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 John TrumpMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Trump camp considering White House South Lawn for convention speech: reports Longtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary 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 PelosiNegotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mounts Hillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package MORE (D-Calif.) and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSchiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package House Intelligence panel opens probe into DHS's involvement in response to protests Democrats exit briefing saying they fear elections under foreign threat 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 ZeldinDemocrat Nancy Goroff wins NY primary to challenge Lee Zeldin Congress pulls punches on Russian bounties firestorm US lawmakers call on EU to label entire Hezbollah a terrorist organization 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 JordanThe 'pitcher of warm spit' — Veepstakes and the fate of Mike Pence Tucker Carlson calls Fauci a 'fraud' after tense hearing Overnight Health Care: Five takeaways from Fauci's testimony | CDC: Children might play 'important role' in spreading COVID-19 | GOP leader wants rapid testing at Capitol MORE (R-Ohio), argued that transcripts of the full depositions given by both Yovanovitch and former Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerGOP senators request details on Hunter Biden's travel for probe Yovanovitch retires from State Department: reports Live coverage: Senators enter second day of questions in impeachment trial 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 GiulianiNunes declines to answer if he received information from Ukraine lawmaker meant to damage Biden Democratic attorneys criticize House Judiciary Democrats' questioning of Barr Swalwell: Barr has taken Michael Cohen's job as Trump's fixer MORE, Trump's personal lawyer who pushed for the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Hillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation Biden offers well wishes to Lebanon after deadly explosion 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) MalinowskiNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Thomas Kean wins GOP primary to take on Rep. Tom Malinowski House fires back at Trump by passing ObamaCare expansion 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 QuigleyHillicon Valley: Three arrested in Twitter hack | Trump pushes to break up TikTok | House approves 0M for election security House-passed funding package includes 0M for election security upgrades 2020 Global Tiger Day comes with good news, but Congress still has work to do 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.