Impeachment inquiry hearing with former US Ambassador to Ukraine

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11:57 a.m. ET, November 15, 2019

GOP congressman: It's not "right to be harassing or beating up on our professional diplomatic service"

Rep. Rooney in October.
Rep. Rooney in October. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images

Rep. Francis Rooney, a former ambassador and a Republican who hasn’t ruled out impeachment, disagreed with President Trump’s tweet.

“I don’t necessarily think it’s right to be harassing or bearing up on or professional diplomatic service,” he told CNN.

He said he didn’t know if it was witness intimidation but noted that Trump “has a right to” dismiss his ambassadors.

Asked about the White House blocking witnesses from coming forward, he said, “I think if you don’t have anything to hide, you ought to come testify.”

12:09 p.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Meanwhile, Trump associate Roger Stone was just found guilty on all charges

Jose Luis Magana/AP
Jose Luis Magana/AP

A jury has found Roger Stone guilty of lying to Congress and other charges in a case that has shed new light on President Trump’s anticipation of the release of stolen Democratic emails in 2016.

Stone, a political provocateur and a longtime associate of Trump, was found guilty of all seven counts brought by the Justice Department, a victory for special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

The verdict is happening as the House holds a second public hearing in the impeachment inquiry into President.

Watch more:

11:59 a.m. ET, November 15, 2019

House Democrat on Trump's tweets: "Innocent people don't intimidate witnesses"

Rep. Eric Swalwell said the President "is seeking to destroy" former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch "for testifying against him" with his tweets attacking her during testimony.

Swalwell said that the House will "view that as witness intimidation not only to the ambassador but future witnesses who would come in." 

He added: "Innocent people don't intimidate witnesses. This is what guilty people do, and the President continues to act guilty." 

Swalwell said Trump's intimidation should be considered for articles of impeachment.

Watch more:

11:52 a.m. ET, November 15, 2019

The White House is both discrediting Yovanovitch and talking up her opinions

The White House is trying to have it both ways when it comes to ex-ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

  • On one hand, officials are trying to seize on Yovanovich saying the Trump administration's policy toward Ukraine was stronger than the Obama administration.
  • But on the other hand they're trying to discredit her, with the President tweeting today "everywhere Marie Yovanovich turned bad."

It's also worth noting that President Trump could have fired her much earlier but instead it happened nearly two and a half years into his administration and the President had others do the job, including his personal attorney Rudy Guiliani, who played a role in her firing.

11:46 a.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Congressman tweets Trump: "Expect witness tampering to be an article of impeachment"

Independent Rep. Justin Amash just quote-tweeted the President attacking former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch during her public testimony.

"“Expect witness tampering to be an article of impeachment," Amash said.

11:46 a.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Trump has a long history of trying to interfere with witnesses who could testify against him

Democrats are accusing President Trump of “witness intimidation,” by attacking former US Ambassador to the Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during her testimony. 

Asked about the tweets, Yovanovitch told lawmakers she felt they were “intimidating,” and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff then raised the possibility of including the episode in an article of impeachment. (To be clear, the President’s tweet didn’t include a clear threat against Yovanovitch, though he criticized her record.) 

This isn’t the first time Trump has been accused of witness tampering.

Special counsel Robert Mueller investigated Trump’s comments and actions toward key players in the Russia investigation, including his former attorney Michael Cohen, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. (All three men are now convicted felons.)

Trump publicly dangled the possibility of a pardon for Manafort, and publicly threatened Cohen’s while he cooperated with investigators. Mueller’s team looked into these episodes as potential obstruction of justice, and determined that there was strong evidence of witness tampering in some cases.

“Many of the President's acts directed at witnesses, including discouragement of cooperation with the government and suggestions of possible future pardons, took place in public view,” the Mueller report said. “That circumstance is unusual, but no principle of law excludes public acts from the reach of the obstruction laws.”

A key point to remember: To be clear — there is a big difference between a criminal investigation and an impeachment investigation. Democrats don’t need proof of a crime to impeach Trump. But they also don’t need to meet high threshold that prosecutors would need to actually prove witness intimidation in a court of law.

The bottom line is that Trump has a long history of trying to interfere with witnesses that could testify against him. It’s all over the Mueller report, in dozens of pages, and it’s playing out again today.

11:27 a.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Here's the key moment in Yovanovitch's hearing that everyone is talking about

We're 45 minutes into the first round of questioning during ex-ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch's testimony.

The questions — and the conversation outside the hearing — turned to allegations of witness intimidation after Trump tweeted attacks on the former ambassador in real time.

Here's what happened: Minutes into Yovanovitch's testimony, after she detailed some of her work in Somalia, President Trump tweeted this:

House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff gave Yovanovitch time to respond to the attack. She said this:

"Well, I mean, I don't think I have such powers, not Mogadishu, not Somalia, and not other places. I actually think where I have served over the years, I and others have demonstrably made things better. You know, for the US, as well as for the countries that I have served in."

Awhile later, Schiff suggested the tweet was essentially witness intimidation. He asked Yovanovitch what kind of impact the message would have on future witnesses.

“It's very intimidating,” Yovanovitch replied.

The committee is taking a break right now. When they come back, the Republicans will get 45 minutes to ask questions.

Watch the moment:

11:24 a.m. ET, November 15, 2019

Fox News anchors say Trump's tweet raises the possibility of witness tampering

Two of the top anchors at Fox News said that President Trump's Friday tweets attacking ex-ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch raised the possibility of an additional article of impeachment being added against Trump for witness tampering.

Bret Baier, Fox's chief political anchor, said Trump's tweets "enabled" House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who is leading the impeachment inquiry, to "characterize that tweet as intimidating the witness or tampering with the witness, which is a crime."

"Adding, essentially, an article of impeachment real time as this hearing is going on," Baier said.

Chris Wallace, the anchor of Fox's flagship Sunday show, agreed with Baier, noting the attack "played out in real time."

"It does raise the possibility of witness intimidation and witness tampering as a new charge here," Wallace said.

"If you are not moved by the testimony of Marie Yovanovitch today, you don't have a pulse," Wallace said.
11:22 a.m. ET, November 15, 2019

House Republican: "I don’t find her testimony relevant"

Rep. Gohmert in July 2019.
Rep. Gohmert in July 2019. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Republican from Texas, told CNN in the hallway outside the hearing room what he thought of former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony so far.

He said Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, was relying on “gossip mongers” to testify. He called President Trump’s first April call to Zelensky, the transcript of which was released today, "No big deal."

He said of Trump, "Give the guy a break." When asked whether he found Yovanovitch to be a credible witness, Gohmert said:

"I don’t find her testimony relevant — to impeachment, to remove a president. How she felt, that’s not an impeachable offense and it’s irrelevant. If we had a real hearing, getting real evidence this would not even come into court."

Some context: Yovanovitch testified today that she was unexpectedly removed from her post as ambassador to Ukraine because of unfounded claims that she tried to undermine the President and blocked efforts to investigate Democrats like former Vice President Joe Biden.