Analysis after Marie Yovanovitch's impeachment testimony

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch gave public testimony Friday regarding the circumstances of her abrupt ouster from her post.
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Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

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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

Trump defends attacking Yovanovitch after Dems accuse him of 'witness intimidation'

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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Live Blog

OPINION: At impeachment hearings against Trump, GOP must not join in Democrats' showboating

The second hearing of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Friday followed House Democrats opening the proceedings to the public Wednesday — and it was about time. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, which is in charge of the inquiry, kicked off his opening statement on that occasion by predicting, “What we will witness today is a televised theatrical performance staged by the Democrats.”

He was half-right. The impeachment hearings have indeed been “a televised theatrical performance.” But it’s been staged by both Democrats and Republicans. And so before we go much further in this process, I’d like to urge my fellow travelers on the right (I’m looking at you, Jim Jordan): Please don’t continue to grandstand on impeachment. It only hurts the cause and draws attention away from the invidious ways the Democrats themselves are piling on the drama.

Read the full piece.

Yovanovitch says she would have pushed back on Trump’s requests

Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., got Yovanovitch, who was recalled before Trump’s July 25 call, to answer several hypotheticals about the president's efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. Himes asked, quoting the memo of the July 25 call, if she would have recommended that Trump ask about CrowdStrike, to which she said no.

Himes also asked if she would have recommended that Trump delay congressionally mandated aid and ask the Ukrainian president to find out about Biden's son. She also said no. The questions get at what the motive might have been for recalling her.

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

From left, ranking member Devin Nunes confers with minority counsel Steve Castor and Rep. Jim Jordan during testimony from former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch's before the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill on Nov. 15, 2019.Alex Wong / Getty Images

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.