With President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress continuing to denounce investigative proceedings led by Democrats, the U.S. House Intelligence Committee was holding a second day of impeachment hearings on Friday, continuing to focus on efforts by the President's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to undermine American diplomats in Ukraine.
After hearing on Wednesday from the acting U.S. Ambassador and a top State Department official, the focus in this hearing is the ex-Ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, who was forced out of her post earlier in 2019, after a campaign which she - and other State Department officials - have blamed on Giuliani.
"I do not know Mr. Giuliani's motives for attacking me," Yovanovitch said in a closed door deposition in October.
Follow here for updates on today's hearing.
3:25 pm. Schiff ends the hearing with a quick gavel, much to the GOP's aggravation. The audience stands and cheers for Yovanovitch as she leaves the hearing room. That is not a usual scene in a hearing room.
3:00 pm. This hearing is almost over. But down in the bowels of the Capitol, another deposition is beginning in the impeachment investigation. This one is with a staff aide to the acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, who reportedly overheard a conversation between the President and Gordon Sondland.
2:55 pm. After a break, Rep. Jim Jordan R-OH again presses the GOP case about why President Trump should feel worried over political actions by people in the Ukraine government in 2016. After Jordan rattles off a series of statements, Yovanovitch dryly says politicians say stuff - and that she did not see any evidence of a concerted effort by the government of Ukraine to meddle in the 2016 election.
2:25 pm. Asked by Rep. John Ratcliffe R-TX about the prep she received for her nomination in 2016 as Ambassador to Ukraine, Yovanovitch said her guidance was - if asked by a Senator about Hunter Biden and Burisma - to say, “I would refer you to the Vice President's office on that.” Later, Yovanovitch again says the situation could create the perception of a conflict of interest.
2:05 pm. Yovanovitch was asked about how she dealt with the question of what to do about the campaign against her spurred by Rudy Giuliani. Yovanovitch said she asked Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, what to do. Sondland had close ties to the President.
1:50 pm. Yovanovitch repeats again that certainly a President can remove an Ambassador for any reason - but she openly asks why there needed to be a smear campaign against her.
Rep Wenstrup R-OH: "Well, I wasn't asking about that."
1:25 pm. GOP lawmakers are repeatedly asking Yovanovitch about her post-Ukraine career (now on a fellowship at Georgetown), making the case that she has not been fired or punished after her removal.
1:05 pm. Castor's time for questions to Yovanovitch finally ends. He almost seemed relieved.
12:55 pm. After starting by making clear that Yovanovitch did not have first hand knowledge about what happened with the President's actions with respect to Ukraine, now the GOP counsel is asking about items which happened before she arrived in Ukraine in 2016.
12:45 pm. In a lengthy line of questioning, Castor is allowing Yovanovitch to more fully explain how Giuliani was trying to push her out.
12:30 pm. The GOP committee counsel continues to make the case that since Yovanovitch was not the Ambassador after May 20, she has no evidence to offer.
12:25 pm. The 45 minutes of time for Rep. Nunes begins, as Republicans press the argument that she knows nothing about the events related to impeachment.
"I'm not exactly sure what the Ambassador is doing here today," said Nunes.
12:15 pm. President Trump is not pleased with the Stone verdict.
12:00 pm. Stone guilty of lying to Congress, obstruction of justice and more.
11:55 am. Meanwhile, just a few blocks away, news is breaking, as Trump confidant Roger Stone has been found guilty on seven counts stemming from the Mueller investigation. Some of the still photographers in the hearing room here are scrambling to grab their gear and run down to get pictures.
11:45 am. From Fox News about today's events. The President's tweets have clearly derailed whatever GOP messaging plans Republicans had for today's hearing.
11:40 am. Critics of the President see his tweets this morning about Yovanovitch as yet another marker for impeachment efforts in the House.
11:20 am. House Republicans grabbed one of my tweets this morning, and it has become a hot property for GOP voices on Twitter in the last hour.
11:15 am. Don't expect an avalanche of negative reaction from the GOP over today's tweets from the President.
