Ousted Ukraine ambassador testifies in public impeachment hearing

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Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, during the second public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump’s efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

What to know about Friday’s impeachment hearing

  • Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified that President Trump’s comments about her on the July 25 call “sounded like a threat.”
  • During the hearing, the president attacked her on Twitter, saying “everywhere Yovanovitch went turned bad.”
  • Yovanovitch, a career diplomat, was recalled from her post earlier this year following a campaign to discredit her led by Rudy Giuliani.

The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was recalled from her post earlier this year said she was the victim of a smear campaign led by Rudy Giuliani and “foreign corrupt interests” in Ukraine.

Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch is appearing Friday before the House Intelligence Committee in the second public hearing in the impeachment inquiry.

“How could our system fail like this? How is it that foreign corrupt interests could manipulate our government?” Yovanovitch said in her opening statement.

Yovanovitch was mentioned in President Trump’s July 25 call with the president of Ukraine. Mr. Trump said she was “bad news” and was going to be “going through some things.” Yovanovitch said the comment “sounded like a threat” and elicited a physical reaction when she learned what was said.

“The color drained from my face,” she said. “Even now, words kind of fail me … I was shocked and devastated that I would feature in a phone call between two heads of state in such a manner.”

Yovanovitch was removed as ambassador in May after Giuliani and other Trump allies attacked her in television appearances and on Twitter, claiming she was disloyal to the Trump administration and standing in the way of investigations into supposed Ukrainian interference in the 2016 campaign and Burisma, the energy company that had employed Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son.

“Our Ukraine policy has been thrown into disarray, and shady interests the world over have learned how little it takes to remove an American ambassador who does not give them what they want,” she added.

​Committee in recess for floor votes
10:49 a.m.: Lawmakers are in recess for a series of votes on the House floor, which are expected to last at least an hour. — Rebecca Kaplan

​Yovanovitch reacts to Trump’s tweets attacking her
10:25 a.m.: Yovanovitch responded to Mr. Trump’s tweets attacking her experience just minutes earlier, where Mr. Trump said “everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.”

“I don’t think I have such powers. Not in Mogadishu, Somalia, not in other places,” Yovanovitch said, responding to his allegation. “I think where I have served over the years, I and others have demonstrably made things better for the U.S. and for the countries that I’ve served in.”

“I can’t speak to what the president is trying to do, but I think the effect is intimidating,” she said.

Schiff responded: “Some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously.” — Grace Segers

​Yovanovitch says she was “shocked and devastated” by Trump comments on July 25 call
10:13 a.m.: Yovanovitch described her reaction to reading the summary of the July 25 call between Mr. Trump and Zelensky, when Mr. Trump called her “bad news,” and Zelensky said he agreed “100%.”

“The color drained from my face,” she said. “I even had a physical reaction. Even now, words kind of fail me.”

Yovanovitch added that she was “shocked and devastated that I would feature in a phone call between two heads of state in such a manner.”

“It kind of felt like a vague threat,” Yovanovitch said, adding that she felt threatened. — Grace Segers

​Yovanovitch says abrupt removal “not how I wanted my career to end”
10:12 a.m.: Yovanovitch described a May discussion with Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, when Sullivan told her that Mr. Trump had lost confidence in her. She was given no reason for why she had lost the confidence of Mr. Trump, and was only told that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was “no longer able to protect” her.

Sullivan told her that she had to leave Ukraine, which Yovanovitch said made her feel “terrible, honestly.”

“After 33 years of service to our country — it’s not how I wanted my career to end,” Yovanovitch said. — Grace Segers

​Trump attacks Yovanovitch during testimony
10:09 a.m.: The president tweeted twice about Yovanovitch and her career:

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.”

​Yovanovitch denounces “smear” campaign
9:50 a.m.: Continuing her opening statement, Yovanovitch defended her reputation and actions, specifically addressing allegations made by Giuliani and others.

“I do not understand Mr. Giuliani’s motives for attacking me,” she said.

She said allegations that she was out to get Mr. Trump are untrue, and said she never even met Hunter Biden.

“Also untrue are unsourced allegations that I told unidentified embassy employees or Ukrainian officials that President Trump’s orders should be ignored because ‘he was going to be impeached’ — or for any other reason. I did not and would not say such a thing,” she testified.

“The Obama administration did not ask me to help the Clinton campaign or harm the Trump campaign, nor would I have taken any such steps if they had,” she added.

