Impeachment inquiry hearing with former US Ambassador to Ukraine

By Veronica Rocha and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 3:33 p.m. ET, November 27, 2019
55 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
11:07 a.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Yovanovitch says she was worried about Fox News attacks

From CNN's Oliver Darcy

Ex-ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch said she was troubled by the misinformation disseminated about her by Fox News and other right-wing media entities.

Daniel Goldman, the attorney who led the questioning of Yovanovitch for the Democrats, showed Yovanovitch a tweet from President Trump attacking her, tagging Fox host Sean Hannity, and citing Fox contributor John Solomon.

Goldman showed her another tweet from Donald Trump Jr. which cited the right-wing website The Daily Wire.

Yovanovitch said she was aware of the tweets from the President, testifying, "I was worried."

"What were you worried about?" asked Goldman.

"That ... these attacks were being repeated by the President himself and his son," Yovanovitch answered.

More context: For months, Fox and other right-wing media organizations have pushed misinformation about Yovanovitch. Asked about some of the allegations peddled by right-wing media, Yovanovitch said they were wholly not true.

Watch the moment:

11:18 a.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Today's line of questioning could build the Democrats' case for impeachment

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Andrew Harnik/AP
Andrew Harnik/AP

A powerful moment in today's hearing came when House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff questioned Marie Yovanovitch on the effect of President Trump’s tweets and messages.

“It's very intimidating,” Yovanovitch replied.

The line of questioning could be building up Democrats’ case for a possible article of impeachment: obstruction of justice.

While Trump’s alleged abuse of power is still the main line of investigation for Democrats, the questioning that has emerged also underscores that Trump’s actions since then could also be in play.

White House stonewalling on administration witnesses has already frustrated Democrats, and they have argued the attempts to limit information could undercut their constitutional responsibilities.

In today's hearing, Democrats sought to portray Trump as cowing possible witnesses from appearing. And they suggested he was using threats to keep them from talking. 

"What we saw today witness intimidation in real time by the President United States," Schiff said. "Once again going after this dedicated and respected career public servant in an effort to not only chill her but to chill others who may come forward."

"We take this kind of witness intimidation and obstruction of inquiry very seriously," Schiff said.

They highlighted a line from Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine’s president when he mentioned Yovanovitch.

Trump said she was “going to go through some things,” which she told the committee appeared menacing.

“It sounded like a threat,” she said.

Later, she stopped short of saying what Trump was attempting to do. But she was clear on its impact.

“I can’t speak to what the President is trying to do,” she said. “But the effect is intimidating.”
10:57 a.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Democrats watching the hearing say Yovanovitch's testimony is "devastating" for Trump

From CNN's Lauren Fox

Democrats who are watching ousted US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony right now say that her story, delivery and focus on the overall disruption to US foreign policy caused by Giuliani and associates has been devastating for the President.

These comments come from members who don’t serve on the committee but are glued to their own televisions today.

“Devastating,” Rep. Tom Malinowski, a Democrat from New Jersey, said. “It’s a cry for help to the American people from and on behalf of the Foreign Service and every career public servant in our government.”

“Like her, I’m not shocked that corrupt interests in Ukraine wanted her gone. What’s extraordinary is that the president of the United States came under their influence and fired an ambassador on their behalf,” Malinowski added.

Maryland's Rep. Jamie Raskin similarly said that Yovanovitch “is a devastating witness for Trump, Giuliani and the back channel shadow government. The administration looks increasingly lawless.”

“The President and Giuliani targeted a 33-year award-winning public servant because her work against corruption got in the way of their corrupt scheme to shake down the Ukrainian government for political dirt,” Raskin added.
10:55 a.m. ET, November 15, 2019

GOP lawmaker says she disagrees with Trump's tweet attacking witness

Andrew Harnik/AP
Andrew Harnik/AP

GOP intel member Rep. Elise Stefanik says she disagrees with Trump’s tweet attacking Marie Yovanovitch.

“I disagree with the tweet. I think Ambassador Yovanovitch is a public servant, like many of our public servants in the foreign service,” she said.

Some background: As Yovanovitch testified this morning, Trump tweeted attacks against her, saying, "Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad." He specifically pointed to her work in Somalia — which she described in her opening statement. (Remember: The White House said President Trump would watch Rep. Devin Nunes' opening statement — but not any of the rest of today's hearing.)

