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tv   Today in the Bay  NBC  November 15, 2019 6:00am-7:01am PST

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where the public impeachment hearing is set to resume shortly. we'll show it to you live. more local news throughout the day head to >> of course we'll have that special report from nbc news right now. have a great morning. s this is an nbc news special report. the impeachment hearings. here is lester holt and savannah guthrie. >> good morning everyone welcome to nbc news' live coverage on today's hearing on the impeachment of president donald trump. a key house committee will hear testimony this morning on this question. did president trump abuse the powers of his office by pressuring a foreign country, ukraine, for his personal benefit to investigate a 2020 likely political rival joe biden? and did he improperly withhold badly needed military aid and other support to increase that pressure? >> this is the second public
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hearing of tchment inquiry. wednesday. this morning's witness former u.s. ambassador to ukraine marie yovanovitch. she has already arrived at the hill this morning. more than 30 years she spent a veteran of the u.s. foreign service serving under both republican and democratic presidents. she became a target of president trump's personal lawyer rudy guiliani and was ousted by the president earlier this year. helping us follow it all this morning we have chuck todd our "meet the press" moderator in washington. andrea mitchell is here. richard engel and former justice department prosecutor andrew weisman now an nbc news legal analyst. let's start on the hill. nbc's jeff bennett at his post with what to expect this morning. good morning. >> reporter: good morning to you. marie yovanovitch has been a foreign service officer for some 33 years serving in six presidential administrations, three times as an ambassador in hot spots all around the world, two times appointed by a republican president including president trump, himself. house democrats say her testimony is key because she
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really, they say, put a personal face, a human face on the entire ukraine controversy since her testimony is that she was steam rolled, smeared, and ultimately sidelined once president trump's allies realized she would be an obstacle to his desired pressure campaign, yovanovitch saying she feared for her safety as a result. >> thank you very much. >> now to our nbc legal analyst and former doj prosecutor. help us understand where she fits. we saw the narrative laid out wednesday fairly clearly of what democrats claim the president did. how does she fit? why is her testimony important at this stage of the game? >> for any trial you can't tell the story all at once. you have to have building blocks. she is an important building block and the issue i think for her is not that she was fired. it's why she was fired. you're going to hear i think today over and over again the concern from the republicans that there is nothing wrong legally with the president firing an ambassador.
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it can happen all of the time but i think what she is going to lay out is the why. why was it that she was being railroaded at this time? i also think she'll be important in setting up just how easy a mark the ukraine was for the president and his friends. in other words, they were particularly vulnerable. i think that's going to be the import of her testimony. >> do we think that republicans will have an easier time taking aim at her than they did in the previous testimony? >> well, you know, with any witness we haven't seen them live to see their credibility, you know, the house has because they've seen her at the deposition. but i think by all accounts she, i assume, is going to be a very strong, credible witness. i mean, she is somebody who served in the department for years, the department of state for years. she is not aligned with any one particular party. so i suspect that she is going to be quite a credible witness like the two witnesses that we saw the other day.
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>> let me turn to chuck todd who is in washington because for the first time, chuck, we heard yesterday house speaker nancy pelosi really put this in stark terms. she used the term bribery and it was a signal of what an impeachment charge, if it comes, might be. how significant do you think that was? >> well, i think that's a -- i think they believe they're trying to change the language a little bit, trying to penetrate what they think is a little bit of a filter in the american public that isn't necessarily consuming all of this right now. but i expect to see, to hear some of that same language echoed today particularly by the democrats. expect to hear a lot about rudy guiliani today. a lot of questions about rudy guiliani. about what he was up to. i think you're going to hear some surprising, odd things that happened on the side channel, rudy guiliani. there may even be some fox news personalities whose names get dropped during this deposition.
