Congressional Impeachment Hearings, November 15, 2019

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch arrives to testify before the U.S. House Intelligence Committee in Washington, D.C., November 15, 2019.

The U.S. House Intelligence Committee held its second public impeachment hearings on November 15. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled in May amid a smear campaign, testified under subpoena. Experts from the Center for American Progress followed along to share context throughout the proceedings. Find more on the hearings and other impeachment-related resources on our page dedicated to Trump’s Constitutional Crisis.


2:53 p.m. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) is trying again to argue that there was a concerted Ukrainian effort to undermine Trump in 2016. Yovanovitch shot down that conspiracy theory an hour ago—and reminded Congress that “our own U.S. intelligence community has conclusively determined that those who interfered in the election were in Russia.”


2:01 p.m. Incredible to hear Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) complain about “unbelievable accusations regarding Russian collusion” just hours after Trump’s longtime adviser Roger Stone was convicted of lying to Congress about serving as a backchannel between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks—in other words, for his role in collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016.


1:38 p.m. I’ve never fully understood the application of the “Never Trumper” label to people currently serving in government. The term came about in 2016 when Republican foreign policy professionals signed a letter saying they would never serve in a Trump administration because they saw him as dangerous and unethical. So, by definition, people serving inside the government cannot actually be considered a “Never Trumper” since they are currently serving in government.


1:32 p.m. Ambassador Yovanovitch’s testimony has proved that President Trump was not concerned about corruption. The White House never raised the importance of corruption in Ukraine with her during her nearly three-year tenure. The call record between Trump and Zelensky from April 2019 that they released had no mention of corruption despite the White House telling the press that Trump had raised corruption on the call. In fact, the White House wanted her gone because she was opposing corruption both in Ukraine and emanating from the White House. Because of that, there was, according to minority counsel, “a concerted campaign against her.” She stood up to corruption, and so the White House—the president—determined she had to go. And when she was removed, the White House scheming went into overdrive.


1:30 p.m. Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) is the latest in a long line of Trump defenders to try to make this case all about the whistleblower. A reminder: Just about everything in the whistleblower complaint—Trump asking Zelensky to investigate the Bidens and CrowdStrike, Trump telling Zelensky to talk to Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General Barr, the White House hiding the records of the July 25 call on a classified server—has been corroborated or confirmed by the White House itself.


1:27 p.m. One thing that’s obvious from the first three impeachment witnesses is that they could all be making much more money in the private sector than they make/made in the Department of State. Their expertise and professionalism is valuable. I bet they get lots of job offers after this. America’s loss, if you ask me.


1:26 p.m. GOP members keep praising Ambassador Yovanovitch for her exemplary service. So why did Trump suddenly fire her? Rep. Himes provides a thought: She wouldn’t have gone along with Trump’s extortion campaign.


1:12 p.m. Ambassador Yovanovitch made an important point connecting the delay in military aid and the discussion around supplying Javelin missiles to a broader context. She explained that the provision of Javelins last year was important because it was symbolic of American support for Ukraine. But the delay in military aid this summer undermines that message of support in its war against Russia.


12:57 p.m. I’m loving how well Yovanovich repeatedly returns to her role. It’s a hallmark of a good career civil servant. It may not be obvious to everyone else, but staying in your lane, following established process, and always remembering your role is what we want public servants to do. It’s obvious that the minority counsel doesn’t totally understand that.


12:49 p.m. Castor is repeating a line of questioning from yesterday: Burisma is corrupt, as was Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin for not investigating it. That justifies Trump’s interest in corruption in Ukraine.

Again, what that leaves out is that the only corruption Trump and his allies want investigated is the international effort to fire Shokin for corruption, which they claim was actually a corrupt effort to oust him because he secretly was investigating Burisma.


12:36 p.m. As the minority counsel runs Ambassador Yovanovitch through Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman’s schemes against her, a reminder: According to their lawyer, Parnas and Fruman were members of Trump’s legal team.


12:27 p.m. Another delay in the hearing as Trump’s defenders—in this case, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY)—try to disrupt the proceedings. They’re effectively breaking the procedural rules, then fuming at Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) when he attempts to reestablish order and follow the rules.


12:25 p.m. Another big development midhearing: Federal prosecutors are reportedly investigating whether Rudy Giuliani stood to personally benefit from a natural-gas business scheme Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were pushing in Ukraine. That scheme was reportedly a key reason the duo conspired to force Yovanovitch out of office as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.


12:01 p.m. While Congress remains on recess, the jury in Roger Stone’s trial just found him guilty on all seven charges of obstructing the Russia investigation. That means that Trump’s campaign chairman, deputy campaign chairman, personal lawyer, first national security adviser, and longtime political adviser have all been convicted of or pleaded guilty for trying to cover up collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016.


10:46 a.m. Per the president’s recent tweet and Nunes’ opening statement, the White House defense today clearly appears to be that the president has the right to fire an ambassador—and while people may not like it, it’s within his power. While, yes, ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the president, it matters _why_ the president removes someone from their post, just like with the Comey firing. It’s not OK for the president to remove a Senate-confirmed official because that person refused to participate in or ignore a corrupt scheme.


10:37 a.m. Ambassador Yovanovitch confirms that the investigations Trump demanded as part of his extortion scheme had nothing to do with addressing corruption.


10:18 a.m. It is actually incredible. At every turn and every opportunity, Trump seems to side with corrupt individuals and against those working on behalf of the American taxpayers implementing U.S. foreign policy and pursuing U.S. national interests.


10:17 a.m. The call memo the White House released exposes that lie, as well: The initial readout said that Trump and Zelensky discussed “reforms that strengthen democracy, increase prosperity, and root out corruption.” They definitely don’t discuss those topics in the newly released summary—although they did discuss the Miss Universe pageant.


10:16 a.m. Ambassador Yovanovitch is exposing the lie that Trump was concerned about corruption. In fact, Ambassador Yovanovitch was removed because she was working to stop corruption in Ukraine. It was Trump that was working with the corrupt prosecutor general.


10:14 a.m. President Trump threatened a U.S. ambassador. And why? Because she was standing in the way of his extortion scheme.


10:02 a.m. Yovanovitch’s testimony on Katia Handziuk underlines an important point: In many countries around the world, fighting corruption can be a literally life-and-death struggle. It’s no surprise, then, that Yovanovitch told investigators she felt “threatened” when she learned that, in the July 25 call, Trump told Zelensky she would “go through some things.”


10:01 a.m. This is laying bare Trump’s culture of corruption. Those who are honest or call out corruption are cast aside. Those who participate in corruption or look the other way are promoted. The message to everyone else: Don’t be honest, don’t call out wrongdoing. We’ve seen how corrosive this type of corruption can be abroad. Now Trump is importing that corruption here, undermining American institutions and American values.