Impeachment hearing: Envoy was 'shocked, appalled' that Trump disparaged her on phone call

Impeachment hearing: Envoy was \
Impeachment hearing: Envoy was \'shocked, appalled\' that Trump disparaged her on phone call  

WASHINGTON - Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified Friday to the House Intelligence Committee in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Yovanovitch, who was ousted as ambassador on May 20, previously told lawmakers in closed-door testimony that she believed she was removed over "false claims" about her that had been amplified by conservative figures like Donald Trump Jr.

Refresh here for live updates on the impeachment inquiry:

Yovanovitch calls Trump's attacks 'intimidating'

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., asked Marie Yovanovitch to respond to President Donald Trump's tweets attacking her as she testified. The president claimed everywhere Yovanovitch went had "turned bad," including Somalia. Yovanovitch said she didn't think she had "such powers" in Mogadishu, Somalia and in other places.

"I actually think that where I've served over the years that I and others demonstrably have made things better," both for the U.S. and the countries she served in.

Yovanovitch said particularly in Ukraine, where there are "huge challenges" with corruption, Kyiv has made a lot of progress since 2014.

"The Ukrainian people get the most credit for that," she said. "A part of that credit goes to the work of the United States and to me as the ambassador."

Schiff asked Yovanovitch what effect she thought his attacks on her had on other witnesses coming forward to expose wrongdoing.

"It's very intimidating," she said. "I think the effect is to be intimidating."

-- Courtney Subramanian and Bart Jansen

Trump trolls Yovanovitch

President Donald Trump said he wasn't going to watch the testimony at Friday's impeachment hearing, but that didn't stop from Twitter trolling the key witness.

"Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad," Trump tweeted. "She started off in Somalia, how did that go?"

Trump, who pushed Yovanovitch out as ambassador to Ukraine, said: "It is a U.S. President's absolute right to appoint ambassadors ... They call it "serving at the pleasure of the President."

Democrats in the impeachment inquiry said Trump had Yovanovitch removed because she was an obstacle to his efforts to have Ukraine investigate domestic political opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

-- David Jackson and Courtney Subramanian

How did it feel to be dismissed?

Former envoy to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch had been asked in March to extend her tour for a year, to July 2020. But in the April 24 call that notified her she had to return immediately, she said it was difficult to hear words that every diplomat understands: that the president had lost confidence in her.

Yovanovitch was asked how it felt to be told to leave Ukraine as soon as possible.

She said it felt "terrible, honestly. After 33 years of service to our country it was terrible. It's not the way I wanted my career to end."

She also said she was shocked to hear President Donald Trump had mentioned her disparagingly in a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Trump had referred to her as "bad news."

Yovanovitch said she was "shocked, appalled, devastated that the president of the United States would talk about any ambassador like that."

Yovanovitch said that someone watching her reaction clearly saw how shaken she was.

"The color drained from my face," she said.

-- Bart Jansen, Nicholas Wu and Jeanine Santucci

Missing sleep to watch hearing

Jack Preble rolled out of bed far earlier than usual Friday. The 17-year-old high school student camped out at 5 a.m. to watch the impeachment inquiry hearing.

"It's history," he said. "It was worth missing some sleep to see something we won't be able to again."

He got about two dozen of his peers at The School for Ethics and Global Leadership to also get in line early with dozens of others for a chance to watch former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testify. Each of the students has a goal of becoming a leader, whether working in the White House, serving in Congress or making a difference in health and foreign relations.

"We're here to watch how democracy works and watch how our leaders are held accountable," said Katherine Cassese, 16.

Journalists crowded in the halls outside the hearing room. Many sipped coffee and snacked on granola bars as they sat in small camping chairs with laptops and cameras. Police officers roamed the halls, following a small group of protesters wearing black T-shirts reading "ARREST TRUMP."

-- Christal Hayes

Yovanovitch tells of 'grave concerns' about State Department leadership

Yovanovitch, who has worked at the State Department for 33 years, voiced "grave concerns" about the foreign service if foreign governments learn that they can have U.S. diplomats removed when there are disagreements.

"At the closed deposition, I expressed grave concerns about the degradation of the Foreign Service over the past few years and the failure of State Department leadership to push back as foreign and corrupt interests apparently hijacked our Ukraine policy," Yovanovitch said. "I remain disappointed that the department's leadership and others have declined to acknowledge that the attacks against me and others are dangerously wrong."

-- Bart Jansen

Yovanovitch: Removal sent message to 'shady interests'

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch said in her opening testimony that corrupt officials in Ukraine have taken advantage of disarray in U.S. policy to undermine U.S. efforts to fight corruption.

"If our chief representative is kneecapped, it limits our effectiveness to safeguard the vital national security interests of the United States," Yovanovitch said. "This is especially important now, when the international landscape is more complicated and more competitive than it has been since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. 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."

-- Bart Jansen

Nunes reads transcript of April Trump call with Zelensky

Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the committee, echoed his opening remarks from the first day of testimony Wednesday. He said the impeachment was one of many things on the Democrats' "list of broken promises."

