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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Trump administration thinking on impeachment politics
A Trump administration official working on impeachment says officials are closely watching the polling on impeachment and comparing it with contemporaneous polling on Brett Kavanaugh ahead of his confirmation vote to the Supreme Court. Right now they see the same trend as with Kavanaugh: that the polls show the public remains deeply divided and, as long as that continues, they’re OK. If it starts to move, they worry that vulnerable GOP senators like Cory Gardner of Colorado and Martha McSally of Arizona may turn.
The other element the administration is watching, according to the official, are the filing deadlines to get on the ballot for various House districts compared to when the House vote is held on impeachment. Here’s the thinking: Right now you have Democrats in battleground districts who, if the filing deadline for their district has passed and they’re going to sail through their primary, may be inclined to vote with Republicans against impeaching the president.
But if their filing deadlines haven’t passed, those Democrats could be vulnerable to a late-entry primary challenge from the left if they vote against impeachment, making them more likely to stick with Pelosi on the vote. The administration is hoping to peel off at least a few Democratic House members so that they can argue there was bipartisan opposition to impeaching and only partisan support for impeaching.
The official says the witness that most worries administration officials is the Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the E.U., because of the possibility he may perjure himself and the unpredictability of what he’ll say, given that he’s already contradicted his initial testimony in his follow-up declaration. The concern is that if he’s seen as having lied, it reflects negatively on the administration because he’s a political appointee, furthering the narrative about Trump and his political appointees versus the honorable, by-the-book career bureaucrats.
Swalwell says Dems will consider Trump's attacks for possible articles of impeachment
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., a member of the Intelligence Committee, told reporters that the president is engaging in witness intimidation and said investigators will consider it for potential articles of impeachment.
“Innocent people don’t intimidate and he’s just acting more guilty,” Swalwell told reporters.
When asked if it could be added to an article of impeachment as obstruction of justice, he said, “It will be considered. It will be considered, yes. With other obstructive acts like going after the whistleblower.”
Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which would consider articles of impeachment, tweeted, “The President is engaging in witness tampering during a Congressional impeachment hearing. That is a crime. Every Republican should have to say whether they’re okay with him doing that.”
Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., tweeted that the president’s attacks on Yovanovitch were “highly concerning” and Congress won’t “tolerate such behavior.”
Their comments come after Trump attacked Yovanovitch’s reputation in a tweet during the hearing. When asked to react to the president’s remarks, the former ambassador said “it’s very intimidating.”
Pelosi tweets support for Yovanovitch
Klobuchar: 'Her words speak for me'
Trump confidant Roger Stone found guilty on all counts in federal trial
A federal jury in Washington on Friday found Trump associate Roger Stone guilty of seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering in a case that was an offshoot of the Mueller probe.
The longtime Trump confidant faces prison time on the charges, which stemmed from his alleged efforts to find out when WikiLeaks would be releasing emails hacked from the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton's campaign in 2016.
What's going on inside the White House today?
Top staffers to President Donald Trump have been huddling behind closed doors in the West Wing. White House counsel Pat Cipollone, leaving the office of Hogan Gidley, declined to answer questions about whether the president’s real-time tweets on Yovanovitch amounted to witness intimidation.
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, leaving press secretary Stephanie Grisham’s office, also did not answer questions.
Despite the White House’s insistence that the president “will be working hard for the American people” today, he is clearly engaged in the hearing nonetheless.
Trump attacked Yovanovitch as she testified in the impeachment inquiry. Here's her response.
Schiff says Trump is intimidating Yovanovitch 'in real time'
During the break, Schiff accused Trump of intimidating Yovanovitch "in real time," and the impeachment investigators will take that "very seriously."
"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."
ANALYSIS: Trump attacks on Yovanovitch show 'profound lack of understanding'
Trump campaign spokesman tweets 'what's relevant'
Trending: Miss Universe
Today’s hearing is all over Twitter, accounting for many of the major trending topics.
Among them, Miss Universe. The president referred to the pageant in his first call with Zelenskiy, a transcript of which was released Friday morning.
Hearing breaks for votes
Lawmakers are taking a brief break from Yovanovitch's testimony in order to attend floor votes, Schiff said.
Kent previously testified that Putin, Orban poisoned Trump's views on Ukraine
George Kent, a senior State Department official responsible for Europe, told Congress last month that he was briefed on conversations President Donald Trump had with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in which the two foreign leaders talked Trump into a negative view about Ukraine and its new leader, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Kent told House investigators that Putin and Orban, along with Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, had “shaped the president’s view of Ukraine and Zelenskiy.” He said Trump’s conversations with the two leaders accounted for the change in Trump’s view of Zelenskiy from “very positive” after their first call on April 21 to “negative” just one month later when he met with advisers on Ukraine in the Oval Office.
