Impeachment Hearing Updates: What to Expect From Yovanovitch’s Testimony

Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former United States ambassador to Ukraine, will be the sole witness in the second day of impeachment hearings on Friday. She is expected to recount her ouster after a relentless smear campaign spearheaded by Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer.

In closed-door testimony, Ms. Yovanovitch, who goes by the nickname Masha, and others have described how Mr. Giuliani and Trump allies accused her of undermining the president during the 2016 election, something she calls a scurrilous lie. In Ms. Yovanovitch’s telling, Mr. Giuliani saw her as an impediment to his agenda, which included pushing Ukraine to investigate the son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

A veteran diplomat with more than 30 years of service, Ms. Yovanovitch was abruptly told in the spring to “get on the next plane” home from Kiev. In her public testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, she is expected to describe the personal trauma she endured as the administration’s traditional diplomatic establishment in Ukraine collided with a rogue foreign policy operation run by Mr. Giuliani.

In her opening statement during closed-door testimony, she said, “Although I understand that I served at the pleasure of the president, I was nevertheless incredulous that the U.S. government chose to remove an ambassador based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.”

Democrats are betting that Ms. Yovanovitch — an immigrant who served under six presidents from both parties — will offer the public a compelling human story that dramatizes how Mr. Trump ran roughshod over American diplomats in pursuit of his own goals in Ukraine. In the view of Democrats, she is a sympathetic victim of bullying by Mr. Giuliani and the president, whose decision to pull her from Ukraine helped set the stage for the campaign to pressure that country’s president.

Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, has described her as “someone who served the country with distinctions for decades” and who witnessed what he called the damage that Mr. Giuliani’s efforts were having on America’s foreign policy. In his remarks on Wednesday, he said that after the ouster of Ms. Yovanovitch, “the stage was set” for the rogue diplomatic efforts that Mr. Giuliani led.

During her closed-door testimony, Ms. Yovanovitch displayed flashes of emotion, her voice trailing off as she described her disappointment when she realized her ambassadorship had been terminated. “Do you want to take a minute?” Daniel Goldman, the chief Democratic lawyer, asked her. “Yeah, just a minute,” she said, according to the transcript of her testimony.

Democrats are hoping she will replay that kind of reaction, and more, during Friday’s public hearing — this time in front of video cameras capturing the moments on television.

Republicans know they have to be careful when they question Ms. Yovanovitch, making sure they don’t look as if they are bullying a victim in the impeachment story. One Republican strategist compared their preparations for dealing with Ms. Yovanovitch to the way senators prepared for the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, the professor who accused Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers.

But Republicans have already tipped their hand about how they intend to confront Ms. Yovanovitch. They plan to argue that she was terminated in late April, long before the events at the center of the impeachment inquiry: the July 25 telephone between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, and the decision to withhold security aid unless Mr. Zelensky announced investigations into the president’s political rivals.

“She was not there during the relevant time that this whole impeachment inquiry is to address,” Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina, said Thursday. “She was gone.”

Republicans also plan to make the point that ambassadors like Ms. Yovanovitch serve at the pleasure of the president, and can be fired any time the president decides he wants someone else to represent him. So her ouster, they will say, was perfectly appropriate.

The most important element of Ms. Yovanovitch’s testimony may be about the effect of Mr. Giuliani’s actions on the State Department. In her closed-door interview, she described in detail how his efforts to smear her undermined the work of other career diplomats as they pursued what they believed was the administration’s foreign policy.

“Bad actors” in Ukraine and elsewhere will “see how easy it is to use fiction and innuendo to manipulate our system,” she warned in that session. “The only interests that will be served are those of our strategic adversaries, like Russia.”

Among the bad actors that Ms. Yovanovitch identified were two American businessmen, Lev Parnas, who was born in Ukraine and Igor Fruman, who was born in Belarus. They worked with Mr. Giuliani to get rid of Ms. Yovanovitch and have since been indicted in a complex scheme to violate campaign finance laws.

But Ms. Yovanovitch is likely to focus on Mr. Giuliani himself. He criticized her repeatedly in public and private, suggesting she was disloyal to Mr. Trump and prompting venomous criticism from others, including Donald Trump Jr., who tweeted a link to an item that described Ms. Yovanovitch as “an anti-Trump, Obama flunkey.” She told lawmakers privately that “the harm will come not just through the inevitable and continuing resignation and loss of many of this nation’s most loyal and talented public servants.”

Ms. Yovanovitch will make one critical connection directly to Mr. Trump: the president’s own words about her during the July 25 call with Mr. Zelensky.

During that conversation, Mr. Trump referred to Ms. Yovanovitch by saying that she was “bad news” and later reassured Mr. Zelensky that “she’s going to go through some things. I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call.” Ms. Yovanovitch has said that she felt “threatened” by the president’s words, and still fears retaliation.

In her previous testimony, Ms. Yovanovitch described herself as “shocked” by the president’s comments about her, saying: “I was very concerned. I still am.” Democrats hope her public testimony about the president’s comments will counter a key Republican talking point, that many of the witnesses have only secondhand knowledge about what the president said or did. In the case of Ms. Yovanovitch, the president’s comments about her come directly from his own words on the call.

A new figure will enter the impeachment drama on Friday afternoon when David Holmes, the political counselor at the American Embassy in Ukraine, is scheduled to testify privately in the inquiry. Investigators want to ask him about a phone call that he overheard in July between Mr. Trump and Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, who was part of a group of Trump loyalists engaged in diplomacy with Ukraine.

William B. Taylor Jr., the top diplomat in Ukraine and Mr. Holmes’s boss, told lawmakers at Wednesday’s public hearing that he had recently learned that one of his aides overheard the president asking Mr. Sondland about “the investigations,” an apparent reference to Mr. Trump’s desire for investigations of his political rivals. Mr. Taylor testified that the aide — who investigators have since learned was Mr. Holmes — then heard Mr. Sondland respond that the “Ukrainians were ready to move forward.”

After the call ended, Mr. Holmes asked Mr. Sondland what the president thought about Ukraine, and the ambassador responded that, “President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden,” according to Mr. Taylor. Republicans have argued that much of the testimony from Mr. Taylor and others has been secondhand. Democratic lawmakers are eager to hear Mr. Holmes, a Foreign Service officer for 17 years, describe the call himself.

  • Mr. Trump repeatedly pressured Mr. Zelensky to investigate people and issues of political concern to Mr. Trump, including Mr. Biden. Here’s a timeline of events since January.

  • A C.I.A. officer who was once detailed to the White House filed a whistle-blower complaint on Mr. Trump’s interactions with Mr. Zelensky. Read the complaint.

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