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the entire run up to the presidential election in ukraine before zelensky won, i think, is what you're going to hear a lot about today and obviously that's what she can testify to because she was there for that. i'll be curious to see what the republicans do with her. do they try to go after her credibility or do they basically back off and say you know what? she wasn't there for the call. never mind. because i think they run the risk if they go after her hard they run the risk of making her seem more sympathetic. they may end up just deciding, you know what? she is not relevant to what we think should be the focus of this hearing and they may back off on their questioning. i'll be very curious to see how they handle her. >> president trump notably said he didn't watch wednesday's hearing but it sounds like he may be trying to counter program this one. let's go to the white house. >> reporter: he sure is, lester. not only with an event later today focused on health care but also with this just hitting our inboxes here at the white house about two mints ago right at the stroke of 9:00 a.m. as i see the witnesses coming in it is the
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first transcript, the first call rather, the summary of that first discussion between president trump and the ukrainian president zelensky back in april. this is a congratulatory call, the president on my first reading does not bring up the bidens but does say we have more to talk about down the road after congratulating zelensky on his victory. again, this is not the call in question. the whistle-blower complaint centered around the july call not this initial one right when zelensky was first elected. the president has been promising to release it. very interesting timing that he chooses to do so and the white house is doing so as this public hearing is beginning. >> thanks very much as we look at ambassador yovanovitch taking her place, waiting for this hearing to start. >> to andrea, you've also covered foreign policy for many years. there is a republican defense here that says that military aid while it was withheld for a time ultimately was released and so there was no damage done. how can democrats battle that particular argument? >> reporter: they are arguing and most foreign policy experts
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are arguing that it was really damaging to zelensky, to his standing as a new, young leader that it fatally damaged his ongoing negotiations with vladimir putin because by then putin knew president trump was in his corner not zelensky's corner and the aid was conditioned. >> the committee will be holding this as part of the impeachment inquiry. without objection the chair has authorized the recess of the committee at any time. there is a quorum present. we will proceed today in the same fashion as our first hearing. i will make an opening statement and then ranking member nunes will have the opportunity to make a statement. we will turn to our witness for an opening statement and then to questions. for audience members we welcome you and respect your interest in being here. in turn, we ask for your respect as we proceed with today's hearing. it is the intention of the committee to proceed without disruptions. as chairman i will take all necessary and appropriate steps. to maintain order and ensure the
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committee is run in accordance with house rules and house resolution 660. with that i now recognize myself to give an opening statement in the impeachment inquiry of donald j. trump the 45th president of the united states. in april, 2019, the united states ambassador to ukraine, marie yovanovitch, was in kiev when she was called by a senior state department official and told to get on the next plane back to washington. upon her return to d.c., she was informed by her superiors that although she had done nothing wrong, she could no longer serve as ambassador to ukraine because she did not have the confidence of the president. it was a stunning turn of events for this highly regarded career diplomat who had done such a remarkable job fighting corruption in ukraine that a short time earlier she had been asked by the state department to extend her tour. ambassador yovanovitch has been in the foreign service for 33 years and served much of that
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time in the former soviet union. her parents have fled stalin and later hitler before settling in the united states. she is an exemplary officer who is widely praised and respected by her colleagues. she is known as an anti-corruption champion whose tour in kiev was viewed as very successful. ambassador michael mckinley who had served with her in the foreign service for several decades stated that from the earliest days of her career in the foreign service she was excellent, serious, committed. i certainly remember her being one of those people who seechme to be destined for greater things. her successor is acting chief of mission in ukraine ambassador bill taylor, described her as very frank. she was very direct. she made points very clearly. and she was indeed tough on corruption. and she named names. and that sometimes is controversial out there, but she's a strong person and made
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those charges. in her time in kiev, ambassador yovanovitch was tough on corruption. too tough on corruption for some. and her principled stance made her enemies. as george kent told this committee wednesday you can't commit to anticorruption principled action without pissing off corrupt people. ambassador yovanovitch didn't just piss off corrupt ukrainians like the former general lutsenko but also certain americans like rudy guiliani, donald trump's personal attorney, and two individuals now indicted who worked with him, igor fruman and levparnas. they and others who would come to include the president's own son don jr. promoted a smear campaign against her based on false allegations. at the state department there was an effort to push back to obtain a statement of support
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from secretary pompeo but those efforts failed when it became clear that president trump wanted her gone. some have argued the president has the ability to remove any ambassador that he wants. that they serve at the pleasure of the president, and that is true. the question before us is not whether donald trump could recall an american ambassador with a stellar reputation for fighting corruption in ukraine but why would he want to? why did rudy guiliani want her gone and why did donald trump? why would donald trump instruct the new team he put in place the three amigos, rick perry and kurt volker to work with the same man rudy guiliani who played such a central role in the smear campaign against her? rudy guiliani has made no secret of his desire to get ukraine to open investigations nah the bidens. as well as the conspiracy theory
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of ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. as he said in one interview in may, 2019, we're not meddling in an election. we're meddling in an investigation. which we have a right to do. more recently, he told krn's chris cuomo, of course he did when asked if he had pressed ukraine to investigate joe biden. and he has never been shy about who he is doing this work for. his client, the president. one powerful ally guiliani had in ukraine to promote these investigations was lutsenko, the corrupt former prosecutor general. and one powerful adversary lutsenko had was a certain united states ambassador named marie yovanovitch. it is no coincidence that in the now infamous july 25th call with zelensky donald trump brings up a corrupt ukrainian prosecutor and praises him against all
