Impeachment inquiry hearing with former US Ambassador to Ukraine
Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, speaking to lawmakers, said she didn't understand why President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani was attacking her and going after her.
"I do not understand Mr. Giuliani’s motives for attacking me, nor can I offer an opinion on whether he believed the allegations he spread about me. Clearly, no one at the State Department did," she said.
Yovanovitch said she had "minimal contacts" with Giuliani and only met him three times.
The career diplomat was abruptly pulled from Kiev this spring after a personal order from Trump. He made the decision after a months-long public campaign against Yovanovitch, led by Giuliani and others in the right-wing media.
The White House released a rough transcript of President Trump’s first call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The call, which occurred on April 21, came just after Zelensky was elected president. It doesn't contain any mentions of the Bidens or the 2016 election, as a later July call did.
By releasing the rough transcript of Trump’s first call with Zelensky, the White House hopes to show that there was nothing untoward in the US-Ukraine relationship. But nobody had accused Trump of doing anything wrong in that initial, congratulatory call.
The transcript also raises a few questions that deserve further scrutiny, like why Trump promised to send a “very high level” delegation to Zelensky’s inauguration, even though Pence’s planned participation was later scrapped.
Former US ambassador to Ukraine Yovanovitch called the "smear campaign" that the President's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his associates led against her — which led to her ouster — "a campaign of disinformation against a sitting ambassador using unofficial back channels."
She added: "These events should concern everyone in this room."
"If our chief representative is kneecapped it limits our effectiveness to safeguard the vital national security interests of the United States," Yovanovitch said.
Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch broke down — and rebutted — a number of attacks and claims that have been made against her.
Here's are the bullet points from her opening statement:
- On Yuriy Lutsenko, former Ukrainian general prosecutor: I want to reiterate first that the allegation that I disseminated a “Do Not Prosecute” list was a fabrication. Mr. Lutsenko, the former Ukrainian Prosecutor General who made that allegation, has acknowledged that the list never existed.
- On Ukrainian prosecution: I did not tell Mr. Lutsenko or other Ukrainian officials who they should or should not prosecute. Instead, I advocated the US position that rule of law should prevail and Ukrainian law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges should stop wielding their power selectively, as a political weapon against their adversaries, and start dealing with all consistently and according to the law.
- On ignoring Trump's orders: 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. Such statements would be inconsistent with my training as a Foreign Service Officer and my role as an Ambassador.
- On the Clinton campaign: 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. Partisanship of this type is not compatible with the role of a career Foreign Service Officer.
- On Hunter Biden: I have never met Hunter Biden, nor have I had any direct or indirect conversations with him. And although I have met former Vice President Biden several times over the course of our many years in government, neither he nor the previous Administration ever raised the issue of either Burisma or Hunter Biden with me.
- On Giuliani: With respect to Mayor Giuliani, I have had only minimal contacts with him—a total of three. None related to the events at issue. I do not understand Mr. Giuliani’s motives for attacking me, nor can I offer an opinion on whether he believed the allegations he spread about me. Clearly, no one at the State Department did. What I can say is that Mr. Giuliani should have known those claims were suspect, coming as they reportedly did from individuals with questionable motives and with reason to believe that their political and financial ambitions would be stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.
In her opening statement, former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch talked about the importance of US security support for Ukraine.
On US relations with the country, Yovanovitch said, "We see the potential in Ukraine. Russia sees, by contrast, sees the risk."
On US relations with the country, she laid out how the Ukrainians "match our objectives."
"The US is the most powerful country in the history of the world, in large part because of our values. And our values have made possible the network of alliances and partnerships that buttresses our own strength," she said.
Yovanovitch talked about the "hot war" currently going on between Ukraine and Russia.
"Now Ukraine is a battleground for great power competition with a hot war for the control of territory in a hybrid war to control Ukraine's leadership," she said.
She noted that the US has provided "significant security assistance" since the war broke out in 2014 — and talked about the consequences if Russia defeats Ukraine.
"If Russia prevails, and Ukraine falls to Russian dominion, we can expect to see other attempts by Russia to expand its territory and its influence."
See the moment:
Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is detailing her career in public service.
Here's how she has described her personal history and her years as a diplomat:
- She immigrated to the US as a small child: "My father fled the soviets before ultimately finding refuge in the United States. My mother's family escaped the USSR after the Bolshevik Revolution, and she grew up stateless in Nazi Germany before eventually making her way to the United States," she said.
- She joined the foreign service under a Republican president: "I joined the foreign service during the Reagan administration and subsequently served three other Republican presidents as well as two Democratic presidents," she said.
- She's been an ambassador several times: "It was my great honor to be appointed to serve as an ambassador three times, twice by George W. Bush and once by Barack Obama."
- She's served in dangerous places: "There is a perception that diplomats lead a comfortable life throwing dinner parties in fancy homes. Let me tell you about some of my reality. It has not always been easy. I have moved 13 times and served in seven different countries, five of them hardship hosts. My first tour was Mogadishu, Somalia," she said.
Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik pushed to Chairman Adam Schiff to answer why has "continue to prohibit witnesses from answering Republican questions as you've done in closed hearings."
(Stefanik posed the same question at Wednesday's testimony, the first public hearing in the impeachment inquiry.)
Schiff shut her down, saying he would not recognize her. Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, tried to intervene, but Schiff stopped him.
The chairman went on to make a direct request to President Trump, asking him to release "the thousands of other records that he has instructed the State Department not to release."
"We would ask the President to stop obstructing the impeachment inquiry and while we're grateful he has released a single document, he has nonetheless obstructed witnesses and their testimony and the production of thousands and thousands of other records. And finally, I would say this, Mr. President, I hope you'll explain to the country today why it was after this call and while the vice president was making plans to attend the inauguration that you instructed the vice president not to attend Zelensky's inauguration," Schiff said.
Watch the moment:
Former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is now giving her opening statement.
"I come before you as an American citizen who has devoted the majority of my life, 33 years, to service to the country that all of us love."
We will pull out the highlights, but you can also read her entire opening statement here.
Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was ousted earlier this year, was just sworn in.
She'll be the third impeachment inquiry witness to testify publicly
Watch her introduction: