Impeachment Hearings End After Trump Attacks Ousted US Ambassador During Her Testimony

Cover Image
Photo credit Getty

The historic public impeachment hearing involving President Donald Trump is over.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified for about five hours, telling Congress that attacks from corrupt interests created what she called a crisis at the State Dept.

In his opening statements, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Yovanovitch was “smeared and cast aside” by Trump because she was considered an obstacle to his personal and political agenda.

Yovanovitch told lawmakers that she was the victim of “a campaign of disinformation” that used “unofficial back channels” leading to her ouster from Ukraine. She says it “continues to amaze” her that Americans partnered with “Ukrainians who preferred to play by the old corrupt rules” in pressing for her removal.

Yovanovitch went on to say that senior State Department officials did not defend her from attacks from the president’s allies, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. She is telling lawmakers about a “crisis in the State Department.”

She says: “The State Department is being hollowed out from within at a competitive and complex time on the world stage.”

During her testimony, President Trump tweeted his criticism of Yovanovich, tweeting, "....They call it “serving at the pleasure of the President.” The U.S. now has a very strong and powerful foreign policy, much different than proceeding administrations. It is called, quite simply, America First! With all of that, however, I have done FAR more for Ukraine than O." 

"Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors."

In his opening statements, Rep. Devin Nunes read a summary transcript (released by President Trump) of an April congratulatory call with Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Friday.

Latest Trump/Zelenskiy transcript reflects congratulatory phone call by Trump on Zelenskiy's election, then Pres-elect. Phone call filled with courtesies and mutual invitations to visit. Excerpt attached.

— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) November 15, 2019

Yovanovitch has previously testified behind closed doors that both Trump and Guiliani architected her ouster in 2018 after she refused to allow the U.S. embassy in Ukraine be used by Guiliani to dig up dirt on Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. 

The hearings come after President Trump asked the new Ukrainian President to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, in a July phone call and also asked the new leader to investigate any role Ukraine may have played in the 2016 presidential election.

President Trump was fast to tweet about Friday's hearings saying, "The Impeachment Witch Hunt should be over with the statement made last night by the President and Foreign Minister of Ukraine. Nervous Nancy Pelosi, who should be home cleaning up the dangerous & disgusting Slum she is making of her District in San Francisco, where even the......"...Ambassador Sondland did not tell us, and certainly did not tell me, about a connection between the assistance and the investigation.” THE FAKE IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY IS NOW DEAD!"

Bill Taylor, the US's chief envoy in Ukraine, and George Kent, a senior State Department official, have validated Yovanovitch's claims.

The hearing comes after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched the official and formal impeachment inquiry against President Trump -- a probe to find out whether the president abused his presidential powers. In an Associated Press story, she said such actions would mark a "betrayal of his oath of office" and declared: "No one is above the law." All three of the officials have already testified behind closed doors, according to an Associated Press story. "The Constitution doesn't require a vote to begin impeachment."

Congress and the White House have been in a standoff in recent weeks after numerous top White House officials have refused the summons of a House subpoena including Charles Kupperman, a deputy to former national security adviser John Bolton, according to an AP story.

On Wednesday Bill Taylor, a top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, a high-level department official, testified on Capitol Hill live on television.

Republicans remained poised to defend the president amid this probe from the House Democrats, saying there weren't first-hand accounts of anything related to Trump and Ukraine nor did they speak directly to the president himself.

Taylor, who was second to testify, told House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff that during a lunch with  Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, his staff members overheard a conversation between Trump and another Sondland by phone, saying it sounded like the president cared more about the investigation into Joe Biden than Ukraine.

He also said it was "crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign" and it made "no sense" to withhold aid from Ukraine based on helping with a political campaign.

Schiff is leading the impeachment investigation and opened with statements about whether Trump used the highest office in the land for personal gain when it came to dealings with Ukraine. He said the answer " these questions would not only affect the future of this presidency but also the future of the presidency itself.."

Schiff also stressed he would protect the identity of the whistleblower.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) spoke after Schiff, blasting the inquiry as a politically orchestrated sham for television.

Associated Press contributed to this story.