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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ANALYSIS: A fate worse than firing
One big question that Yovanovitch couldn’t answer with certainty is why Trump and his team chose to smear her rather than just replace her in Kyiv.
“All the president has to do is say he wants a different ambassador,” she said.
Both Republicans and Democrats were eager to make that point — Republicans to suggest there was nothing wrong with Trump calling her back to Washington and Democrats to argue that Trump’s campaign to discredit her was an abuse of his power that was necessary to set the stage for his deal with Ukraine.
For months, Trump and his allies bad-mouthed her to Zelenskiy and others in Kyiv. Yovanovitch said that could create a chilling effect on other diplomats around the globe, making it harder for ambassadors to feel like they have support from the administration when they’re executing foreign policy.
But the message sent from the president could be even stronger: that any diplomat who gets in the way of a shadow foreign policy team can expect a fate worse than firing — humiliation. In that way, Yovanovitch could be seen as an example to other career foreign service officers. While she didn’t speak directly to that, she explained the value of credibility in the diplomatic realm.
“All we have is our reputations,” she said.
Yovanovitch calls Sondland’s work in Ukraine ‘unusual’
A testy exchange emerged between Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, and Yovanovitch when he tried to press her on the U.S. ambassador to the European Union's work in Ukraine. He argued that it’s in Gordon Sondland's portfolio, but she said that “it is unusual to name the U.S. ambassador to the European Union to be responsible for all aspects of Ukraine."
Turner then talked over Yovanovitch as Schiff tried to get her to respond to a question to which Turner responded, "Not on my time, you're done.”
GOP poster says 'President Trump gave Ukraine missiles'
The poster behind Republicans quoting Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, on impeachment has been replaced with a large poster that says: "President Obama gave Ukraine blankets. President Trump gave Ukraine missiles."
The above is a point that Republicans have been making both publicly and privately. They claim that it's a shallow argument that the president has harmed Ukraine's national security by his administration's temporary hold in military aid when the Obama administration refused to provide the weapons they needed. Note that the Republicans keep bringing up the Javelin missiles in testimony, including today.
Yovanovitch emphasizes 'it’s been a very, very difficult time'
Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., asked how the smear campaign against Yovanovitch affected her and her family.
“It’s been a very, very difficult time,” Yovanovitch replied.
“There’s a question as to why the kind of campaign to get me out of Ukraine happened, because all the president has to do is say he wants a different ambassador,” she said.
Sewell also asked Yovanovitch if she is a “never-Trumper.” Yovanovitch replied that she wasn’t.
Earlier, Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas., used his questioning to apparently suggest that any sympathy for Yovanovitch is misplaced because she landed a cushy job at Georgetown University after being recalled from the State Department and remains an employee of the agency.
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.
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
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.