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evidence trump claims this former prosecutor general was very good and he was shut down and that's really unfair. but the woman known for fighting corruption his own former ambassador, the woman ruthlessly smeared and driven from her post, the president does nothing but disparage. or, worse, threaten. well, she is going to go through some things, the president declares. that tells you a lot about the president's priorities and intentions. getting rid of ambassador yovanovitch helped set the stage for an irregular channel that could pursue the two investigations that mattered so much to the president. the 2016 conspiracy theory and, most important, an investigation into the 2020 political opponent he apparently feared most, joe biden. and the president's scheme might have worked but for the fact that the man who would succeed ambassador yovanovitch whom we
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heard from on wednesday acting ambassador taylor, would eventually discover the effort to press ukraine into conducting these investigations and would push back. but for the fact, also, that someone blew the whistle. ambassador yovanovitch was serving our nation's interests and 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. the powers of the presidency are immense. but they are not absolute and they cannot be used for corrupt purpose. the american people expect their president to use the authority they grant him in the service of the nation, not to destroy others to advance his personal or political interests. i now recognize ranking member
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nunes for his remarks. >> i thank the gentleman. it is unfortunate that today and for most of next week we will continue engaging in the democrats' day long tv spectacles instead of solving the problems we were all sent to washington to address. we now have a major trade agreement with canada and mexico ready for approval, a deal that would create jobs and boost our economy. mean while we have not yet approved funding for the government, which expires next week. along with funding for our men and women in uniform. instead, the democrats have convened us once again to advance their operation to topple a duly elected president. i'll note that five -- five democrats on this committee had already voted to impeach this president before the trump-zelensky phone call occurred. in fact, democrats have been vowing to oust president trump
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since the day he was elected. so americans can rightly suspect that his phone call with president zelensky was used as an excuse for the democrats to fulfill their watergate fantasies. but i'm glad that on wednesday, after the democrats staged six the basement of the capitol like some kind of strange cult, the american people finally got to see this farce for themselves. they saw us sit through hours of hearsay testimony about conversations that two diplomats who had never spoken to the president heard second hand, third hand, and fourth hand from other people. in other words, rumors. the problem of trying to overthrow a president based on this type of evidence is obvious. but that's what their whole case
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relies on beginning with second-hand and third-hand information cited by the whistle-blower. that's why on wednesday the democrats were forced to make the absurd argument that hearsay can be much better evidence than direct evidence. and just when you thought the spectacle couldn't get more bizarre, the committee republicans received a memo from the democrats threatening ethics referrals if we out the whistle-blower. as the democrats are well aware, no republicans here know the whistle-blower's identity because the whistle-blower only met with democrats. not with republicans. chairman schiff claimed not to know who it is. yet he also vowed to block us from asking questions that could reveal his or her identity. republicans on this committee are left wondering how it's even possible for the chairman to block questions about a person
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whose identity he claims not to know. the american people may be seeing these absurdities for the first time but republicans on this dais are used to them. until they secretly met with the whistle-blower democrats showed little interest for the last three years in any topic aside from the ridiculous conspiracy theories that president trump is a russian agent. when you find yourself on the phone like the democrats did with the russian pranksters offering you nude pictures of trump and afterward you order your staff to follow up and get the photos, as the democrats also did, then it might be time to ask yourself if you've gone out too far on a limb. even as they were accusing republicans of colluding with the russians the democrats themselves were colluding with
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the russians by funding the dossier. mean while they turned a blind eye to ukrainians meddling in our elections because the democrats were cooperating with that operation. this was the subject of a july 20th, 2017 letter sent by senator grassley to then deputy attorney general rod rosenstein. the letter raised concerns about the activities alexander chalupa a contractor for the democratic national committee who worked with embassy officials to spread dirt on the trump campaign. as senator grassley wrote, chalupa's actions, quote, chalupa's actions appear to show she was simultaneously working on behalf of a foreign government, ukraine, and on behalf of the dnc and the clinton campaign in an effort to influence not only the u.s. voting population but u.s. government officials. unquote.
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after touting the dossier and defending the fbi's russia investigation, which are now being investigated by inspector general horowitz and attorney general barr democrats on this committee ignore ukrainian election meddling even though chalupa publicly admitted to the democrats' scheme. like wise, they are blind to the blaring signs of corruption surrounding hunter biden's well paid position on the board of a corrupt ukrainian company while his father served as vice president and point man for ukraine issues in the obama administration. but the democrats' media hacks only cared about that issue briefly. when they were trying to stop joe biden from running against hillary clinton in 2015. as i previously stated, these hearings should not be occurring at all until we get the answers to three crucial questions the democrats refuse to ask. first, what is the full extent
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of the democrats' prior coordination with the whistle-blower and who else did the whistle-blower coordinate this effort with? second, what is the full extent of ukraine's election meddling against the trump campaign? and, third, why did the company hire hunter biden? what did he do for them? did his position affect any government actions under the obama administration? note that house democrats vowed they would not put the american people through a wrenching impeachment process without bipartisan support. and they have. add that to there ever growing list of broken promises and destructive deceptions. in closing, mr. chair, the president of the united states released his transcript right before the hearing began. i think it is important i read this into the record so there is
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no confusion over the first phone call that occurred on april 21st with president-elect zelensky. i'd like to read it. the president, i'd like to congratulate you on a job well done and congratulations on a fantastic election. zelensky, good to hear from you. thank you so very much. it's nice to hear from you. and i appreciate the congratulations. the president, that was an incredible election. zelensky, again, thank you so very much. as you can see, we tried very hard to do our best. we had you as a great example. the president -- i think you will do a great job. i have many friends in ukraine who know you and like you. i have many friends from ukraine and, frankly, expected you to win. and it's really an amazing thing that you've done. i guess in a way i did something similar. we're making tremendous progress in the u.s.
