Impeachment inquiry hearing with former US Ambassador to Ukraine
House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff called a tweet sent by President Trump during former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch's hearing "just appalling."
Schiff told reporters after the hearing:
"But as we have observed so often, appalling in this administration is not the least bit surprising. Nonetheless, she endured the attack and went on. We are grateful for that."
Asked if Trump's attack could potentially be considered for an article of impeachment, Schiff said the President's behavior is "part of a pattern to intimidate witnesses. It's also part of a pattern to obstruct the investigation."
"A pattern that goes back to praising Paul Manafort for not cooperating, condemning Michael Cohen as a rat, because he was cooperating with authorities. Attacking other witnesses who come forward suggesting that we ought to treat those like the whistleblower who exposed wrongdoing in his administration was we treat traitors and spies and we used to execute traitors and spies," Schiff said.
House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff would not say if Former White House Russia expert Fiona Hill's public testimony, which is scheduled for next Thursday, will be the last.
"In terms of whether Ambassador Hill will be the final testimony — I'm not prepared to say," he told reporters.
Earlier this week, the Intelligence panel announced it would hold five impeachment hearings next week over three days, all for officials who have already appeared for closed-door depositions:
- Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council aide next Tuesday morning
- Kurt Volker, the former US special envoy to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a National Security Council aide, next Tuesday afternoon
- US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland on Wednesday morning
- Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary of defense and David Hale, the under secretary of State for political affairs, on the Wednesday afternoon
- Hill on Thursday morning.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff commended former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch for showing "courage and commitment to country today."
"I think we could all see what an incredible public servant Ambassador Yovanovitch is," he said.
"We are so fortunate to have dedicated professionals like her serving around the world. She served in some of the most dangerous places. And has done so always with great distinction with great courage, under fire sometimes quite literally. She showed that same I think level of devotion and courage and commitment to country today. So we're grateful to her and the other witnesses who testified as well showing country what it means to be a public servant. What it means to be a career foreign service officer. We're enormously proud of them."
The hearing just ended and members of the House Intelligence Committee are now headed behind closed doors for US diplomat's David Holmes' deposition.
Why this matters: Holmes, the counselor for political affairs at the US Embassy in Ukraine, overheard President Trump ask Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland about the status of "investigations" during a cellphone conversation in a Kiev restaurant, according to testimony Wednesday from Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in the country.
The conversation occurred the day after Trump spoke with the Ukrainian president by phone in July, Taylor said.
Taylor did not name Holmes, but sources tell CNN that he is the member of the embassy staff Taylor was referencing.
More about Holmes: He is a career foreign service officer who arrived in Ukraine in 2017, according to a source who knows him and describes him as a "sharp guy." He joined the foreign service in 2002, according to the American Foreign Service Association, and has previously served in Kabul, New Delhi, Kosovo, Bogota, Moscow and Kosovo.
At the end of the hearing, as ex-ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch stood up and left the room, some people in the room clapped.
Multiple members of the House Intelligence Committee praised Yovanovitch during their questioning, thanking her for her service as a diplomat.
Yovanovitch's career in public service spanned 33 years: She first joined the foreign service under former President Ronald Reagan.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi asked former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch about "irregular channels" of diplomacy in Ukraine that another witness, diplomat Bill Taylor, brought up during his testimony earlier this week.
Taylor was referencing efforts driven by the President's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani when he mentioned irregular channels of diplomacy in Ukraine.
Yovanovitch agreed during her testimony with the point Taylor made — that she couldn't rule out the possibility that such efforts that circumvented normal diplomatic channels could be happening in other countries as well. But she added, "I have no knowledge of that."
Krishnamoorthi asked if she is concerned that these irregular channels of diplomacy may be at work elsewhere.
"I think it's a possibility," she said.
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Asked today if he thinks he’ll be impeached, President Trump said, "Well I shouldn’t be."
The President said that a recent statement from the foreign minister and President of Ukraine “ends the impeachment.”
“I was getting off the plane and they handed me a statement that was made by the foreign minister and president of the Ukraine and Ukraine, they came up loud and clear that there’s no linkage whatsoever. Not even a little bit … I said, ‘Oh, well that ends the impeachment.’ And you all don’t even report it,” he told reporters.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko told reporters today that the country was unaware of US assistance linked to the 2016 and Hunter Biden investigations.
“(US) Ambassador (to the European Union Gordon) Sondland did not tell us, and certainly did not tell me, about a connection between the assistance and the investigations. You should ask him,” Prystaiko told Interfax Ukraine.
President Trump’s tweet attacking former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch as her testimony was underway today does not break Twitter’s rules, a Twitter spokesperson confirmed to CNN.
Earlier today, Trump tweeted that "everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad."
When asked by Rep. Adam Schiff to respond to the tweet, Yovanovitch said, “It’s very intimidating.”
Mark Sandy, an official at the Office of Management and Budget, doesn’t know why the US military aid to Ukraine was withheld, but he does know that political officials came in and delayed the funding, according to a source discussing career employee.
The move took away the authority from career officials, the source said. While taking away that authority is unusual, the source said, it is not unprecedented.
Why this matters: Sandy is scheduled to appear for a closed-door deposition on Saturday.
If Sandy appears for his scheduled deposition, he would be the first OMB employee to testify.
Sandy's attorney, Barbara “Biz” Van Gelder, told CNN on Thursday that he would testify before lawmakers if he was subpoenaed.
The attorney said he has not received a subpoena yet. The common practice in these proceedings has been the House committees deliver the subpoena the morning of the day of scheduled testimony.