In testimony, Dems see an ambassador scorned, while GOP defends Trump

House lawmakers emerged Friday from a marathon hearing with the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine with both sides digging in on their positions for what promises to be a frenzied month as the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry advances full steam.

Marie Yovanovitch, who was relieved of her post and recalled to Washington in May, delivered damning testimony in the nearly 10-hour closed-door meeting, accusing top Trump administration officials of staging "a concerted campaign” against her based on "unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.” 

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The remarks, included in an opening statement that quickly became public, gave ammunition for Democrats who are investigating whistleblower allegations that Trump had leveraged U.S. military aid to Ukraine in return for political favors from the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky. 

"It is clear to me that she was fired because she was a thorn in the side of those who sought to use the Ukrainian government for their own political and financial gain — and that includes President TrumpDonald TrumpRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Jake Ellzey defeats Trump-backed candidate in Texas House runoff DOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit MORE,” Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), a member of the Intelligence Committee, said afterwards.

“In other words, Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was fired for being honest and doing her job,” Maloney added. 

Maloney said that, on several occasions, Yovanovitch “became overcome with emotion and had to stop and leave the room.”

But Republicans said little of the substance of Yovanovitch’s testimony and instead expressed outrage that Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse to resume mask mandate after new CDC guidance McCarthy pulls GOP picks off House economic panel GOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger MORE (D-Calif.) and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOfficers offer harrowing accounts at first Jan. 6 committee hearing Live coverage: House panel holds first hearing on Jan. 6 probe Five things to watch as Jan. 6 panel begins its work MORE (D-Calif.) have launched their impeachment inquiry without a formal vote — a step GOP leaders say is necessary to foster transparency and establish ground rules governing an otherwise anarchic process.

“You can’t read the opening statement of Ambassador Yovanovitch and say we now have the story,” said Rep. Lee ZeldinLee ZeldinSunday shows preview: Biden defends troop withdrawal in Afghanistan; COVID-19 impacting unvaccinated pockets Misled condemnation of the Lebanese Armed Forces will help Hezbollah New York GOP backs Zeldin for governor MORE (R-N.Y.). “As a matter of fact, you should be scratching your heads wondering what happened in the 10 hours to follow that no one has told us about.”

Zeldin, along with other Republicans including Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanMcCarthy pulls GOP picks off House economic panel GOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger House GOP blames Pelosi — not Trump — for Jan. 6 MORE (R-Ohio), argued that transcripts of the full depositions given by both Yovanovitch and former Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerCNN obtains audio of 2019 Giuliani call linked to Ukraine meddling allegations GOP senators request details on Hunter Biden's travel for probe Yovanovitch retires from State Department: reports MORE last week should be made public by Schiff. 

“We want the whole thing public, just like before,” Jordan, the top Republican on the Oversight Committee, told reporters afterwards. 

Yovanovitch’s testimony came after the State Department attempted to block her testimony, which forced Democrats to issue a subpoena to compel her participation. 

Yovanovitch said in her opening statement that Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan told her that she had "done nothing wrong and that this was not like other situations where he had recalled ambassadors for cause,” and added that Sullivan told her that Trump had "lost confidence in me and no longer wished me to serve as his ambassador." 

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Yovanovitch denied allegations that she told embassy staff to ignore Trump’s orders due to the likelihood that he would be impeached. 

The intelligence community whistleblower complaint alleged that the then-prosecutor general Yuri Lutsenko accused Yovanovitch of giving him a "do not prosecute" list. Lutsenko later retracted the charge. 

She also said that she had "minimal contacts" with Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiDOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit Bob Dole: 'I'm a Trumper' but 'I'm sort of Trumped out' Ex-Trump adviser Barrack charged with secretly lobbying for UAE MORE, Trump's personal lawyer who pushed for the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Iowa governor suggests immigrants partially to blame for rising COVID-19 cases Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on MORE, a leading 2020 presidential contender, and his son.

Yovanovitch suggested that two Giuliani business associates who were arrested on campaign finance charges this week may have contributed to her eventual removal as ambassador. 

“I do not know Mr. Giuliani’s motives for attacking me,” she said. “But individuals who have been named in the press as contacts of Mr. Giuliani may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”

Leaving the nearly 10-hour gathering, Yovanovitch declined to comment. Asked if she thought Trump had committed impeachable offenses, she stared straight ahead and glided by the cameras without a word.

Rep. Tom MalinowskiThomas (Tom) MalinowskiHouse lawmakers push for diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics Kean Jr. to run against Malinowski: report The tool we need to expand COVID-19 vaccinations world-wide MORE (D-N.J.), who served in the State Department under the Obama administration, declined to say if Yovanovitch had expressed concerns about potential career repercussions for testifying against the wishes of the administration. But he promised that Democrats would use every tool at their disposal to protect her from retaliation.  

"I don't want to characterize what she said, but we feel very strongly that that would be wrong and ... we will do everything we can to protect any career employee who speaks to us pursuant to a legally binding subpoena," said Malinowski. 

Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyCarole Baskin: People 'will be outraged' by conditions exotic animals face House panel includes 0 million election security grant in proposed appropriations bill Fitness industry group hires new CEO amid lobbying push MORE (D-Ill.) described Yovanovitch to reporters as “a brave woman” earlier in the day. 

Yovanovitch's testimony capped the end of a frenetic and unpredictable week on Capitol Hill, where Congress is technically on recess but a number of lawmakers from both parties were gathered in anticipation of a series of depositions scheduled by Democrats, who are wary of dragging their impeachment inquiry into next year once the 2020 campaign is fully underway.

They were only partly successful. 

On Monday, Democrats had planned the deposition of Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent, which did not take place. And on Tuesday, the State Department blocked the testimony of Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, just hours before he was scheduled to appear in the Capitol. 

Later that same day, White House counsel Pat Cipollone informed Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the three key committee chairmen that the Trump administration would not comply with the impeachment inquiry, citing the lack of a formal vote authorizing it.

Democratic leaders have dismissed the argument, saying that the committees already have subpoena powers due to rules changes made by the GOP when it held the House majority.

Democrats are hoping they have better success next week, when they’ve requested the testimony of five additional officials. The list includes Kent, Sondland and Fiona Hill, a former special assistant to the president on Russian affairs, who stepped down in August. 

Schiff declined to comment on what was said during the testimony, but described Yovanovitch to reporters as a “model diplomat,” and called her a “courageous example for others.” 

Schiff did not comment on whether he would make the proceedings on Friday public. 

Others were more talkative. Rep. Denny HeckDennis (Denny) Lynn HeckExclusive: Guccifer 2.0 hacked memos expand on Pennsylvania House races Heck enjoys second political wind Incoming lawmaker feeling a bit overwhelmed MORE (D-Wash.) said he’s sat through many hearings that were a waste of time. This was not one. It went, he said, “like a New York second.”

Asked if Yovanovitch’s testimony helped boost the Democrats’ impeachment case, Heck was terse. 

“The walls are closing in,” Heck said.