The second day of public impeachment hearings featured some witness intimidation in real time. So that was fun. Republicans had previewed a strategy of not bullying Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, which was going to be difficult for them anyway, and then Donald Trump went ahead and attacked her in flagrant and notably stupid fashion, blowing up that whole strategy. Republicans tried to rally with a stunt to give Fox News a way to change the subject from witness intimidation to how mean it was of House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff to prevent Reps. Devin Nunes and Elise Stefanik from breaking hearing rules, but … that is not going to be the lead story of the day.
Following the hearing, the committee went to a closed-door deposition with David Holmes, the staffer who overheard Trump talking about “the investigations” in a phone call with Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.
Here are some of the highlights—and lowlights—of Yovanovitch’s testimony.
- In an early attempt at distraction, the White House released a pseudo-transcript for Trump’s first call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. It showed that the original readout for that call was essentially fictional, claiming that Trump talked about corruption to Zelensky. He did not.
- Trump attacks Marie Yovanovitch for having served the U.S. in Somalia. Schiff read the tweet to Yovanovitch, saying “Some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously.” Pelosi later echoed him, saying “Witness intimidation is a crime.”
- Yovanovitch described the “shock” and “devastation” of Trump’s smears in the Zelensky call. “The color drained from my face. I think I even had a physical reaction. I think, even now, words fail me.”
- Republicans tried to toss impeachment hearing rules out the window in obvious political stunt, with Nunes and Stefanik pretending surprise at not being allowed to do what they were explicitly told they could not do. But hey, it gave Fox News a break from defending the constitutionality of witness intimidation.
- Yovanovitch, a powerful witness throughout, described the fear at the State Department of being undermined by a Trump tweet and later spoke to the consequences of Trump’s corruption. She got a standing ovation as she left the hearing.
Meanwhile, Trump’s associates weren’t having such a good day:
- Federal investigators are probing whether Rudy Giuliani was set to profit from Ukraine gas business.
- And Roger Stone was found guilty on all counts and may face up to 20 years in prison.
Breaking earlier on Friday evening:
David Holmes, a career foreign service officer serving in Ukraine, told a congressional panel behind closed doors that he was present when Donald Trump spoke on the phone with U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland about Sondland’s efforts to make Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky announce an investigation to Hunter Biden. Holmes opening statement, obtained by CNN, discloses that there are as many as three other witnesses to the call. […]
Trump responded “So, he’s gonna do the investigation?”
Sondland: “He’s gonna do it,” and added, according to Holmes testimony, President Zelensky will do “anything you ask him to.”