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we have the most tremendous economy ever. i just wanted to congratulate you. i have no doubt you will be a fantastic president. zelensky: first of all, thank you so very much. again, for the congratulations. we in ukraine are an independent country and independent ukraine. we're going to do everything for the people. you are, as i said, a great example. we are hoping we can expand on our jobs as you did. you will also be a great example for many. you are a great example for our new managers. i'd also like to invite you if possible to the inauguration. i know how busy you are but if it's possible for you to come to the inauguration ceremony, that would be great. great for you to do to be with us on that day. the president: that's very nice. i'll look into that. give us a date. at the very minimum we'll have a great representative or more from the united states will be with you on that great day. so we will have somebody at a
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minimum, a very, very high level, and will be with you, brilliant and incredible day for an incredible achievement. zelensky: again, thank you. we're looking forward to your visit, to the visit of a high level delegation, but there's no words that can describe our wonderful country, how nice, warm, and friendly our people are, how tasty and delicious our food is, and how wonderful ukraine is. words cannot describe our country so it would be best for you to see it yourself. so if you can come, that would be great. so, again, i invite you to come. the president: well, i agree with you about your country and i look forward to it. always had great people. ukraine always very well represented. was always very well remd. when you're settled in and ready i'd like to invite you to the white house. we'll have a lot of things to talk about. but we're with you all the way. zelensky: thank you for the invitation. we accept the invitation and look forward to the visit. thank you again.
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the whole team and i are looking forward to the visit. thank you for the congratulations. and i think it will still be great if you could come and be with us on this important day. the results are incredible. they're very impressive for us. so it would be absolutely fantastic if you could come on that day. the president: very good. we'll let you know very soon. and we will see you very, very soon regardless. congratulations. and please say hello to the ukrainian people and your family. let them know i send my best regards. well, thank you -- zelensky: well thank you. you have a safe flight and see you soon. the president: take care of yourself and give a great speech today. you take care of yourself and i'll see you soon. zelensky: thank you very much. it's difficult for me but i will practice english and i will meet in english. thank you very much. the president: laughing, that's beautiful to hear. that is really good. i could not do it in your language. i'm very impressed. thank you so much. zelensky: thank you so much.
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the president: good day. good luck. i was able to read that into the record so now the american people know the very first call that president trump had with president zelensky. and with that i yield back the balance of my time. >> mr. chairman, i have a parliamentary inquiry. >> the gentleman was not recognized. >> mr. chairman i have a point of order under hres 660. >> state the point of order. >> the point of order is will the chairman continue to prohibit witnesses from answering republican questions as you've done in closed hearings and as you did -- >> chairman will suspend. that is not a proper point of order. gentleman will suspend. >> mr. chairman, i have -- >> gentleman is not recognized. >> i have a point of order. >> the gentleman is not recognized. i do want to respond -- >> i have a point of order. >> the gentleman is not recognized. >> this is for transcripts not released -- >> the gentleman is not recognized.
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>> holy cow. >> the ranking member was allowed to exceed the opening statement and i was happy to allow him to do so. i do want to respond to the call record. first of all, i'm grateful the president has released the call record. i would now ask the president to release the thousands of other records that he has instructed the state department not to release, including ambassador taylor's notes, including ambassador taylor's cable, including george kent's memo, including documents from the office of management and budget about why the military aid was withheld. >> mr. chairman i want you to release the four transcripts of the depositions -- >> the gentleman is not recognized. >> that is my point of order. >> gentleman will suspend. >> gee. >> we will ask the president to stop obstructing the impeachment inquiry. while we are grateful he has released a single document he has nonetheless obstructed witnesses and their testimony and the production of thousands and thousands of other records. and, finally, i would say this, mr. president, i hope you'll
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explain to the country today why it was after this call and while the vice president was making plans to attend the inauguration that you instructed the vice president not to attend zelensky's inauguration. >> mr. chairman, i have a point of order. mr. chairman, i have a point of order. >> the chair will not recognize. >> so we know clearly you are going to interrupt us throughout this hearing. >> the gentle woman is not recognized. >> chairman i have a unanimous request. >> no. the gentleman is not recognized. today we are joined by ambassador marie yovanovitch. she was born in canada to parents who fled the soviet union and the nazis. ambassador yovanovitch emigrated to connecticut at 3, became a naturalized american at 18, and entered the u.s. foreign service in 1986. she has served as u.s. ambassador three times and been nominated by presidents of both parties. george w. bush nominated her to be ambassador to the republic where she served from 2005 to
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2008. president obama then nominated her to be u.s. ambassador to armenia where she served from 2008 until 2011. and u.s. ambassador to ukraine where she served from 2016 until she was recalled to washington by president trump this may. beyond these posts she has held numerous other senior positions at the state department including in the bureau of european and eurasian affairs. she served as a dean at the foreign service institute and taught national security strategy at the defense university. she also previously served at u.s. embassyies in kiev, ottawa, moscow, london, and mogadishu. ambassador yovanovitch has received multiple honors from the department for her diplomatic work including the presidential distinguished service award and the secretary's diplomacy and human rights award. two final points before our witness is sworn. first witness depositions as part of this inquiry were unclassified in nature and all open hearings will also be held at the unclassified level.
