The former Ukraine ambassador became the third witness to appear publicly and her testimony was hugely persuasive

Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch became the third witness to testify in public impeachment hearings on Friday investigating whether Donald Trump sought to bribe Ukraine to boost his chance of re-election by investigating a US political rival.

Yovanovitch was recalled by Trump from her post in Ukraine in May, shortly after the state department had asked her to stay on another year.

The question before us is not whether Donald Trump could recall an American ambassador with a stellar reputation for fighting corruption in Ukraine, said House intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff, but why would he want to?

Here are key takeaways from a hearing which sought to answer that question:

1) A bombshell hearing

After relatively subdued testimony on Wednesday, the impeachment inquiry accelerated dramatically on Friday as Yovanovitch told impeachment investigators she felt shocked and devastated by Trumps personal attacks on her, and that she was amazed corrupt elements in Ukraine had found willing American partners to take her down.

While Trump has denied wrongdoing, the feeling that something very wrong indeed had happened was palpable as Yovanovitch, a widely respected, 33-year veteran of the foreign service, described her recall and a smear campaign that preceded it.

2) Trumps Twitter attack

As Yovanovitch spoke, Trump unloaded on Twitter, writing Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? and It is the US presidents absolute right to appoint ambassadors.

Then, in an astonishing moment of political theater, Schiff read the tweets to Yovanovitch in real time and asked her to reply.

I dont think I have such powers, she said. Not in Mogadishu, Somalia, and other places.

Asked how it felt to be personally attacked by the president, Yovanovitch said, the effect is intimidating.

Play Video
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Donald Trump denies tweets attacking Marie Yovanovitch were witness intimidation video

Schiff replied: I want to let you know that some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously.

Fox News host Bret Baier tweeted on the possible consequences for Trump of his reckless tweet: She was already a sympathetic witness & the presidents tweet ripping her allowed Schiff to point it out real time characterizing it as witness tampering or intimidation adding an article of impeachment real-time.

3) The cowed Republicans

So persuasive a figure was Yovanovitch so plain was her dedication to country and seriousness of purpose that not only did Republicans not dare to attack her, they often took turns praising her service and thanking her for it.

The sharpest attack on Yovanovitch was leveled by Devin Nunes, the senior Republican on the committee, who wrote off Yovanovitchs dismissal as a mundane personnel matter.

This seems more appropriate for the subcommittee for human resources of the foreign affairs committee if theres issues with employment, Nunes said.

But the visibly de-energized Republican side failed to mount a substantive rebuttal to Yovanovitchs testimony.

4) Enter Rudy

For the first time in the impeachment hearings, investigators shone a spotlight on the role of Rudy Giuliani, the presidents personal emissary who pressured Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden while leading a smear campaign against Yovanovitch. The ambassador said she became aware Giuliani was spreading lies about her, accusing her of being an enemy of the president, early this year.

Giulianis motivations are under investigation by federal prosecutors. Two of his associates were trying to start a liquid natural gas export business in Ukraine, while a third associate, former general prosecutor Yuri Lutsenko, had previously clashed with Yovanovitch and wanted revenge, according to testimony.

Last spring, Lutsenko gave Giuliani something he and Trump wanted: negative news lines in the US media about Joe Biden, from an official Ukrainian source: Lutsenko himself.

5) Danger ahead for Trump

As the public hearing drew to a close, a new witness, David Holmes, arrived for a closed-door deposition. Ambassador Bill Taylor testified that Holmes, his aide, overheard Trump in a phone call ask ambassador Gordon Sondland how the investigations in Ukraine were coming.

Holmes arrival pointed to a potentially rocky week ahead for Trump. Holmes himself might testify in public. Sondland is scheduled to appear on Wednesday and could give damning first hand testimony about what Trump wanted in Ukraine, and why.

While you are the beginning of this story, you are not the end of it, Schiff told Yovanovitch at the close of her testimony.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

 

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