The House of Representatives’ historic impeachment inquiry into whether President Donald Trump abused his power for political benefit in his dealings with Ukraine continued Friday with a second televised public hearing.
Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are attempting to build a public case that Trump abused his power by pressing Ukraine to investigate his political rivals while withholding congressionally approved military aid. Trump has denied any wrongdoing, and Republicans are using the start of public hearings to mount a vigorous defense that his actions were legitimate — and that the inquiry is not.
Here’s a recap of Friday’s hearing:
Asked by reporters to respond to claims his Friday morning tweets about Yovanovitch were an attempt to intimidate a witness, Trump said it was his right to weigh in on hearings he called “a disgrace.”
"It's a political process, it's not a legal process,” Trump told reporters. “I’m allowed to speak up."
Under questioning from Rep. John Ratcliffe (R., Texas), Yovanovitch denied she saw personal motif in Vice President Joe Biden’s push for Ukraine to remove former prosecutor general Viktor Shokin in 2016, noting, “the view that Mr. Shokin was not a good prosecutor general fighting corruption - I don’t think that had anything to do with the Burisma case.”
Shokin’s inaction in taking on corruption prompted calls for his ouster from across the globe, including from the United States. Ukraine’s parliament ultimately removed him from the role in 2016.
But Yovanovitch did agree that Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board did create at least the potential appearance of a conflict of interest.
“I think it creates a concern that there could be an appearance of a conflict of interest,” Yovanovitch testified.
After agreeing with Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R., Ohio) that the president can decide at any time to withdraw any ambassador, Yovanovitch asked, “Why it was necessary to smear my reputation falsely?”
“Well, I wasn’t asking about that,” Wenstrup responded.
During their direct questioning of Yovanovitch, Republicans on the Intelligence Committee went out of her way to praise her long career of public service, and stress that despite her ouster, she continues to be employed by the State Department.
Both Rep. Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.) and Rep. Mike Conaway (R., Texas) pointed out that Yovanovitch ended up in a fellowship at Georgetown, as she requested. But Conaway also suggested diplomat George Kent could have been paid to praise Yovanovitch during his testimony on Wednesday, a claim she laughed off.
U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, the lone female Republican on the committee, again had a confrontation with committee Chairman Adam Schiff, Democrat of California as the hearing resumed after the lunch break.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif), the ranking minority member on the committee, attempted to yield his time to allow Stefanik to ask questions. But the rules adopted for the hearings say only Nunes or Steve Castor, the Republicans’ lead lawyer, can examine witnesses at this stage.
Schiff banged his gavel, as Nunes and Stefanik protested. “What is the interruption for this time?” she said, aiming — as in previous scuffles — to portray Schiff as a bully. One GOP member accused the chairman of “gagging” Republicans. "This is the fifth time you’ve interrupted members of Congress, duly elected members of Congress,” Stefanik said, giving up. Castor began questioning Yovanovich.
You can expect the moment to be replayed heavily on Fox News and across conservative media. Stefanik will have an opportunity to ask questions later in the hearing in a kind of lightning round that grants each member up to five minutes.
As Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee defend Trump’s actions and rebut Democrats, they’ve turned to Steve Castor, a lawyer from Montgomery County who received his bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University and his MBA from Lehigh University.
On Friday, Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif), the ranking minority member on the committee, turned over his time to Castor to grill the witness, after first trying to get time for Rep. Elise Stefanik (R.,N.Y.) House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said that was out of order based on the authorizing resolution for the hearings.
Speaking to reporters during a brief recess, House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff suggested that Trump’s Twitter attack on Yovanovitch, which took place while she was testifying, amounted to a crime.
“You saw today witness intimidation in real time by the President of the United States,” Schiff said.
Yovanovitch said she felt a visceral reaction when she learned that Trump had bashed her in his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“I was shocked and devastated that I would feature in a phone call between two heads of state in such a manner, where President Trump said I was bad news,” she said.
According to a White House memorandum of the phone call, Trump said: “The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that."
“Well, she’s going to go through some things,” Trump told Zelensky later.
“It was a terrible moment," Yovanovitch said, holding her hands up to her face. "A person who saw me actually reading the transcript said that the color drained from my face. I think I even had a physical reaction. I think — even now, words kind of fail me.”
Prior to Friday’s hearing, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham told reporters that Trump would only be watching the opening statement by U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking GOP member on the House Intelligence Committee. “The rest of the day he will be working hard for the American people,” Grisham said.
But with nothing on his public scheduled until a 2 p.m. address on healthcare prices, Trump took to Twitter to attack Yovanovitch as an ineffective public servant, saying everywhere she went “turned bad."
Schiff later told Yovanovitch that Trump was attacking her in real time.
“It’s very intimidating,” Yovanovitch said.
“Some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously,” Schiff said in a pointed warning to the White House.