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any information that may touch on classified information will be addressed separately. second, congress will not tolerate any reprisal, threat of reprisal, or attempt to retaliate against any u.s. government official for testifying before congress including you or any of your colleagues. if you would please rise and raise your right hand i will begin by swearing you in. do you swear or affirm that the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you god? let the record show that the witness has answered in the affirmative. thank you and please be seated. without objection, your written statement will be made part of the record. with that, ambassador marie yovanovitch, you are recognized for your opening statement. >> mr. chairman, ranking member nunes, and other members of the committee. >> ambassador, you'll need to speak very close to the microphone. >> okay. thank you for the opportunity to start with this statement.
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to reintroduce myself to the committee, and to highlight parts of my biography and experience. i come before you as an american citizen who has devoted the majority of my life, 33 years, to service to the country that all of us love. like my colleagues, i entered the foreign service understanding that my job was to implement the foreign policy interests of this nation as defined by the president and congress and to do so regardless of which person or party was in power. i had no agenda other than to pursue our stated foreign policy goals. my service is an expression of gratitude for all that this country has given to me and to my family. my late parents did not have the good fortune to come of age in a free society. my father fled the soviets before ultimately finding refuge
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in the united states. my mother's family escaped the ussr after the revolution and she grew up stateless in nazi germany before, also, eventually making her way to the united states. their personal history, my personal history, gave me both deep gratitude toward the united states and great empathy for others, like the ukrainian people who want to be free. i joined the foreign service during the reagan administration and subsequently served three other republican presidents as well as two democratic presidents. it was my great honor to be appointed to serve as an ambassador three times, twice by george w. bush and once by barack obama. there is a perception that diplomats lead a comfortable life, throwing dinner parties in fancy homes. let me tell you about some of my reality. it has not always been easy.
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i have moved 13 times and serve in seven different countries, five of them hardship posts. my first tour was mogadishu, somalia. an increasingly dangerous place as that country's civil war kept grinding on and the government was weakening. the military took over policing functions in a particularly brutal way and basic services disappeared. several years later after the soviet union collapsed, i helped open our embassy in uzbekistan. as we were establishing relations with a new country our small embassy was attacked by a gunman who sprayed the embassy building with gunfire. i later served in moscow. in 1993, during the attempted coup in russia, i was caught in crossfire between presidential and parliamentary forces. it took us three tries, me
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without a helmet or body armor, to get into a vehicle to go to the embassy. we went because the ambassador asked us to come. we went because it was our duty. from august, 2016, until may, 2019, i served as the u.s. ambassador to ukraine. during my tenure in ukraine, i went to the front line approximately ten times. during a hot war of. to show the american flag, to hear what was going on, sometimes literally as we heard the impact of artillery, and to see how our assistance dollars were being put to use. i worked to advance u.s. policy, fully embraced by democrats and republicans alike, to help ukraine become a stable and independent, democratic state with a market economy integrated into europe. a secure, democratic, and free ukraine serves not just the ukrainian people but the american people as well.
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that's why it was our policy and continues to be our policy to help the ukrainians achieve their objectives. they match our objectives. the u.s. is the most powerful country in the history of the world in large part because of our values. and our values have made possible the network of alliances and partnerships that buttresses our own strengths. ukraine, with an enormous land mass and a large population, has the potential to be a significant commercial and political partner for the united states, as well as a force mullet pli multiplier on the security side. we see the potential in ukraine. russia sees a contrast, sees the risk. the history is not written yet. but ukraine could move out of russia's orbit, and now ukraine is a battleground for great power competition.
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with a hot war for the control of territory and a hybrid war to control ukraine's leadership. the u.s. has provided significant security assistance since the onset of the war against russia in 2014. and the trump administration strengthened our policy by approving the provision to ukraine of antitank missiles known as javelins. supporting ukraine is the right thing to do. it's also the smart thing to do. falls to russian dominion, we can expect to see other attempts by russia to expand its territory and its influence. as critical as the war against russia is, ukraine's struggling democracy has an equally important challenge -- battling the soviet legacy of corruption, which has pervaded ukraine's government. corruption makes ukraine's leaders ever vulnerable to russia and the ukrainian people understand that.