In the interim, Trump spoke by phone with Putin on May 3, and hosted Orban at the White House on May 13.
Read the full story here.
Yovanovitch responds to Trump attacks
Schiff read out loud Trump's tweets attacking Yovanovitch and asked her to respond.
“Where I've served over the years, I and others have demonstrably made things better,” she said, including Ukraine where she said “there are huge challenges” but they’ve made a lot of progress since 2014.
That progress, she said, was made in part by the work of the U.S. and by her work as ambassador to Ukraine.
Schiff asked Yovanovitch how the president’s words might affect other witnesses in the impeachment inquiry.
“It’s very intimidating,” she said.
Schiff told Yovanovitch, “Some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously.”
Trump lashes out at Yovanovitch on Twitter during hearing
Trump on Friday smeared Yovanovitch as she testified.
In a second tweet in the thread, Trump wrote, “They call it 'serving at the pleasure of the President.' The U.S. now has a very strong and powerful foreign policy, much different than proceeding administrations. It is called, quite simply, America First! With all of that, however, I have done FAR more for Ukraine than O.”
Trump’s claim, however, that Zelenskiy was the one who spoke unfavorably about Yovanovitch is not true.
In the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy, Trump said about Yovanovitch: “The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that.”
Zelenskiy responded: “It was great that you were the first one who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100 percent. Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous president and she was on his side. She would not accept me as a new president well enough.”
Trump then responded: “Well, she’s going to go through some things. I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it.”
Yovanovitch said she felt threatened by Trump comments
Goldman asked Yovanovitch how she felt about Trump’s statement that she was going to “go through some things” -- a phrase the president used about her in his July 25 phone call with Zelenskiy, according to the White House summary of the call.
“I didn’t know what to think, but I was very concerned,” she said.
“What were you concerned about?” Goldman asked.
“It didn’t sound good. It sounded like a threat,” Yovanovitch replied.
“Did you feel threatened?” Goldman asked.
“I did,” Yovanovitch said.
Yovanovitch says she never heard of a president recalling an ambassador based on false info
In a poignant line of questioning, Daniel Goldman, the attorney leading the questioning for the Democratic members of the Intelligence Committee, was able to extract from Yovanovitch exactly how unusual — and unprecedented — her ouster from Ukraine was.
Goldman asked Yovanovitch if she had “ever heard of a president recalling an ambassador without cause” due to information “that the State Department itself knew to be false?”
“No,” she replied.
Yovanovitch describes emotional toll of her ouster
Yovanovitch was asked about her reaction to learning about her abrupt ouster.
"Terrible, honestly," she said. "It’s not the way I wanted my career to end."
She also said she was "shocked" when she learned that Trump had called her "bad news."
"The color drained from my face," she said, becoming visibly emotional. "I even had a physical reaction. Even now, words kind of fail me."
She added that "it kind of felt like a vague threat" when Trump told Zelenskiy in their July call that she was "going to go through some things."
Meet the two seasoned staff prosecutors now in impeachment spotlight
The fast-moving impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump's efforts to get Ukraine to investigate his political rivals is not only putting the partisanship on the House Intelligence Committee on full display, it's also catapulting the lead lawyers for both parties into the national spotlight.
Daniel Goldman is the Democrats' lead counsel and Steve Castor represents the Republicans. Both lawyers have extensive experience in Washington and in the courtroom and led the questioning of the closed-door depositions of witnesses in the inquiry. Both will have 45 minutes to grill witnesses on behalf of their respective sides as the inquiry moves forward.
Read the full story here.
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.
Schiff, Republicans clash early in hearing
Tension was palpable after Schiff rejected several “points of order” made by Republicans, prompting one of them — Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, to exclaim, “Holy cow.”
Schiff said that if Nunes was going to read for the record the transcript of the April phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy, they should also enter into the record the multiple “documents” pertinent to the investigation that the State Department, the White House Office of Management and Budget and other agencies have so far withheld from investigators, despite subpoenas.
Trump watched Nunes' opening statement, Grisham says
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told reporters Friday, “The President will be watching Congressman Nunes’ opening statement, but the rest of the day he will be working hard for the American people.”
Lots of signs today
Nunes accuses Democrats of trying to 'overthrow a president'
Ranking member Devin Nunes, D-Calif., pivoted his opening statement away from Trump’s alleged actions and made it about the Democrats' “daylong TV spectacle” to “fulfill their Watergate fantasies.” He accused the Democrats of trying to “overthrow a president” on shaky, secondhand information because they lost the 2016 election.
He described the impeachment process so far as "being like some sort of strange cult" with "secret" depositions. Over 40 Republican members have been able to attend the closed-door hearings.
Nunes also read out loud from the White House summary, released earlier Friday, of Trump's first call with Zelenskiy in April.
