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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

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

Ratcliffe scores rare point in questioning on Bidens

Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, pressed Yovanovitch on whether she had been briefed ahead of her confirmation hearing in 2016 for possible questions about then-Vice President Joe Biden’s son being on the board of Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma.

After Yovanovitch acknowledged she’d been directed to refer all questions regarding that matter to the vice president’s office, Ratcliffe pressed her on the question of whether Hunter Biden being on the company's board was improper.

“I think that it could raise the appearance of a conflict of interest,” she replied.

The moment marked a rare point on the board for Republican interrogators, many of whom have largely used their time allotments to say there’s nothing particularly tragic about Yovanovitch’s situation because she landed at Georgetown after her recall from Kyiv.

Jordan claims White House has shown 'unprecedented transparency'

Dem Rep. Quigley gets laughs with GOP 'Hallmark movie' quip

Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., provided the hearing with some comic relief when he used his allotted time to mock Republican claims that Yovanovitch shouldn’t merit much sympathy because she’d ended up at Georgetown after being ousted from Ukraine.

“It’s like a ‘Hallmark’ movie — you ended up at Georgetown, it’s all OK,” he said, prompting chuckles in the room.

But he pointed out — with Yovanovitch agreeing — that it “wasn’t your preference to leave Ukraine” and it “wasn’t your preference to be defamed by” Trump.

“There’s nothing wrong with Georgetown,” Quigley said. 

“It's a wonderful place,” Yovanovitch said, leading Quigley to point out that it still would have been so if she’d ended up there purely because she wanted to — not because she had to return to Washington.

“It’s not the end of a ‘Hallmark’ movie, it’s the end of a really bad reality TV show brought to you by someone who knows a lot about that,” Quigley said.

Ukraine embassy official to arrive for closed-door testimony

David Holmes, counselor for political affairs at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, is scheduled to arrive within the hour for his 3 p.m. closed-door testimony before the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees.

GOP Rep. Stewart jabs at bribery allegation

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, was able to fire off one of the more effective lines of questioning on Yovanovitch, cornering her into yes-or-no answers about whether Trump had committed crimes in his Ukraine dealings.

Pointing to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s assertion that the testimony earlier in the week by Taylor and Kent presented evidence of bribery by Trump, Stewart bluntly asked Yovanovitch if she had “any information” regarding Trump “accepting any bribes.”

“No,” she said.

Stewart followed up by asking whether she had “any information regarding any criminal activity” that Trump “has been involved with at all.”

“No,” she said.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., later tweeted out the exchange, which Trump retweeted.

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.

Read the full piece.