Yovanovitch also swatted down allegations that she distributed a list of people not to prosecute in Ukraine.

“I want to reiterate that the allegation that I disseminated a ‘Do Not Prosecute’ list is a fabrication,” she testified. — Kathryn Watson

Yovanovitch’s opening statement: “I had no agenda”

9:40 a.m.: After being sworn in, Yovanovitch began her opening statement by making it clear she had “no agenda” other than to serve stated U.S. policy goals. Yovanovitch, who joined the foreign service during the Reagan administration, has served under three Republican presidents and two Democratic presidents.

“I had no agenda, other than to pursue our stated foreign policy goals,” she told the hearing room.

Yovanovitch then went on to describe the trials of her service, including when she was quite literally caught in crossfire in Russia.

“I worked to advance U.S. policy, fully embraced by Republicans and Democrats alike,” to help Ukraine become a fully free and independent state, she testified. That goal serves not just Ukrainian interests, but U.S. interests, too.

“They match our objectives,” Yovanovitch said.

The U.S. has provided “significant” assistance to Ukraine, and the Trump administration “strengthened” that support to Ukraine by providing Javelin anti-tank missiles. — Kathryn Watson

​White House says Trump not watching hearing

9:40 a.m.: In a statement, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham Mr. Trump would not watch the majority of the hearing.

“The President will be watching Congressman Nunes’ opening statement, but the rest of the day he will be working hard for the American people,” Grisham said in a statement. — Grace Segers

Nunes denounces Democrats, citing White House summary of first Ukraine call
9:23 a.m.: In his opening statement, Ranking Member Devin Nunes condemned Democrats for holding “day-long TV spectacles” instead of working on legislation like a trade agreement or funding the government.

He said the Democratic case was based on hearsay, and pointed out that five Democrats on the Intelligence Committee have already voted to impeach Mr. Trump.

Nunes also condemned Schiff for sending a memo to Republicans on the committee warning of referrals to the Ethics Committee if they attempted to “out” the whistleblower.

Nunes propagated the theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election, which has been widely debunked, including by Bill Taylor and George Kent.

Nunes also read a summary of Mr. Trump’s first call with Zelensky, after Zelensky was elected in April. The White House released the summary just minutes before the hearing began. — Grace Segers

​Schiff says Yovanovitch’s removal kicked off chain of events leading to aid delay

9:15 a.m.: As the hearing got underway, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff praised Yovanovitch and her track record of opposing corruption during her time in Kiev. Schiff quoted George Kent, who testified on Wednesday and said, “You can’t promote principled anti-corruption action without pissing-off corrupt people.”

“And Ambassador Yovanovitch did not just ‘piss off’ corrupt Ukrainians, like the corrupt former prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko, but also certain Americans like Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s personal attorney, and two individuals, now indicted, who worked with him, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas,” Schiff said.

Giuliani and his associates coordinated a smear campaign against Yovanovitch, who eventually was dismissed due to suspicions that she opposed Mr. Trump.

“Some have argued that a president has the ability to nominate or remove any ambassador he wants, that they serve at the pleasure of the president. And that is true. The question before us is not whether Donald Trump could recall an American ambassador with a stellar reputation for fighting corruption in Ukraine, but why would he want to?” Schiff continued, preempting a Republican argument that Yovanovitch served at the discretion of the president.

Schiff argued that removing Yovanovitch from Kiev set in motion the chain of events which led to the withholding of aid to Ukraine, which several witnesses have alleged was conditioned on Ukraine opening investigations into the Bidens.

“Ambassador Yovanovitch was serving our nation’s interest in fighting corruption in Ukraine, but she was considered an obstacle to the furtherance of the President’s personal and political agenda. For that she was smeared and cast aside. The powers of the presidency are immense, but they are not absolute and cannot be used for a corrupt purpose,” Schiff concluded. — Grace Segers

​Trump denies blocking aid to Ukraine over investigations
8:20 a.m.: President Trump tweeted a quote by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko late on Thursday evening, in which Prystaiko denied that releasing aid to Ukraine was conditioned on opening investigations into the Bidens.

In revised testimony behind closed doors before the committees conducting the impeachment inquiry, U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland recalled telling an adviser to the Ukrainian president on September 1 that the aid was “likely” conditioned on announcing an investigation into the Bidens.

