Overnight Defense: Ex-Ukraine ambassador offers dramatic day of testimony | Talks of 'crisis' at State Department | Trump tweets criticism of envoy during hearing | Dems warn against 'witness intimidation' | Trump defends his 'freedom of speech'

Overnight Defense: Ex-Ukraine ambassador offers dramatic day of testimony | Talks of 'crisis' at State Department | Trump tweets criticism of envoy during hearing | Dems warn against 'witness intimidation' | Trump defends his 'freedom of speech'
© Aaron Schwartz

Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Rebecca Kheel, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

THE TOPLINE: Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie YovanovitchMarie YovanovitchGrand jury adds additional counts against Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and and Igor Fruman Strzok: Trump behaving like an authoritarian Powell backs Biden at convention as Democrats rip Trump on security MORE testified Friday at the second of the House's public hearings for the impeachment inquiry into President TrumpDonald John TrumpHR McMaster says president's policy to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is 'unwise' Cast of 'Parks and Rec' reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response MORE.

The Hill again kept a live blog, so catch up on the entire hearing here.

And here are some of Friday's highlights...

Yovanovitch's opening: In her opening statement, Yovanovitch described a "crisis" at the State Department, voicing concern that the agency's failure to protect foreign service officials who faced attacks for their work overseas put U.S. interests at risk.

Yovanovitch, who privately testified to House investigators last month, described a smear campaign led by Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiGrand jury adds additional counts against Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and and Igor Fruman Juan Williams: Breaking down the debates Giuliani criticizes NYC leadership: 'They're killing this city' MORE, corrupt Ukrainian officials and disreputable media figures who successfully facilitated her removal as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in May.

"[T]he attacks are leading to a crisis in the State Department as the policy process is visibly unravelling, leadership vacancies going unfilled, and senior and mid-level officers ponder an uncertain future and head for the doors," Yovanovitch testified.

"This not a time to undercut our diplomats," she emphasized.

Yovanovitch also painted her removal as a "dangerously wrong" precedent in which private interests can remove an American diplomat is who seeking to faithfully carry out U.S. foreign policy.

"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."

Trump attack: While the hearing was underway, Trump tweeted out harsh criticism of the former ambassador.

Trump asserted that "everywhere" Yovanovitch served "turned bad," adding that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke negatively of her during their July 25 phone call.

"Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. 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," Trump tweeted.

"They call it 'serving at the pleasure of the President.' The U.S. now has a very strong and powerful foreign policy, much different than proceeding administrations. It is called, quite simply, America First!" Trump continued.

Trump later defended sending out the tweet after Democrats and Yovanovitch called it intimidating.

"I have the right to speak. I have freedom of speech just like other people do," Trump told reporters at the White House after making remarks on a health care initiative, adding that he's "allowed to speak up" if others are speaking about him.

Pressed whether his words can be intimidating, Trump said no.

"I don't think so at all," he said.

Yovanovitch's response: Minutes after Trump sent out the tweet, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOvernight Defense: Top admiral says 'no condition' where US should conduct nuclear test 'at this time' | Intelligence chief says Congress will get some in-person election security briefings Overnight Defense: House to vote on military justice bill spurred by Vanessa Guillén death | Biden courts veterans after Trump's military controversies Intelligence chief says Congress will get some in-person election security briefings MORE (D-Calif.) gave Yovanovitch the opportunity to respond during the hearing.

"It's very intimidating," Yovanovitch said. "I can't speak to what the president is trying to do, but I think the effect is to be intimidating."

In her remarks, Yovanovitch, who spoke in a calm, measured tone throughout her testimony, said the president was prescribing powers to her that she did not realize she had.

"I don't think I have such powers, not in Mogadishu, Somalia and not in other places," Yovanovitch said. "I actually think that where I have served over the years, I and others have demonstrably made things better, for the U.S., as well as for the countries that I've served in."

Democratic response: House Democrats wasted no time Friday saying Trump's real-time Twitter attack on Yovanovitch was more evidence of presidential misconduct.

"The president in real time is engaging in witness intimidation and witness tampering," an exasperated Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierOvernight Defense: House to vote on military justice bill spurred by Vanessa Guillén death | Biden courts veterans after Trump's military controversies House to vote on 'I Am Vanessa Guillén' bill Overnight Defense: Trump's battle with Pentagon poses risks in November | Lawmakers launch Fort Hood probe | Military members can't opt out of tax deferral MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters during a break in the hearing with Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was removed abruptly in May.

"I don't know how much more egregious it has to get before the American people are going to recognize we have someone in the White House who conducts himself in a criminal manner on a day-to-day basis."

Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyDemocrats introduce legislation to revise FDA requirements for LGBT blood donors Tucker Carlson sparks condemnation with comments about deadly Kenosha shooting Hillicon Valley: Three arrested in Twitter hack | Trump pushes to break up TikTok | House approves 0M for election security MORE (D-Ill.), another member of the Intelligence Committee, described the tweet as "real-time intimidation" and suggested it could become a part of articles of impeachment against Trump.