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that's why they launched the revolution of dignity in 2014 demanding to be a part of europe. demanding the transformation of the system. demanding to live under the rule of law. ukrainians wanted the law to apply equally to all people, whether the individual in question is the president or any other citizen. it was a question of fairness. of dignity. here again, there is a coincidence of interests. corrupt leaders are inherently less trust worthy while an honest and accountable ukrainian leadership makes a u.s./ukrainian partnership more reliable and more valuable to the united states. a level playing field in this strategically located country bordering four nato allies creates an environment in which u.s. business can more easily trade, invest, and prosper. corruption is also a security issue because corrupt officials are vulnerable to moscow.
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in short, it is in america's national security interest to help ukraine transform into a country where the rule of law governs and corruption is held in check. it was and remains a top u.s. priority to help ukraine fight corruption and significant progress has been made since the 2014 revolution of dignity. unfortunately, as the past couple of months have underlined not all ukrainians embraced our anticorruption work. thus, perhaps, it was not surprising that when our anticorruption efforts got in the way of a desire for profit or power, ukrainians who prefer to play by the old, corrupt rules sought to remove me. what continues to amaze me is that they found americans willing to partner with them and working together they apparently succeeded in orchestrating the removal of a u.s. ambassador. how could our system fail like this? how is it that foreign, corrupt
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interests could manipulate our government? which country's interests are served when the very corrupt behavior we have been criticizing is allowed to prevail? such conduct undermines the u.s., exposes our friends, and widens the playing field for autocrats like president putin. our leadership depends on the power of our example and the consistency of our purpose. both have now been opened to question. with that background in mind, i'd like to briefly address some of the factual issues i expect you may want to ask me about, starting with my timeline in ukraine and the events about which i do and do not have first-hand knowledge. i arrived in ukraine on august 22nd, 2016. and left ukraine permanently on may 20th, 2019. there are a number of events you are investigating to which i
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cannot bring any first-hand knowledge. the events that predated by ukraine service include the release of the so-called black ledger and mr. manafort's subsequent resignation from president trump's campaign. and the departure from office of former prosecutor general shohen. several other events occurred after i returned from ukraine. these include president trump's july 25th, 2019 call with president zelensky, the discussions surrounding that phone call, and any discussions surrounding the delay of security assistance to ukraine in the summer of 2019. as for events during my tenure in the ukraine, i want to reiterate, first, that the allegation that i disseminated a do not prosecute list was a fabrication. mr. lutsenko, the former ukrainian prosecutor general who made that allegation has
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acknowledged that the list never existed. i did not tell mr. lutsenko or other ukrainian officials who they should or should not prosecute. instead, i advocated the u.s. position that rule of law should prevail. and ukrainian law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges should stop wielding their power selectively as a political weapon against their adversaries and start dealing with all consistently and according to the law. also untrue are unsourced allegations that i told unidentified embassy employees or ukrainian officials that president trump's orders should be ignored because he was going to be impeached or for any other reason. i did not and i would not say such a thing. such statements would be inconsistent with my training as a foreign service officer and my role as an ambassador. the obama administration did not ask me to help the clinton
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campaign or harm the trump campaign. nor would i have taken any such steps if they had. partisanship of this type is not compatible with the role of a career foreign service officer. i have never met hunter biden nor have i had any direct or indirect conversations with him. and although i have met former vice president biden several times over the course of our many years in government service, neither he nor the previous administration ever raised the issue of either barisma or hunter biden with me. with respect to mayor guiliani, i have had only minimal contact with him, a total of three. none related to the events at issue. i do not understand mr. guiliani's motives for attacking me nor can i offer an opinion on whether he believed the allegations he spread about me. clearly, no one at the state department did. what i can say is that mr.
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guiliani should have known those claims were suspect coming as they reportedly did from individuals with questionable motives and request reason to believe that their political and financial ambitions would be stymied by our anticorruption policy in ukraine. after being asked by the under secretary of state for political affairs in early march, 2019, to extend my tour until 2020, the smear campaign against me entered a new public phase in the united states. in the wake of the negative press, state department officials suggested an earlier departure and we agreed upon july, 2019. i was then abruptly told just weeks later in late april to come back to washington from ukraine on the next plane. at the time i departed, ukraine had just concluded game changing presidential elections. it was a sensitive period.