10:55 a.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Here's what GOP lawmakers are saying about Yovanovitch's testimony so far

From CNN's Manu Raju

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images

GOP Rep. Mike Conaway told CNN that he was unmoved by former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch's public testimony this morning.

“I don’t think it sets a precedent,” he said of the circumstances surrounding her ouster. “She serves at the pleasure of the President — and he didn’t trust her.”

Florida Rep. Ted Yoho said that, while he may not have enlisted Giuliani, he was skeptical of Yovanovitch’s testimony that she was smeared falsely.

10:53 a.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Fact check: Trump has described Ukraine's former prosecutor general as "tough" — but diplomats say he's corrupt

From CNN's Daniel Dale

President Trump has publicly described former Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin as a “tough prosecutor.” He has argued that Joe Biden was acting corruptly when he pushed as vice president for Shokin to be fired.

Facts First: But both George Kent, deputy assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, now Marie Yovanovitch, former US ambassador to Ukraine, have testified that Shokin was corrupt. (Kent himself used the word “corrupt”; Yovanovitch endorsed that description when she was asked if Shokin was corrupt.)

Yovanovitch testified today that Biden was acting in accordance with “official US policy” in his dealings with Ukraine. Kent had said much the same thing.

Yovanovitch also agreed when Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman asked her if Shokin getting fired would increase the chances of corrupt Ukrainian companies being investigated. And she agreed that this could have potentially included Burisma, the company where Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, sat on the board of directors.

10:51 a.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Fact check: Claims that Yovanovitch created a "do not prosecute" list are untrue

From CNN's Holmes Lybrand

During her testimony, former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch dismissed several conspiracy theories against her that may have contributed to her firing, specifically the notion that she created a list of protected individuals from corruption investigations.

Earlier this year, Yuriy Lutsenko, the former Ukrainian Prosecutor General, claimed that Yovanovitch had created a “Do Not Prosecute” list of protected individuals, obstructing investigations into corruption.

Facts First: The State Department released a statement saying that these claims were false and Lutsenko later retracted his statement.

As Yovanovitch noted during the hearing, when this claim came forward through an interview with Lutsenko, the State Department called the claim an “outright fabrication.” Later, Lutsenko himself walked the allegation against Yovanovitch back.

11:11 a.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Schiff just accused President Trump of witness intimidation after his real-time tweets

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

After President Trump tweeted attacks on ex-ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch as she was testifying, House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff suggested it could be witness intimidation.

"Ambassador, you've shown the courage to come forward today and testify. Notwithstanding the fact that you were urged by the White House or State Department not to, notwithstanding the fact that as you testified earlier the President implicitly threatened you in that call record, and now the President — in realtime — is attacking you. What effect do you think that has on other witnesses willingness to come forward and expose wrongdoing?"

Yovanovitch answered: "It's very intimidating."

"It's designed to intimidate, is it not?" Schiff asked.

"I mean, I can't speak to what the President is trying to do, but I think the effect is trying to be intimidating," she said.

While the hearing was on a brief recess, Schiff told reporters it was "intimidation in real time by the President of the United States."

Some background: As Yovanovitch testified this morning, Trump tweeted attacks against her, saying, "Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad." He specifically pointed to her work in Somalia — which she described in her opening statement. (Remember: The White House said President Trump would watch Rep. Devin Nunes' opening statement — but not any of the rest of today's hearing.)

10:44 a.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Fox News came up during Yovanovitch's testimony. Here's why.

The Democrats’ attorney, Daniel Goldman, brought up Fox News in a series of questions about articles with allegations about Ukraine and former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

He said the allegations were that she "bad-mouthed the President and had given the prosecutor general a do not prosecute list," as well as allegations about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, the Bidens and Burisma.

Goldman went on to display this tweet from President Trump.

Goldman then quoted a tweeted from Donald Trump Jr.'s: "We need more ⁦@RichardGrenell’s and less of these jokers as ambassadors."

Yovanovitch said the articles appeared to be promoted by Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. She went on to say she was aware of the tweets, and "was worried."

 "These attacks were, you know, being repeated by the President himself and his son," she said. 

Goldman then asked if she was aware the allegations received attention on Fox News. She said she was.

Asked if anyone in the State Department raised concerns about the allegations, she said, "No. I mean, people thought it was ridiculous."