Impeachment inquiry hearing with former US Ambassador to Ukraine

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2:45 p.m. ET, November 15, 2019

GOP congressman to former ambassador: "You're tough as nails and smart as hell"

Pool
Pool

GOP Rep. Will Hurd rattled off a list of Marie Yovanovitch's accomplishments before going into questioning.

"You’re tough as nails and you’re smart as hell,” the retiring Texas Republican told Yovanovitch during his period of questioning.

“You’re a great example of what our ambassadors should be like. You’re an honor to your family, you’re an honor to the foreign service, you are an honor to this country, and I thank you for all that you have done, and will continue to do on behalf of your country.”

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2:56 p.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Yovanovitch: Pompeo kept me in place "for as long as he could"

Alex Brandon/AP
Alex Brandon/AP

Former US ambassador Marie Yovanovitch testified that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did work to keep her at her post in Ukraine "for as long as he could."

Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California, asked if Pompeo came to her aid while a "smear campaign" against her was underway.

Here's what Yovanovitch said:

"Well, my understanding from Assistant Secretary Phil Reeker and Deputy Secretary Sullivan is that sort of the rumors about me, for lack of a better word, the smear campaign, which was behind closed doors at that point. That there were a number of discussions between the President and Secretary Pompeo and he actually did, did keep me in place for as long as he could. That's what I was told."

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2:42 p.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Yovanovitch: The President had a right to withdraw me, but was it necessary to smear my reputation?

Susan Walsh/AP
Susan Walsh/AP
Former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch once again raised the issue of a "smear campaign" of false allegations about her, which was led by the President's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his associates prior to her ouster.
"What I'd like to say is, while I obviously don't dispute that the President has the right to withdraw an ambassador at any time for any reason, but what I do wonder is why it was necessary to smear my reputation also?"

1:56 p.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Why Republicans and President Trump are praising this congresswoman

Susan Walsh/AP
Susan Walsh/AP

Aides from the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee have been amplifying a moment from Marie Yovanovitch's hearing when Chairman Adam Schiff cut off GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik’s attempt to get in a line of questioning during the ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes’ time.

Stefanik's question was a clear violation of the rules that nonetheless created a moment Republicans are promoting.

Top House Republicans had expressed a desire to see Stefanik, considered a rising GOP star, take the opportunity provided by her presence at these public hearings to step further into the spotlight. Her performance is already starting to generate praise in conservative media as well.

A person familiar with the President’s reaction said Trump believes the young Republican lawmaker has done well, although Trump has claimed repeatedly he isn’t watching the hearings live.

Watch the moment:

3:33 p.m. ET, November 27, 2019

Ukraine's former prosecutor general, who has been called corrupt, claims Yovanovitch is lying

Yuri Lutsenko in March 2019
Yuri Lutsenko in March 2019 NurPhoto via Getty Images

Former Ukraine Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko responded to ex-ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony on Facebook.

From his verified account, Lutsenko responded to another public post praising Yovanovitch and said she was the victim of a smear campaign. Lutsenko responded: “She lies. And I have proof.”

Some context: Lutsenko’s name came up several times during the Yovanovitch hearing, and previous hearings in the impeachment inquiry.

He has been described by witnesses and lawmakers as a “corrupt” prosecutor.

Earlier this year, he spread discredited allegations about Yovanovitch and former Vice President Joe Biden.

3:55 p.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Yovanovitch: "This has been a very painful period"

Pool
Pool

Ex-ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch said her removal from her post earlier this year has been a "very painful period" in her career.

She testified that amid a personal campaign against her, she was told by a superior in April to get "on the next plane home" because there was nervousness about her in the White House and State Department and possible concerns about her security.

Here's how Yovanovitch described the situation, after Rep. Terri Sewell, a Democrat from Alabama, asked her about it:

"There's a question to see why the campaign to get me out of Ukraine happened. Because all the President has to do is say he wants a different ambassador. And in my line of work — perhaps in your line of work as well —all we have is our reputation. So this has been a very painful period."

"How has it affected your family?" Sewell asked.

"I really don't want to get into that. But thank you for asking," Yovanovitch responded.

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1:44 p.m. ET, November 15, 2019

GOP congressman asks Yovanovitch if key witness was paid to give "glowing" statements about her

Pool
Pool

Republican Rep. Mike Conaway seemingly questioned top State Department official George Kent's testimony earlier this week about former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and asked whether he was paid to give "exemplary statements" about her.

Here's how that exchange went:

Conaway: "George Kent was in here a couple days ago. He made some exemplary statements about you, really glowing. All of us would like to be the recipient of something that worthy, and I believe you are as well. Any reason on Earth that you can think of that George Kent would be saying that because of some reason other than the fact he believes it in his heart of hearts?" 

Yovanovitch: "Like, like what?" 

Conaway: "Well, I mean like somebody paid him to do it?" 

Yovanovitch: "No, absolutely not." 

Conaway: "You agree he was sincere and bragging on you. And that's post-recall episodes that has been much of the discussion this morning. I am glad your colleagues -- I would have expected nothing different from your colleagues at state to treat you with the high regard you have earned over all these years of great service. I hope whatever you decide to do after the Georgetown fellowship that you are as successful there as you have been in the first 33 years." 

Watch:

1:35 p.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Yovanovitch reiterates US intel concluded that Russia, not Ukraine, interfered in the 2016 election

Pool
Pool

Democratic Rep. Jim Himes asked former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch about several passages from Trump's July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, which took place after she was ousted from her post in May.

Himes asked Yovanovitch if, had remained the Ukraine ambassador, she would have recommended to the President that he asked the new Ukrainian President to Crowdstrike or the DNC server, which were both brought up on the call.

She responded: "No. I would repeat once again that the US Intelligence community has concluded that it was the Russians who interfered" in the 2016 election. 

1:32 p.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Republicans aren't touching Trump's attacks on Yovanovitch during their questioning

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Less than an hour into Friday’s testimony, President Trump tweeted from the White House that, “Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.”

But Republicans in today's hearing aren’t going anywhere near that during their questioning.

Instead, they have heaped praise on Yovanovitch, a career foreign service officer.

“Georgetown students are lucky to have you. We are lucky to have you in foreign service, and I again want to thank you for your tremendous public service,” said Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Republican from New York, referring to Yovanovitch’s current position at Georgetown University.

“Than you so very much for long service, exemplary service,” Rep. Mike Conway said.

What this means: It’s a sign that despite Trump’s message, Republicans see Yovanovitch as a sympathetic witness whose government service is worthy of praise.

And it's a notable difference in tone between Hill Republicans and the White House.

Still, Trump’s staunchest allies are not backing off his tweet, which Democrats have now said amounted to real-time witness intimidation.

Here's what the White House said about it:

“The tweet was not witness intimidation, it was simply the President’s opinion, which he is entitled to. This is not a trial, it is a partisan political process  — or to put it more accurately, a totally illegitimate, charade stacked against the President. There is less due process in this hearing than any such event in the history of our country. It’s a true disgrace.”