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with much at stake for the united states and called for all the experience and expertise we could muster. when i returned to the united states, deputy secretary of state sullivan told me there had been a concerted campaign against me, that the president no longer wished me to serve as ambassador to ukraine, and that, in fact, the president had been paurk f pushing for my removal since the prior summer. as mr. sullivan recently recounted during his senate confirmation hearing, neither he nor anyone else ever explained or sought to justify the president's concerns about me nor did anyone in the department justicety phi justify my early departure by suggesting i had done something wrong. i appreciate mr. sullivan publicly affirmed at his hearing that i had served capably and admirably. although then and now i have always understood that i served at the pleasure of the president. i still find it difficult to comprehend that foreign and private interests were able to
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underminus us interests in this way. an individual who apparently felt stymied by our efforts to promote stated u.s. policy against corruption, that is to do our mission, were able to successfully conduct a campaign of disinformation against a sitting ambassador using unofficial back channels. as various witnesses have recounted they shared baseless allegations with the president and convinced him to remove his ambassador despite the fact that the state department fully understood that the allegations were false and the sources highly suspect. these events should concern everyone in this room. ambassadors are the symbol of the united states abroad. they are the personal representative of the president. they should always act and speak with full authority to advocate for u.s. policies. if our chief representative is knee capped it limits our effectiveness to safeguard the vital national security
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interests of the united states. this is especially important now, when the international landscape is more complicated and more competitive than it has been since the dissolution of the soviet union. 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. after these events, what foreign official, corrupt or not, could be blamed for wondering whether the u.s. ambassador represents the president's views? and what u.s. ambassador could be blamed for harboring the fear that they can't count on our government to support them as they implement stated u.s. policy and protect and defend u.s. interests? i i'd like to comment on one other matter before taking your questions. at the closed deposition i
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expressed grave concerns about the degradation of the foreign service over the past few years and the failure of state department leadership to push back as foreign and corrupt interests apparently hijacked our ukraine policy. i remain disappointed that the department's leadership and others have declined to acknowledge that the attacks against me and others are dangerously wrong. this is about far, far more than me or a couple of individuals. as foreign service professionals are being denigrated and undermined the institution is also being degraded. this will soon cause real harm if it hasn't already. the state department as a tool of foreign policy often doesn't get the same kind of attention or even respect as the military might of the pentagon. but we are, as they say, the pointy end of the spear. if we lose our edge, the u.s. will inevitably have to use
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other tools even more than it does today. those other tools are blunter, more expensive, and not universally effective. moreover, the attacks are leading to a crisis in the state department as the policy process is visibly unraveling. leadership vacancies go unfilled and senior and mid level officers ponder an uncertain future. the crisis has moved from the impact on individuals to an impact on the institution, itself. the state department is being hollowed out from within at a competitive and complex time on the world stage. this is not a time to undercut our diplomats. it is the possibility of the department's leaders to stand up for the institution and the individuals who make that institution still today the most effective diplomatic force in the world. and congress has a responsibility to reinvest in our diplomacy. that's an investment in our national security. it's an investment in our
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future, in our children's future. as i close, let me be clear on who we are and how we serve this country. we are professionals. we are public servants who by vocation and training pursue the policies of the president regardless of who holds that office or what party they affiliate with. we handle american citizen services, facilitate trade and commerce, work security issues, represent the u.s., and report to and advise washington, to mention just some of our functions. and we make a difference every day. we are people who repeatedly uproot our lives, who risk and sometimes give our lives for this country. we are the 52 americans who 40 years ago this month began 444 days of deprivation, torture, and captivity in tehran.
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we are the dozens of americans stationed at our embassy in cuba and consulate in china who mysteriously, dangerously, in some cases even permanently were injured and attacked from unknown sources several years ago. and we are ambassador chris stevens, sean patrick smith, ty woods, glen doherty, people rightly called heroes for their ultimate sacrifice to this nation's foreign policy interests in libya eight years ago. we honor these individuals. they represent each one of you here and every american. these courageous individuals were attacked because they symbolized america. what you need to know, what americans need to know is that while, thankfully, most of us answer the call to duty in far less dramatic ways, every foreign service officer runs the same risks and very often so do our families.
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they serve, too. as individuals, as a community, we answer the call to duty to advance and protect the interests of the united states. we take our oath seriously. the same oath that each one of you take, to support and defend the constitution of the united states against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same. i count myself lucky to be a foreign service officer, fortunate to serve with the best america has to offer, blessed to serve the american people for the last 33 years. i thank you for your attention. i welcome your questions. >> thank you, ambassador. we count ourselves lucky to have you serve the country as you have for decades. we'll now move to the 45-minute rounds. i recognize myself and majority counsel for 45 minutes. ambassador yovanovitch, thank you again for appearing today.
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all americans are deeply in your debt. goldman our staff counsel i want to ask you about a few of the pivotal events of interest to the country. first of all, was fighting corruption in ukraine a key element of u.s. policy and one on which you placed the highest priority? >> yes, it was. >> and can you explain why? >> it was important and it was actually stated in our policy and in our strategy. it was important because corruption was undermining the integrity of the government -- governance system in ukraine. and as i noted in my statement, countries that have leaders that are honest and trust worthy make better partners for us. countries where there is a level playing field for our u.s.