Nunes then read aloud a rough transcript of President Donald Trump's initial April 21 phone call with Ukrainain President Volodymy Zelensky, which the White House released as the hearing began Thursday.

Zelensky call: White House releases summary of Trump's earlier call with Ukraine president

During the conversation, which focused on Zelensky's landmark election, Trump extended an invite to the White House to his Ukrainian counterpart. "Now the American people know the very first call that President Trump had with President Zelensky," he said.​

Daniel Gleick, a spokesperson for Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., a member of the House Intelligence Committee, noted how the summary of the call showed how "desperate" the Ukrainians were for a meeting with Trump.

The desire for a meeting was "something that matters for the later bribery/extortion campaign where that meeting was withheld," Gleick added.

-- Courtney Subramanian and Nicholas Wu

Offer of congratulations, mention of Miss Universe

The White House released a rough transcript Friday of President Donald Trump's first conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky after he was elected in April, months before the ill-fated July phone call between the two leaders that became the focus of the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry.

The conversation was mostly congratulatory, with Trump describing Zelensky's election as "fantastic" and "incredible."

At one point during the brief call, Trump invited Zelensky to the White House, adding that "we'll have a lot of things to talk about."

The president, a former reality show host, compared Zelensky's election to his own; Zelensky is a former television comedian.

"I guess in a way I did something similar."

The president told Zelensky that, when he owned the Miss Universe organization, the Ukrainians "always had great people."

-- Courtney Subramanian

Schiff: Yovanovitch's ouster "set stage for an irregular channel"

Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff opened the hearing with Yovanovitch by describing how her ouster as ambassador to Ukraine "set stage for an irregular channel" of policy to pressure Ukraine into opening investigations into Trump's political adversaries.

The California Democrat tied the "irregular channel" directly to President Donald Trump.

"The President's scheme might have worked but for the fact that the man who would succeed Ambassador Yovanovitch," he added, referring to William Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine who testified on Wednesday.

"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," Schiff concluded.

Schiff said Yovanovitch has spent 33 years working at the State Department, earning a reputation for fighting corruption and naming names. She had arrived in the United States after her parents fled the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, Schiff said. But Yovanovitch was recalled on May 20 and was told Trump had lost confidence in her, Schiff said.

"It was a stunning turn of events for this highly regarded career diplomat, who had been doing such a remarkable job fighting corruption in Ukraine that a short time earlier she had been asked by the State Department to extend her tour," Schiff said.

Her recall opened the door to Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to open an irregular channel of diplomacy with Ukraine, where Trump urged the investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, Schiff said.

-- Bart Jansen and Nicholas Wu

Aide to give closed-door testimony on Trump call

David Holmes, a State Department official working under Ambassador William Taylor in the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, is also scheduled to testify behind closed doors today. Holmes is expected to speak in a closed-door deposition about a call in which he overheard Trump ask U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland about "investigations."

Here is the latest in what is happening with the Trump impeachment inquiry:

Holmes has spoken out about dissent in the past

The phone call that Holmes overheard is not the first time he has spoken up about dissent within the Foreign Service

In 2014, he won the William R. Rivkin Award, the American Foreign Service Association's award to "recognize and encourage constructive dissent and risk-taking" in the Foreign Service.

Holmes, after working on Afghanistan policy as part of President Barack Obama's National Security Council staff, had raised a "formal dissent" to the way bureaucratic divisions on Afghanistan policy "hindered our diplomatic effectiveness," according to an archived copy of a post from the American Foreign Service Association.

"My efforts over this period, and then my formal dissent, were intended to give a voice to an important perspective that I felt lacked an advocate," Holmes wrote at the time.

Marie Yovanovitch: A symbol of State Department resistance to Trump in impeachment inquiry

Yovanovitch's previous testimony

According to her closed-door testimony, when she asked Sondland how to respond to the attacks, she was told to tweet support of Trump.

"You need to, you know, tweet out there that you support the President, and that all these are lies and everything else," she said Sondland told her.

Sondland said in his closed-door testimony he did not "recall" the conversation.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent described in public testimony Wednesday how President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani had been part of a "smear" campaign against U.S. officials including Yovanovitch.

Kent said how Giuliani and his associates worked with "corrupt Ukrainians who wanted to peddle "false information in order to exact revenge against those who had exposed their misconduct, including U.S. diplomats, Ukrainian anti-corruption officials, and reform-minded civil society groups in Ukraine."

'Go big or go home': Former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch testified she was told to tweet in support of Trump

What Holmes heard

In his public testimony, Taylor said that a member of his staff, later reported to be Holmes, overheard a conversation between Trump and European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland about investigations a day after Trump's July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Sondland at the center of inquiry: Sondland said Trump 'cares more' about Biden investigation than Ukraine, Taylor says

"The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone, asking Ambassador Sondland about 'the investigations,' " Taylor said on Wednesday. "Ambassador Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward."

Trump denied the existence of such a call to reporters later Wednesday.

"I know nothing about that," Trump said. "First time I've heard it. ... I don't recall. Not at all. Not even a little bit."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump impeachment inquiry: Marie Yovanovitch testifies, watch live


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