11:05 am. There are a number of votes on the House floor. We are being told not to expect the hearing to reconvene for maybe another hour or more.
10:55 am. It seems that viewers on Fox News are getting a different portrayal than usual today.
10:50 am. The President's tweets are quickly frowned on by one member of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Elise Stefanik R-NY.
10:45 am. The President's tweets are getting a lot of attention. This from Fox News.
10:25 am. It is an extraordinary moment. Yovanovitch is testifying, and at the same time the President is attacking her on Twitter. Rep. Adam Schiff D-CA interrupts questioning to read the new tweets. “It's very intimidating,” says Yovanovitch. “The effect is to be intimidating.”
10:15 am. Asked about the President's comments about her in his July 25 phone call with the leader of Ukraine, Yovanovitch said she was alarmed.
“She's going to go through some things,” Yovanovitch quotes the President from the call transcript. “It didn't sound good. It sounded like a threat.”
10:10 am. As Yovanovitch tells her story to the impeachment hearing, President Trump is attacking her on Twitter.
10:05 am. Yovanovitch says State Department officials asked her in early March to stay through July of 2020 as Ambassador. Six weeks later, they told her to get on the next flight out of the country.
9:55 am. As on Wednesday, most of the initial 45 minutes of questioning by Democrats will be done by the Democratic counsel on the House Intelligence Committee.
9:55 am. Not only is Yovanovitch talking about why she was ousted, but she is also sticking up for fellow diplomats - and basically skewering Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for not standing up for those in the Foreign Service.
9:45 am. Yovanovitch repeatedly says she did nothing wrong as U.S. Ambassador in Ukraine. And she repeatedly returns to the efforts of Rudy Giuliani to target her. “I do not understand Mr. Giuliani's motives for attacking me.” Yovanovitch also said she had done nothing to undermine President Trump. “The Obama Administration did not ask me to help the Clinton campaign or harm the Trump campaign.”
9:37 am. Yovanovitch details her diplomatic career. She joined the Foreign Service during the Reagan Administration. Like the two witnesses on Wednesday, she stresses the importance of serving the U.S. overseas, no matter who is President, as Yovanovitch said she had no 'agenda' as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.
9:28 am. Schiff follows Nunes by calling on President Trump to release documents withheld from investigators. Also asks the White House to reveal why - after this April call - Vice President Pence was not sent to attend the inauguration of the new Ukraine leader.
9:25 am. Nunes is now reading from a rough transcript of the first phone call between President Trump and the leader of Ukraine in April.
9:20 am. The top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes R-CA, starts his statement with another blistering attack on the impeachment investigation, arguing Democrats are engaged in an effort to 'fulfill their Watergate fantasies.'
9:15 am. Democrats begin by going after Rudy Giuliani, asking why the President's lawyer had coordinated a concerted campaign to undermine the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.
"Why did Rudy Giuliani want her gone?" asked Rep. Adam Schiff D-CA.
9:07 am. The hearing is underway.
8:55 am. Normally, I would have a perfect view of the dais and witness table. But the Intelligence Committee has brought in giant television screens to be used for visuals during the hearing. And they planted one between me and the lawmakers on the panel. So, this is my view.
8:45 am. Lots of familiar faces are here in terms of my colleagues, as we work shoulder-to-shoulder in the hallways of the Capitol. There are a series of press tables in the room behind the witness table. Right across from me, Manu Raju of CNN and Chad Pergram of Fox News.
8:35 am. Most of you would not know the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine if she were sitting next to you. And that was her life until late 2018 and 2019, when something changed. She says it was a campaign run against her by President Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani - and State Department officials agree.
8:25 am. Most of the electronics in this room are set out by C-SPAN, which is running the “pool” television coverage. I'm seated in an area by some of the C-SPAN technical personnel, along with the still photographers, who have a very high tech operation to take photos, quickly edit, them, and then send them out immediately across the world.
8:15 am. I am in the room along with other reporters, producers, still photographers, and press people. There is a lot of elbowing going on as photographers try to get the best shot of the witness arriving for testimony.
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