House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff interrupted the impeachment hearing Friday morning to give the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine a chance to answer President Donald Trump’s real-time attacks on her on Twitter.
Schiff took over the questioning to read aloud Trump’s broadside against the former ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, as she was testifying.
“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” Trump tweeted just after 10 a.m. “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.”
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Schiff jumped into the questioning by the Democrats' chief counsel to call out the president. He asked whether everywhere she went had turned bad, as the president alleged.
“I don’t think I have such powers,” said Yovanovitch, who had moments earlier described dodging bullets in past postings. “Not in Mogadishu, Somalia and not in other places. I actually think that 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.”
Ukraine, which has what she described huge challenges as far as corruption, had made a lot of progress since 2014, including during the years she was there.
“The Ukrainian people get the most credit for that and a part of that credit goes to the work of United States and to me as the ambassador,” she said.
On Fox News, the former Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr said, "I must say that the president was not advised by counsel in deciding to do this tweet. Extraordinarily poor judgment… .Obviously this was quite injurious."
Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney said the president was wrong to tweet criticism of Yovanovitch during her testimony.
She said Yovanovitch "clearly is somebody who's been a public servant to the United States for decades and I don't think the president should have done that."
And New York Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik told CNN, "I disagree with the tweet. I think Ambassador Yovanovitch is a public servant, like many of our public servants in the Foreign Service."
In her opening statement, Yovanovitch talked about the dangers of being a diplomat in hot spots during her 33 years of public service.
"There is a perception that diplomats lead a comfortable life throwing dinner parties in fancy homes," she testified. "Let me tell you about some of my reality. It has not always been easy. I have moved 13 times and served in seven different countries, five of them hardship posts."
Among her posts was Somalia, an "increasing dangerous place" where the country's civil war was "grinding on." She helped to open the U.S. embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where a gunman sprayed the building with gunfire. She later served in Moscow.
"In 1993, during the attempted coup in Russia, I was caught in crossfire between presidential and parliamentary forces," she said. "It took us three tries—me without a helmet or body armor—to get into a vehicle to go to the Embassy."
Schiff asked her the effect of today’s attack by the president.
“And now the president in real-time is attacking you,” the chairman said. “What effect do you think that has on other witnesses’ willingness to come forward and expose wrongdoing?
“It’s very intimidating,” she said.
Asked whether it was "designed to intimidate," Yovanovitch said she couldn't "get into Trump's mind."
Schiff ended with, “Some of us take witness intimidation very, very seriously.”
Trump later told reporters at the White House, “I have the right to speak. I have the freedom of speech just as other people do."
And White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, responded to NBC News, "The tweet was not witness intimidation, it was simply the President’s opinion, which he is entitled to. This is not a trial, it is a partisan political process - or to put it more accurately, a totally illegitimate, charade stacked against the President. There is less due process in this hearing than any such event in the history of our country. It’s a true disgrace."
Here are some other key moments of Yovanovitch's testimony:
Trump in the now pivotal July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy derided her as he asked Zelenskiy to investigate his key political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Biden's son, Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
“The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news,” Trump told Zelenskiy.
“She’s going to go through some things,” Trump said a short while later.
Yovanovitch was asked her reaction to being called “bad news."
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “Again, shocked, appalled, devastated that the president of the United States would talk about any ambassador like that to a foreign head of state. And it was me. I couldn’t believe it.”
Asked what she thought about Trump’s comment that she would “go through some things," she responded that she did not know what to think but was concerned.
“She’s going to go through some things,” she said, repeating the president. “It didn’t sound good. It sounded like a threat.”
"SMEAR MY REPUTATION"
Republicans repeatedly made the point that Trump was entitled to choose the foreign service officers whom he favored and to recall those whom he did not think were serving his policies.
At one point she said, "There's a question as to why the kind of campaign to get me out of Ukraine happened. Because all the president has to do is say he wants a different ambassador. And in my line of work ... all we have is our reputation. And so this has been a very painful period."
Republican Rep. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio, a podiatrist and U.S. Army reserve officer, asked her whether she agreed with the policy. She said she did not dispute that the president had the right to withdraw an ambassador at any time and for any reason.
"But what I do wonder is why was it necessary to smear my reputation," she said.
"Well I wasn't asking you about that, but thank you very much ma'am," Wenstrup said.
"THE GENTLEWOMAN WILL SUSPEND"
Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Republican from New York who worked in the administration of former President George W. Bush and helped to prepare the GOP platform in 2012, at one point tried to question Yovanovitch out of order but was cut off by Schiff.
"The gentlewoman will suspend," Schiff interjected.
"What is the interruption for this time?" Stefanik responded. "It is our time."
The ranking member, Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California, had tried to yield his time to her earlier in the hearing but Schiff objected. The rules for the impeachment proceedings, approved by the Democrats, explicitly stated that only Schiff, Nunes and committee lawyers were permitted to question Yovanovitch during the initial 45-minute period. Members were to get five minutes each after that, alternating between Republicans and Democrats.
Republicans disputed his interpretation of the regulation, insisting that they could do what they wanted with their time.
"This is the fifth time you have interrupted members of Congress, duly elected members of Congress," Stefanik said.
Schiff held firm and the questioning was turned over to Republican counsel Steve Castor.
House Republicans tweeted: "Why is Chairman Schiff afraid of @RepStefanik?"
A STANDING OVATION
At the end of her testimony, Yovanovitch got sustained applause from House members and the audience.