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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GOP Rep. Zeldin says Democrats wanted Yovanovitch ‘to cry for the cameras’
Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., told reporters Friday that Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee were trying to get Yovanovitch, to “cry for the cameras” during the second impeachment hearing.
The remarks came when NBC News’ Garrett Haake asked Zeldin why Trump feels the need to attack Yovanovitch if he and Republicans are dismissing her testimony as irrelevant.
“The reason why that 45 minutes was spent with her getting asked questions about her feelings is because House Democrats wanted to recreate what happened in the deposition," Zeldin said. "They wanted her to cry for the cameras. It’s unfortunate."
Asked how he knows that that’s Democrats’ strategy, Zeldin said, “I was in the depositions, and inside of the depositions, what they wanted to use was the part of the July 25 call transcript where they take President Trump’s words, and then they want to ask her how she felt, and then they want to get her to cry. That’s what happened previously, and it was obvious that they were looking to do exactly the same thing that they did last time, to do it again.”
The detail that Yovanovitch had cried in her closed-door deposition was not widely known. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., said in a statement after that initial interview that she was “overcome with emotion” at times and had to leave the room.
Zeldin also suggested that it was acceptable for Trump to defend himself on Twitter on Friday morning when he smeared Yovanovitch amid her testimony, saying, “The president’s going to defend himself, whether it’s today, it’s yesterday, it’s tomorrow, it’s the hours, the days, the weeks that are ahead. The president of the United States know that this is a total sham.”
Schiff, Jordan zingers rouse silent crowd
Schiff and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, exchanged fiery words toward the end of Jordan’s allotment of time, breathing fresh air into a lengthy hearing that has already stretched nearly six hours.
After a long wind up outlining a question to Yovanovitch, the witness asked Jordan whether he had, in fact, asked her anything
As he attempted to restate the question, his time ran out, but Schiff allowed him to continue.
Jordan, however, once again engaged in a lengthy wind-up with no clear question, prompting Schiff to say, “I have indulged you with extra time, my indulgence is wearing out.”
Unimpressed, Jordan shot back, “Our indulgence with you wore out a long time ago.”
The audience was quiet all day, but during the exchange there was audible laughter when Schiff said his indulgence of Jordan was running out, then a chorus of “oooohs” when Jordan said his indulgence ran out a long time ago.
Heck's impassioned defense of Yovanovitch
Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., gave a forceful defense of Yovanovitch and excoriated Trump for recalling her despite her decades of experience in U.S. foreign service.
He questioned how “the most powerful person on the face of the earth" could remove her from her Ukraine post and then "ominously threaten that you will ‘go through some things.’”
"So I am angry, but I am not surprised,” he said.
“Here's my message to you: There is nothing, Ambassador Yovanovitch, nothing he can say or do, not a thing, that will in any way diminish the nature and quality of the service you have rendered to our great nation. Not a thing."
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.