Sat | Dec 14, 2019

Ousted ambassador testifies in Trump impeachment probe

Published:Friday | November 15, 2019 | 9:45 AM
Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch arrives to testify to the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, November 15, 2019, during the second public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie US aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House opened a second day of Trump impeachment hearings Friday with a key witness: Marie Yovanovitch, the former US ambassador to Ukraine who was targeted by the president’s allies in a “smear” campaign now central to the inquiry.

The public session was gavelled open before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill.

Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the panel, praised Yovanovitch, saying she was “too tough on corruption for some, and her principled stance made her enemies.”

It became clear, he said, “President Trump wanted her gone.”

The top Republican on the panel, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, bemoaned the hearings as a “day-long TV spectacle.”

Nunes complained that Democrats are relying on hearsay testimony from witnesses who only know of Trump’s actions second-hand. He also pressed to hear from the still anonymous government whistleblower who first alerted officials about President Donald Trump’s phone call with Ukraine that is in question. “These hearings should not be occurring at all,” he said.

Just as the hearing was opening, the White House released its rough transcript of an earlier call Trump had with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that was largely congratulatory.

Nunes read that transcript aloud. In it, Trump mentioned his experience with the Miss Universe pageant in Ukraine and invited Zelenskiy to the White House. He closed with, “See you very soon.”

Yovanovitch, a career diplomat, who has served both Republican and Democratic presidents, was expected to relay her striking story of being told to “watch my back” and then being suddenly recalled by President Donald Trump in a swiftly developing series of events that sounded alarms about a White House shadow foreign policy.

She and other officials now testifying publicly in the historic House hearings are providing accounts that Democrats are relying on to make the case that the president’s behaviour was impeachable.

With the start of a second day of hearings to consider removal of America’s 45th president, Democrats and Republicans are both hardening their messages to voters.

Americans are deeply entrenched in two camps over impeachment, resulting in a mounting political battle that will further test the nation in one of the most polarising eras of modern times.

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