Washington — Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was recalled from her post earlier this year, testified Friday in the second day of public impeachment hearings.
Yovanovitch said she was the victim of a smear campaign led by President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and “foreign corrupt interests” in Ukraine — a campaign that left her reputation tarnished after 33 years of serving the U.S. and promoting and protecting its interests abroad.
Republicans in the hearing praised her service and largely avoided casting doubt on her account, instead choosing to excoriate Democrats for their handling of the impeachment proceedings and questioning the relevance of Yovanovitch’s testimony.
Democrats said her experience showed that U.S. foreign policy had been co-opted by a rogue faction led by Giuliani.
Here are some of the most striking moments from Friday’s hearing:
1. Yovanovitch: “This is about far more than me”
In her opening statement Friday, Yovanovitch described the role of Foreign Service professionals and talked about the sacrifices they make, risking their lives for America and answering “the call to duty to advance and protect the interests of the United States.”
She also suggested to lawmakers that the State Department’s lack of a response to the attacks on her and others was a sign the institution is being “degraded.”
“I remain disappointed that the Department’s leadership and others have declined to acknowledge that the attacks against me and others are dangerously wrong,” she said. “This is about far more than me or a couple of individuals. As Foreign Service professionals are being denigrated and undermined, the institution is also being degraded. This will soon cause real harm, if it hasn’t already.”
Yovanovitch said the attacks “are leading to a crisis in the State Department. As the policy process is visibly unraveling, leadership vacancies go unfilled, and senior and mid-level officers ponder an uncertain future and head for the doors. The crisis has moved from the impact on individuals to an impact on the institution.”
“The State Department is being hollowed out from within at a competitive and complex time on the world stage,” she added. “This is not a time to undercut our diplomats.”
2. Yovanovitch says she was “shocked and devastated” by comments made on July 25 call
Yovanovitch described her reaction to reading the summary of the July 25 call between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, when Mr. Trump called her “bad news,” and Zelensky said he agreed “100%.”
She said she first learned what he had said when the White House released the official account of the call in late September.
“I was shocked. Absolutely shocked. And devastated, frankly,” Yovanovitch said.
“A person who saw me actually reading the transcript said that the color drained from my face,” she said. “I think I even had a physical reaction. Even now, words kind of fail me.”
Yovanovitch added that she was “shocked and devastated that I would feature in a phone call between two heads of state in such a manner.”
At another point in the call, Mr. Trump told Zelensky that Yovanovitch was going to “go through some things.” Yovanovitch said she wasn’t sure what Mr. Trump meant, but “it didn’t sound good.”
“It kind of felt like a vague threat,” Yovanovitch said.
3. Trump tweets attack on Yovanovitch. She responds.
President Trump spoke out against Yovanovitch while she was testifying Friday, saying in a tweet: “Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.”
“I don’t think I have such powers. Not in Mogadishu, Somalia, not in other places,” Yovanovitch said in response to his allegation. “I think where I have served over the years, I and others have demonstrably made things better for the U.S. as well as for the countries that I’ve served in.”
Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said to Yovanovitch: “Ambassador, you’ve shown courage to come forward today and testify, notwithstanding the fact you were urged by the White House or State Department not to, notwithstanding the fact that as you testified earlier the president implicitly threatened you in that call record. And now the president in real time is attacking you.”
“What effect do you think that has on other witnesses willingness to come forward and expose wrongdoing?” Schiff asked.
“It’s very intimidating,” Yovanovitch said. “I can’t speak to what the president is trying to do, but I think the effect is to be intimidating.”
Schiff responded: “I want to let you know, ambassador, that some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously.”
4. Nunes says Yovanovitch’s testimony is more a “human resources” issue
Ranking member Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the committee, questioned why Yovanovitch was called to testify in the first place, given the fact that she had been removed from her post before the events that are central to the Ukraine scandal.
“I’m not exactly sure what the ambassador is doing here today,” Nunes said. “This is the House Intelligence Committee that has now turned into the House Impeachment Committee.”
Nunes said the hearing “seems more appropriate for the subcommittee on human resources at the Foreign Affairs Committee.”
5. Nunes says Democrats acted “like some kind of strange cult”
In his opening statement, Nunes lambasted Democrats for holding “daylong TV spectacles” instead of working on legislation like trade agreements or funding the government. He said Democrats had “staged” weeks of closed-door depositions before the public hearings “like some kind of strange cult.”
He also said the Democratic case was based on hearsay and pointed out that five Democrats on the Intelligence Committee have already voted to impeach Mr. Trump.
“Democrats have been vowing to oust President Trump since the day he was elected,” Nunes said. “So Americans can rightly suspect that his phone call with President Zelensky was used as an excuse for the Democrats to fulfill their Watergate fantasies.”
Nunes also condemned Schiff for sending a memo to Republicans on the committee warning of referrals to the Ethics Committee if they attempted to “out” the whistleblower. Nunes propagated the theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election, which has been widely debunked, including by Bill Taylor and George Kent — a top U.S. diplomat and a top U.S. official.
6. Yovanovitch says her ouster was “big hit for morale”
Schiff asked Yovanovitch: “Do you have concern today about what message the president’s actions sends to the people who are still in Ukraine representing the United States when a well-respected ambassador can be smeared out of her post with the participation and acquiescence of the president of the United States?”
“Well, it’s, I think, been a big hit for morale both at U.S. Embassy Kyiv but also more broadly in the State Department,” she responded.
7. Nunes takes swipe at Yovanovitch
Before questioning Yovanovitch Friday, Nunes took a swipe at her, saying she “graduated” from “secret” depositions. And he congratulated her on her “performance,” repeating language he used Wednesday, when he told William Taylor and George Kent that their secret deposition testimony had enabled them to be “cast” in the open hearing.
Nunes then slammed the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, saying that later on Friday afternoon “we will be back down in the basement of the Capitol doing more of these secret depositions.” David Holmes, the aide who overheard a phone call between U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland and President Trump, was to testify later Friday in a closed hearing with the House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry.
8. Yovanovitch says attacks have had “chilling effect” on diplomats
Under questioning by Democratic Representative Terri Sewell, Yovanovitch said her experience has sent a chill through the diplomatic ranks of the State Department.
You can read the rest of Sarah Lynch Baldwin, Grace Segers, Kathryn Watson, and Stefan Becket’s article at CBSnews.com