Nune’s opening statement, nearly identical to the one he made at the start of Wednesday's hearing, sets the foundation for what the GOP’s argument will be during the hearing — this should be about the whistleblower and his or her motivations, not Trump.
ANALYSIS: Republicans blasted 'hearsay' impeachment testimony. But they were in Congress, not court.
One of the Republican themes during Wednesday's impeachment hearing was that the witnesses — Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, a senior State Department official — were not credible because they were relaying, in some instances, second-, third- or even fourth-hand information.
In court, such testimony might be barred as “hearsay” — defined as an out-of-court statement that a party offers as evidence to prove the truth of the matter being asserted. Hearsay is generally inadmissible. But hearsay is a rule of evidence, applying only to court proceedings, and even then with so many exceptions that it's often admissible anyway.
First, hearsay is admissible in many government settings, including administrative proceedings, parole hearings, and preliminary hearings in a criminal case; a congressional hearing is not even a court, so it’s not governed by the rule of evidence that makes hearsay inadmissible.
Read the full analysis here.
Schiff lauds Yovanovitch in opening statement
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., used his opening statement to laud today’s witness, Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, as a lifetime diplomat who had valiantly tried to fight corruption in the country.
He praised Yovanovitch for her 33 years of service in the Foreign Service and for her efforts to take on graft there, reiterating several details that she herself shared during her closed-door testimony last month.
“In April 2019 the United States Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, was in Kyiv when she was called by a senior State Department official and told to get on the next plane back to Washington. Upon her return to D.C., she was informed by her superiors that although she had done nothing wrong, she could no longer serve as ambassador to Ukraine because she did not have the confidence of the president,” Schiff said.
“In her time in Kyiv, Ambassador Yovanovitch was tough on corruption, too tough on corruption for some, and her principled stance made her enemies,” Schiff said.
Read the full statement:
And they're off
Schiff gaveled in the second public impeachment hearing at 9:06 a.m.
First open hearing drew 13 million TV viewers
About 13.8 million people tuned in to the first day of impeachment hearings, according to media analytics company Nielsen, indicating strong interest from the general public in the proceedings.
Wednesday’s hearing was the first of at least five days of open hearings. Its audience was about the same as former special counsel Robert Mueller drew in July, though smaller than the approximately 20 million people who watched Brett Kavanaugh's hearing. That hearing also aired across ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. (NBCUniversal is the parent company of NBC, MSNBC and NBC News.)
Unlike Bill Clinton, Trump is unable to compartmentalize impeachment
WASHINGTON — The previous American president who was impeached talked Thursday about the current American facing impeachment.
And here was Bill Clinton’s advice to President Trump: don’t forget about focusing on your day job.
"Look, you got hired to do a job. You don't get to — every day's an opportunity to make something good happen," Clinton told CNN’s Jake Tapper. "And I would say, 'I've got lawyers and staff people handling this impeachment inquiry and they should just have at it. Meanwhile, I'm going to work for the American people.' That's what I would do."
But here’s what Trump has been doing:
“While we are creating jobs and killing terrorists, the radical left, Democrats [are] ripping our country apart. They are trying to overthrow American democracy and erase the votes of tens of millions of Americans,” he said last night at his rally in Louisiana.
Trump rips Pelosi ahead of impeachment hearing
Yovanovitch arrives for hearing
Posters are up
The posters on tripods on the Republican side of the dais read:
- “I have never seen a direct relationship between investigations and security assistance.” Ukrainian foreign minister Vadym Prystaiko November 14, 2019.
Trump also mentioned the statement in a pair of overnight tweets.
- 95 days since Adam Schiff learned the identity of the whistleblower.
- “I’m concerned if we don’t impeach this president, he will get re-elected.” Al Green
The number of chairs in the audience for members of Congress has been cut in half, from the about 70 on Wednesday to about 35 today. There are now seats reserved for a House staff with credentials.
OPINION: Republicans' Sixth Amendment impeachment objection has ominous implications
Not every constitutional law question has two sides. We don’t lose sleep, for example, over how many senators represent each state (two), or whether representation in the House must be proportional (yes), or whether the president really has to be at least 35 years old at the time he is sworn in (he does). Much of the time, the text of the Constitution is clear beyond any reasonable dispute — leaving no room for even the most compelling policy arguments that the text should be understood to mean something else.
But you wouldn’t know this from the latest legal objection to the ongoing House impeachment proceedings — that they violate the president’s Sixth Amendment right to confront the witnesses against him.
The right to confront is one of nearly a dozen different individual rights protected by the Sixth Amendment. Those rights apply, per the first four words of that provision, “[i]n all criminal prosecutions.” Thus, federal criminal defendants today have a panoply of protections all designed to ensure the fairness of their trial — ranging from the right to a speedy and public trial to the right to the assistance of counsel in their defense. But only in criminal cases.