Bill Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, testified in an open hearing on Wednesday that a staffer of his overheard Sondland speaking with Mr. Trump on July 26 about “the investigations,” with Sondland saying that Ukraine was ready to proceed. — Grace Segers

What Yovanovitch said in closed-door testimony
7:15 a.m.: The former ambassador appeared before the committees on October 11, and a transcript of the testimony was released on November 4.

Yovanovitch testified she learned in late 2018 that Giuliani and former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko had plans to “do things, including to me.” She said Lutsenko and Giuliani had several meetings, and Lutsenko sought to remove her in retribution for the embassy’s efforts to rid the prosecutor general’s office of corruption.

She said she and other State Department officials had concerns about Giuliani’s role in Ukraine, but they did not feel they could stop his efforts. Giuliani spread rumors about Yovanovitch, including allegations she opposed Mr. Trump and was standing in the way of investigations into alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 elections and the Bidens.

How the second hearing will play out
6:30 a.m.: Friday’s proceedings will follow the same format as Wednesday’s, and adhere to the rules adopted by the full House several weeks ago.

Beginning shortly after 9 a.m., Chairman Adam Schiff and Ranking Member Devin Nunes will deliver opening statements. Yovanovitch will then be sworn in and allowed to read a statement of her own.

Schiff and Nunes will then each control a period of 45 minutes, when they can ask questions or delegate to staff members to do so. On Wednesday, Schiff turned to Daniel Goldman, senior adviser and director of investigations on the committee, to ask question the witnesses. Nunes designated Steve Castor, the general counsel for the Republican minority on the House Oversight Committee.

After that, the hearing will move to questioning from individual members, alternating periods of five minutes between both parties. Schiff can add additional rounds at his discretion.

Yovanovitch can also request breaks in questioning if needed. Wednesday’s session lasted more than five and a half hours, but also featured opening statements from two witnesses, so Friday’s hearing could be slightly shorter. — Stefan Becket

What Republicans hope to accomplish at Friday’s hearing
5:45 a.m.: Republicans are going to try to establish three main points during the Yovanovitch hearing on Friday, a senior GOP aide tells CBS News.

First, they will try to demonstrate that the president had every right to recall her from her post and the reasons for him doing so were totally reasonable, arguing that the president had a good faith belief that there were problems with Yovanovitch and the situation in Ukraine. They’ll point out that Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, also said he had concerns with Yovanovitch on his July 25 call with Mr. Trump. If the host country doesn’t want her there, that in and of itself is a reason to recall her, not that the president needs a reason, this argument goes.

Second, they’ll emphasize that Yovanovitch was recalled in May and wasn’t involved during the relevant time period over the summer.

Lastly, the Republicans will note Yovanovitch is on the record talking about Ukrainian corruption and talked about it in an Oval Office meeting in 2017. — Rebecca Kaplan

What Democrats hope to accomplish with Yovanovitch’s testimony
5:00 a.m.: While testimony from Bill Taylor and George Kent on Tuesday was meant to provide a full timeline of efforts to pressure Ukraine, Democrats see former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch as their messenger to highlight the consequences of a shadow foreign policy that emerged. Yovanovitch testifies Friday morning.

“She was removed in the spring of this year … because she was so effective, and of course that cleared the way for the president’s allies to take over Ukraine policy, and ultimately press for these political investigations beneficial to the president’s 2020 campaign throughout the summer,” said a Democratic aide working on the impeachment process. “She’s really witness to, and kind of a victim of, the first chapter of the story.”

Democrats will draw attention to Mr. Trump’s comments about Yovanovitch on the July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which the president called her “bad news” and said she was “going to go through some things.” In her closed-door testimony, Yovanovitch said, “I didn’t know what it meant. I was very concerned. I still am.” She told investigators she felt threatened.

She also said she learned Giuliani wanted her removed from office when she found out he had met with Yuriy Lutsenko, a former Ukrainian prosecutor. “Mr. Lutsenko … was in communication with Mayor Giuliani and that they had plans, and that they were going to, you know, do things, including to me,” she said.

They’ll also highlight Yovanovitch’s exemplary record, as described by other nonpolitical witnesses in the impeachment inquiry. — Rebecca Kaplan

How to watch Friday’s impeachment hearing
Date: Friday, November 15, 2019
Time: 9 a.m. ET
Who: Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine
Online stream: CBSN, in the player above and on your mobile or streaming device
On TV: Your local CBS station
First published on November 15, 2019 / 5:01 AM

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