After emphasizing her nonpartisan role representing official American foreign policy, Yovanovitch described the implications of the campaign that led to ouster:
“Our Ukraine policy has been thrown into disarray, and shady interests the world over have learned how little it takes to remove an American ambassador who does not give them what they want,” she said. “After these events, what foreign official, corrupt or not, could be blamed for wondering whether the U.S. ambassador represents the presidents’ views?”
Echoing Republicans’ arguments Wednesday, Nunes continued to argue that the impeachment inquiry is a “farce” led by Democrats “to topple a duly elected president.”
He again emphasized that Wednesday’s witnesses, Ambassador William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, had not spoken with Trump or heard first-hand about the actions they were describing — “in other words, rumors.” And he accused Democrats of collaborating with Ukraine to meddle in the 2016 election, alluding to a thoroughly discredited conspiracy theory.
Following that statement, Republican Reps. Elise Stefanik of New York and Jim Jordan of Ohio, who helped lead counterattacks on the Democrats and the witnesses on Wednesday, were largely shut down in their attempts to question Schiff.
“Holy cow,” Jordan said when Schiff did not recognize him and banged his gavel.
“Clearly,” Stefanik said, “you’re going to interrupt us throughout the hearing.”
Just as the hearing was starting on Friday, the White House released details about an earlier call between Trump and Zelensky. That telephone conversation took place on on April 21, shortly after Zelensky was elected.
“I’d like to congratulate you on a job well done, and congratulations on a fantastic election,” Trump told Zelensky, according to the White House “memorandum of telephone conversation.”
The release of that memorandum had been expected, and seemed coordinated with House Republicans, as Nunes read from it during his opening statement.
The impeachment inquiry has centered in large part on a later July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky. Trump has repeatedly insisted that Americans should “read the transcript” of that call — though, like the details of the earlier call released Friday, it is not an actual complete transcript. The record of the July 25 call showed Trump pressing Zelensky to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, as well as a discredited conspiracy theory about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.
In his opening statement,
Schiff ran through the resume and credentials of Yovanovitch.
“She is known as an anti-corruption activist whose tour in Kiev was considered widely successful,” he said, calling her a “highly regarded career diplomat.” But, he said, invoking testimony from Kent on Wednesday, Yovanovitch’s anti-corruption efforts ended up “pissing off” corrupt actors. Not just in Ukraine, he said, “but also certain Americans, like Rudy Giuliani.”
Giuliani, the former New York mayor, is Trump’s personal lawyer and is accused of interfering with official American foreign policy in Ukraine. In her closed-door testimony, Yovanovitch described a smear campaign that Giuliani led against her, saying she was disloyal to the president, and led to her ouster. She is expected to detail that campaign in Friday’s hearing.
“Giuliani has made no secret of his desire to get Ukraine to open investigations into the Bidens, as well as a conspiracy theory of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election,” Schiff said. “And he has never been shy about who he is doing this work for — his client, the president.”
House members representing the Philadelphia region have a range of positions on impeachment, from the most aggressively in favor in deep-blue areas to the more cautious in purple swing districts.
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, the Republican senator from Pennsylvania, has called Trump’s now infamous July phone call with Zelensky “inappropriate,” but said it “does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.”
Toomey has remained firm in that position even as new details about Trump’s pressure campaign have emerged.
If the House ultimately does impeach Trump, Toomey, who vowed in his 2016 reelection campaign to be an “independent voice,” will face a defining moment in the Senate trial over whether to remove Trump from office.
Friday’s hearing began at 9 a.m. with opening statements from Schiff and Nunes. Yovanovitch began testifying after that.
PBS is offering a live stream of the hearing, which viewers can follow along with below:
As with the first day of public hearings on Wednesday, Friday’s proceedings are being aired widely on network and cable television stations.
Friday’s proceedings features testimony from Yovanovitch, the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. She was removed from the post earlier this year following a campaign led by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who without evidence criticized her as disloyal to Trump.
Yovanovitch took her position as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine in 2016, but was ousted in May following a public campaign by Trump allies. Earlier this month, Yovanovitch said in a closed-door deposition before Congress that she was told to “watch my back” by a senior Ukrainian official, who said Giuliani and his associates, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, wanted to pursue business dealings in the country and saw her as an obstacle.
Start time: 11 a.m.
Anchor: George Stephanopoulos
Streaming: Live coverage on ABCNews.com.
Local affiliate: 6ABC
Start time: 9 a.m.
Anchor: CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor Norah O’Donnell
Streaming: Live coverage on CBSN.
Local affiliate: CBS3
Start time: 9 a.m.
Anchor: Outnumbered Overtime anchor Harris Faulkner
Local affiliate: Fox 29 (will only dip in and out of live coverage on the local affiliate)
Start time: 9 a.m.
Streaming: Live coverage will be streamed on C-SPAN.org.
Start time: 8:30 a.m.