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business makes it easier for our countri companies to do business there and trade and profit in those countries. and what had been happening since the soviet union and this is very much a soviet legacy is that corrupt interests were undermining not only the governance but also the economy of ukraine. we see enormous potential in ukraine and would like to have a more capable, more trustworthy partner there. >> and i know this may be awkward for you to answer, since it's a question about yourself and your reputation, but is it fair to say that you earned a reputation for being a champion of anticorruption efforts in ukraine? >> yes. >> i don't know if you had a chance to watch george kent's testimony yesterday but would you agree with his rather frank assessment that if you fight corruption, you're going to piss off some corrupt people? >> yes. >> and in your efforts fighting corruption, to advance u.s. policy interests, did you anger some of the corrupt leaders in
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ukraine? >> yes. >> was one of those corrupt people prosecutor general yuri lutsenko? >> yes, i believe so. >> was one of those another corrupt general prosecutor? >> apparently so though i've never met him. >> at some point did you come to learn that both lutsenko and shokin were in touch with rudy guiliani president trump's lawyer and representative? >> yes. >> in fact, did guiliani try to overturn a decision you participated in to deny shokin a visa? >> yes. that is what i was told. >> and that denial was based on his corruption? >> yes. that's true. >> was it mr. lutsenko among others who coordinated with mr. guiliani to peddle false accusations against you as well as the bidens? >> yes. that is my understanding. >> and were these smears also amplified by the president's son
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donald trump jr. as well as certain hosts on fox? >> yes, yes. that is the case. >> in the face of this smear campaign did colleagues at the state department try to get a statement of support for you from secretary pompeo? >> yes. >> were they successful? >> no. >> did you come to learn that they couldn't issue such a statement because they feared it would be undercut by the president? >> yes. >> and then were you told that though you had done nothing wrong you did not enjoy the confidence of the president and could no longer serve as ambassador? >> yes, that is correct. >> and, in fact, you flew home from kiev on the same day as the inauguration of ukraine's new president? >> that's true. >> that inauguration was attended by three who have become known as the three amigos ambassador sondland, volker, and perry was it? >> yes. >> and three days after that
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inauguration, in a meeting with president trump, are you aware that the president designated these three amigos to coordinate ukraine policy with rudy guiliani? >> since then i have become aware of that. >> this is the same rudy guiliani who orchestrated the smear campaign against you? >> yes. >> and the same rudy guiliani who during the now infamous july 25th phone call the president recommended to zelensky in the context of the two investigations the president wanted into the 2016 election and the bidens? >> yes. >> and, finally, ambassador, in that july 25th phone call, the president praises one of these corrupt former ukrainian prosecutors and says they were treated very unfairly. they were treated unfairly -- not you, who was smeared and recalled -- but one of them. what message does that send to your colleagues in the u.s.
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embassy in kiev? >> i'm just not sure what the basis for that kind of a statement would be. certainly not from our reporting over years. >> did you have concern, though, do you have concern today about what message the president's actions send to the people still in the ukraine representing the united states when a well respected ambassador can be smeared out of her post with the participation and acquiescence of the president of the united states? >> well, it's, i think, been a big hit for morale both at u.s. embassy kiev but also more broadly in the state department. >> is it fair to say that other ambassadors and others of lesser rank who serve the united states in embassies around the world might look at this and think, if
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i take on corrupt people in these countries, that could happen to me? >> i think that's a fair statement, yes. >> mr. goldman. >> thank you, mr. chairman. ambassador yovanovitch, on april 24th of this year at approximately 10:00 p.m., you received a telephone call while you were at the em-bassey in kiev from the director general of the state department. this was just three days after president zelensky's election and the call between president trump and president zelensky that we just heard from ranking member nunes. at the time that this urgent call came in, what were you in the middle of doing? >> i was hosting an event in honor of an anticorruption activist or was an anticorruption activist in ukraine.
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we had given her the woman of courage award from ukraine and, in fact, the worldwide woman of courage event, at the worldwide woman of courage event in washington, d.c., secretary pompeo singled her out for her amazing work in ukraine to fight corrupt interests in the south of ukraine. she very tragically died because she was attacked by acid and several months later died a very, very painful death. we thought it was important that justice be done for her and for others who fight corruption in ukraine because this is not a, you know, kind of a table top exercise there. lives are in the balance. and so we wanted to bring attention to this. we held an event and gave her father, who of course is still mourning her, that award, the
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woman of courage event. >> and her woman of courage award stemmed from her anticorruption efforts in ukraine? >> yes, that is true. >> was it ever determined who threw the acid and killed her? >> there have been investigations but while some of the lower ranking individuals that were involved in this have been arrested, those who ordered this have not yet been apprehended. >> after you stepped away from this anticorruption event to take this call, what did the director general tell you? >> she said that there was great concern on the 7th floor of the state department. that's where the leadership of the state department sits. there was great concern. they were worried. she just wanted to give me a heads up about this. and, you know, things seemed to be going on and so she just wanted to give me a heads up. i, you know, hard to know how to react to something like that. i asked her what it was ab


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