"I think it speaks for itself," he said. "Everything the president does, from obstruction to intimidation, becomes part of the record. And we'll decide later -- or not -- whether it's part of the articles."

Other Intelligence Committee Democrats said Trump's intimidation tactics are simply evidence of his guilt.

"Innocent people don't intimidate witnesses. Guilty people do," Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellSwalwell calls for creation of presidential crimes commission to investigate Trump when he leaves office 'This already exists': Democrats seize on potential Trump executive order on preexisting conditions Swalwell: Barr has taken Michael Cohen's job as Trump's fixer MORE (D-Calif.), a member of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMcConnell focuses on confirming judicial nominees with COVID-19 talks stalled Overnight Defense: Top admiral says 'no condition' where US should conduct nuclear test 'at this time' | Intelligence chief says Congress will get some in-person election security briefings Pelosi must go — the House is in dire need of new leadership MORE's (D-Calif.) leadership team. "It should be considered for obstruction. It's evidence of more obstruction, intimidating the witness, tampering with the witness's testimony.

"But it really goes to his guilt ... Innocent people just don't do this."

Long day: After about six hours – including an hour or so break for votes – Yovanovitch's hearing wrapped up. Audience members and some Democratic lawmakers broke into applause, as she wrapped up her testimony.

After the hearing, lawmakers had a closed-door deposition scheduled with David Holmes, the political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.

William Taylor, the chargé d'affaires for Ukraine, testified Wednesday that a staffer since identified as Holmes overheard Trump asking U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon SondlandGordon SondlandGOP chairman vows to protect whistleblowers following Vindman retirement over 'bullying' Top Democrat slams Trump's new EU envoy: Not 'a political donor's part-time job' Trump names new EU envoy, filling post left vacant by impeachment witness Sondland MORE about "investigations" former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenCast of 'Parks and Rec' reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response Biden tells CNN town hall that he has benefited from white privilege MORE and his son in a July phone call.

 

Click here for six memorable moments from Ex-Ukraine ambassador Yovanovitch's public testimony.

 

MEANWHILE IN KOREA: Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperTop admiral: 'No condition' where US should conduct nuclear test 'at this time' Overnight Defense: Trump hosts Israel, UAE, Bahrain for historic signing l Air Force reveals it secretly built and flew new fighter jet l Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' Oldest living US World War II veteran turns 111 MORE was in South Korea on Friday as part of his swing through Asia.

There, he pressed the administration's case for South Korea to pay a larger share of the cost the basing U.S. troops there.

"This is a very strong alliance we have, but Korea is a wealthy country and could and should pay more to help offset the cost of defense," Esper said at a joint news conference with his South Korean counterpart.

The United States has about 28,500 troops in South Korea. The so-called Special Measures Agreement, signed at the beginning of the year, sees South Korea paying $920 million. That's less than Trump originally wanted for the current deal, but in exchange, the agreement was only for one year instead of the typical five years.

How much more?: Esper told reporters on the plane ride to South Korea the administration has asked for a "significant increase" in the amount South Korea pays, but wouldn't specify a number.

CNN, citing a congressional aide and an administration official, said Trump has asked for a nearly 400 percent increase to $4.7 billion in the new cost-sharing deal.

North Korea vs. Biden: North Korea been angsty about joint U.S.-South Korean military drills even though the United States already scaled them in an effort to make space for diplomacy.

On Friday, North Korea's ire also turned toward Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

The official Korean Central News Agency called the former vice president a "rabid dog" that should be put down.

KCNA hit Biden over his age, saying the 76-year-old is in "the final stage of dementia" and that the "time has come for him to depart his life."

"It was the last-ditch efforts of the rabid dog expediting his death," KCNA said in a commentary. "Rabid dogs like Baiden [sic] can hurt lots of people if they are allowed to run about. They must be beaten to death with a stick, before it is too late."

Biden responded by saying he will wear insults from North Korea "as a badge of honor."

"It seems that murderous dictator Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnSouth Korea warns of underwater missile test launch by North Korea Trump says he didn't share classified information following Woodward book The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by National Industries for the Blind - Woodward book revelations rock Washington MORE doesn't like me. Add him to the list of autocrats who don't want me to be president -- right next to Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinFBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden Traces of nerve agent found in water bottle in Navalny's hotel room, colleagues say Russia: US trying to foment revolution in Belarus MORE," Biden said in a statement released by his campaign. "I wear their insults as a badge of honor."

 

ON TAP FOR MONDAY

Gen. John Raymond, commander of U.S. Space Command, will speak at 8:30 a.m. at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. https://bit.ly/2QnvgLi

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Esper: Pentagon contract fairly awarded to Microsoft over Amazon

-- The Hill: Yovanovitch says John Solomon's columns were used to push false allegations

-- Associated Press: Ukraine feels abandoned amid US impeachment drama

-- CNN: Trump asked the Pentagon to explore trench on the border, Pentagon advised against it

-- The Wall Street Journal: U.S. threatens Egypt with sanctions over Russian arms deal