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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Hearing moves to 5-minute round
The staff questioning round has now ended. The committee has moved to the five-minute member round for the 22 lawmakers, alternating between Democrats and Republicans. Members can give their time to other members if they would like. The member questions should last roughly two hours, barring any breaks or procedural delays.
Castor questions Yovanovitch's praise of Volker
Castor appears to be trying to draw a contrast between Yovanovitch’s prior praise for Kurt Volker, a former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, with the narrative being put forth by Democrats that Volker was an integral part of the shadow diplomacy team between Washington and Kyiv.
Castor brought up several instances where Yovanovitch had previously praised Volker, including once calling him “a brilliant diplomat.”
“I believe that to be true,” Yovanovitch said.
Castor, however, then brought up how the testimony of several figures in the impeachment inquiry, including Volker himself, has established Volker as part — along with Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer; the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland; and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry — of an irregular, shadow diplomacy team team in Ukraine.
“I think he tried to do what he thought was right,” Yovanovitch said.
Jordan and Nunes chat with Castor
Yovanovitch reminds Castor what American intel has said
In response to persistent questioning about the unfounded claim that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election, Yovanovitch reminded Castor what American intelligence already concluded: It was Russia.
"Our own U.S. intelligence community has determined that those who interfered in the election were in Russia," she said.
White House defends Trump tweet criticizing Yovanovitch
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham told NBC News in a statement that Trump's tweet about Yovanovitch "was not witness intimidation, it was simply the President’s opinion, which he is entitled to."
She added, "This is not a trial, it is a partisan political process — or to put it more accurately, a totally illegitimate, charade stacked against the President. There is less due process in this hearing than any such event in the history of our country. It’s a true disgrace."
Ex-DNC staffer referenced by GOP speaks out
Alexandra Chalupa, the former DNC contractor at the center of the theory of Ukrainian interference in 2016, is responding on Twitter after her name was invoked several times today in the Yovanovitch hearing. She says she “never worked” for a foreign government and hasn’t been to Ukraine:
Earlier this month NBC reported exclusively from Ukraine on a new effort to push this theory, which holds that Chalupa coordinated with Ukrainian embassy officials to dig up dirt on Paul Manafort. Here’s more background on Chalupa from our story.
Although Chalupa, a Ukrainian-American who was a part-time DNC contractor in 2016, acknowledges contact with the embassy during that period, she wrote on Facebook that it's "nonsense" to claim she was running a research operation or seeking Manafort dirt from the embassy. Ukraine's embassy denies working with her on anything election-related, and the DNC says she never did opposition research for the party.
Either way, there have been no indications that the top levels of Ukraine's government ordered or were aware of attempts to interfere in 2016. In contrast, U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia's extensive efforts to intervene in that same election were directed by the Kremlin.
Yovanovitch pushes back on conspiracy theory question
Yovanovitch pushed back on unfounded allegations that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 U.S. election to oppose Trump’s candidacy and that a Democratic operative was working with the D.C. embassy to get intelligence. But she testified that she would not have been privy to that unfounded claim because it happened in the U.S.
Bizarre Twitter trend emerges on Friday
A conservative talking point on today’s hearing has quickly formed and spread in what resembled a coordinated effort.
“I hired Donald Trump to fire people like Yovanovitch,” had been tweeted by nearly a thousand individual accounts by noon, retweeted tens of thousands of times. A version was tweeted by the president’s son, Donald Trump. Jr.
The statement was first tweeted by Cari Kelemen, a right-wing YouTuber from Texas, and gained steam when a popular far-right account, catturd2, told its 119,000 followers to “get it trending.”
The campaign continued to grow after far-right personalities like conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec pushed the statement.
Castor questioning slowing things down
Castor seems to be using his questioning of Yovanovitch to slow down the pace of the hearing and to attempt to press her on what she knew about corruption in the Ukrainian government and at Burisma Holdings — the Ukrainian gas company that former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter joined as a board member in 2014.
Castor asked Yovanovitch if there was a “perception problem brought to your attention as ambassador” regarding Biden being on the board while his father was the vice president.
“I was aware of it,” Yovanovitch replied.
Moments earlier, to open his questioning, Castor directed questions at Yovanovitch about Burisma, in which he referenced multiple names — of Ukrainian government officials and Ukrainian officials at Burisma — that have the effect, and possibly the purpose, of slowing down the hearing and making it less compelling for viewers.
Castor, who has been getting guidance from Jordan here and there, doesn't appear to be scoring many points.