Day two of the public impeachment hearings featured an oddity. Marie Yovanovitch, the former US ambassador to Ukraine, was asked to respond in real time to a Friday morning tweet from Trump in which he criticized her. Details and coverage:
- Trump: "Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad," he wrote shortly after her testimony began. "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. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors."
- Yovanovitch: Democrat Adam Schiff called Trump's tweet "witness intimidation" and asked Yovanovitch to respond, reports Politico. "I actually think that where I've served over the years, I and others have demonstrably made things better, you know, for the US as well as for the countries that I've served in," she said when Trump's comments were read aloud. She also described Trump's attacks as "very intimidating" for her and other witnesses. See video via CNN.
- Two views: Criticism of Trump's tweet wasn't just from the left, notes the Washington Post. Former independent counsel Ken Starr, a usual defender of Trump, had this to say on Fox News: Trump “was not advised by counsel in deciding to do this tweet. Extraordinarily poor judgment.” But former White House press chief Ari Fleischer disagrees. "As for Trump’s tweet, to call it witness intimidation is laughable," he tweeted. "People can say whatever they want about Trump and he can’t say what he thinks? The witness has every right to speak her mind and he can speak his. If witnesses are so intimidated, why do they keep showing up?"
- Trump defends: Asked about his tweet Friday afternoon, Trump stood by his words, saying he has the right to defend himself. "I have the right to speak. I have freedom of speech just like other people do," Trump told reporters at the White House, per the Hill. Asked if his comments can be intimidating to others, he said, "I don't think so at all."
- Earlier criticism: Yovanovitch told lawmakers she was "devastated" to learn that Trump disparaged her in his July phone call to Ukraine's leader. In that call, he described her as "bad news" and said that "she's going to go through some things." That sounded like a threat, said Yovanovitch. “I didn’t sound good,” she said. “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.”
- Opening statement: Read Yovanovitch's in full via Axios here. "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. (Read a summary of her testimony from behind closed doors last month.)
- Schiff: Read his opening statement here. He said Yovanovitch's ouster as ambassador "was a stunning turn of events for this highly regarded career diplomat." The ouster was purely political, he added. "Yovanovitch was serving our nation’s interest in fighting corruption in Ukraine, but she was considered an obstacle to the furtherance of the President’s personal and political agenda. For that she was smeared and cast aside."
- Devin Nunes: In his own opening statement, Schiff's GOP counterpart slammed Democrats for acting like "some kind of strange cult” while seeking to "fulfill their Watergate fantasies," per the Washington Post. Nunes also read an excerpt from Trump's first phone call with Ukraine's leader, in April, to make the case that Trump sought no favors. (The White House released a readout of that call on Friday.) "It’s unfortunate that today and for most of the next week we will continue engaging in the Democrats’ day-long TV spectacles instead of the problems we were all sent to Washington to address," he said. His full opening statement is here.
(Read other highlights
, including Yovanvitch's rejection of a lawmaker's unusual theory.)