in her opening statement, claiming that the administration “kneecapped” her efforts in Ukraine to make the country more democratic and, in turn, protect U.S. national security.
"If our chief representative is kneecapped, it limits our effectiveness to safeguard the vital national security interests of the United States,” she said. “The State Department is being hollowed out from within at a competitive and complex time on the world stage. This is not a time to undercut our diplomats.”
Her statement is a powerful repudiation of the unfounded allegations casting her as someone who was working to advance corruption in the country. Though she did not mention Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, her comments appeared to be squarely aimed at his leadership.
White House releases record of first Trump-Zelenskiy call
The White House on Friday released a record of President Donald Trump's first phone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart, a call in which the two chat amicably and there's no mention of the Bidens or the 2016 election.
The record of the April call was released at 9 a.m., just as the second of the House's public impeachment hearings stemming from Trump's July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was set to begin.
Trump tweeted earlier this week that the April call was "the first, and therefore more important, phone call."
Read the full story here.
ANALYSIS: Impeachment in one paragraph
Schiff’s opening statement showed how this hearing will be a microcosm of the entire impeachment case against Trump — that he would stop at nothing, even subverting American interests and harming patriotic citizens, to gain an election advantage.
The short version of Schiff’s statement: Yovanovitch was smeared and fired because she was doing her job — fighting Ukrainian corruption on behalf of the U.S. — too well at a time when Trump was trying to corrupt the new Ukrainian president.
Here’s how Schiff closed:
“Ambassador Yovanovitch was serving our nation’s interests in fighting corruption in Ukraine, but she was considered an obstacle to the furtherance of the president’s personal and political agenda. For that she was smeared and cast aside. The powers of the presidency are immense but they are not absolute, and they cannot be used for corrupt purpose. The American people expect the president to use the authority they grant him in service of the nation, not to destroy others to advance his personal or political interests.”
And the storyline is important for a second reason that might turn out to be larger over time. Even if Trump is not removed from office, the narrative offered by Yovanovitch bolsters the Democrats’ argument that Trump’s campaign trail mantra of putting “America first” is untrue.
Grisham: Trump released call notes 'so every American can see he did nothing wrong'
White House press secretary Grisham said Trump "took the unprecedented steps to declassify and release the transcripts of both of his phone calls with President Zelenskiy so that every American can see he did nothing wrong.”
Yovanovitch: ‘I have no agenda’
Yovanovitch began her opening statement, which closely resembled the one she gave behind closed doors last month, connected her personal story of having parents who fled Communism and Nazism to eventually settle in the U.S. to her 33 years of service as a diplomat in the U.S.
She said that “I have no agenda” other than implementing U.S. foreign policy regardless of which party is in power. She served in six presidential administrations — four Republican and two Democratic.
She said her goal as ambassador to Ukraine was to make it a free democratic society with rule of law. She noted that it is a contentious region in which the U.S. is in a power struggle with Russia and said if Kremlin interests prevail, it could embolden Russian to expand its aggressions. She said her goal was to root out corruption to deter Russia.
"When our anti-corruption efforts got in the way of a desire for profit or power, Ukrainians who preferred to play by the old, corrupt rules sought to remove me," she said. "How could our system fail like this? How is it that foreign corrupt interests could manipulate our government?"
She also laid out several key pieces of misinformation that she expected to come up, including allegations that she told Ukrainian officials who they should or should not prosecute.
Read her full statement:
Yovanovitch sworn in
Stefanik again raises point of order
Rep. Elise Stefanik again is the first Republican to raise a point of order in the proceedings. She also did so on Wednesday. With these public objections parroting the GOP talking points, Stefanik, from a more moderate New York district and thought of as someone who might be open to support the impeachment inquiry, is further cementing her position as someone who is not entertaining that option.