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
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11:17 a.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Trump's tweet attacking Yovanovitch is "textbook" witness intimidation, former prosecutor says

CNN legal analyst Elie Honig said President Trump's tweet attacking former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch as she testified today was "textbook" witness intimidation.

Honig, a former federal and state prosecutor, said Trump "tweeted out a direct personal attack on this witness clearly related to her testimony while she was testifying."

"I've prosecuted witness tampering cases. I've tried witness tampering cases. To me this is right down the middle. The question who is going to prosecute it?" Honig said.

He went on to say there are questions whether a sitting president can be prosecuted, adding "the question is what is Adam Schiff going to do."

Watch: Yovanovitch says President's attacks are 'very intimidating'

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

Congressman says Trump tweet attacking witness shows testimony "getting under his skin"

From CNN's Jeremy Herb

Rep. Krishnamoorthi in September.
Rep. Krishnamoorthi in September. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a House Intelligence member, says Trump's tweet shows that former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch's testimony is "getting under his skin."

"The testimony is getting under his skin. I think that he can't stand it," Krishnamoorthi said. "And he's engaging in what appears to me to be a type of witness intimidation."

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.)

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

House Democrat: Trump's tweets "raise the question of obstruction of justice"

From CNN's Lauren Fox and Ali Zaslav

Rep. Peter Welch, a Democrat from Vermont who is on the Intelligence Committee, told CNN that the most significant fact today “is the intimidation by the President.” 

“There's just an immense amount of intimidation coming from the President,” Welch said on a break from the Marie Yovanovitch hearing.

As Yovanovitch testified, President Trump tweeted several attacks against her.

Many Members didn’t notice Trump's tweets and learned of them when staff passed out copies, Welch said. “We were totally focused on the witness.” 

Welch said the tweets were "absolutely" witness intimidation. “That’s a pretty shocking action by the president."

He also said the tweets "raise the question of obstruction of justice.”

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.