Update 03:30 p.m.
Stewart: Do you have any information regarding the president of the United States accepting any bribes?
Stewart: Do you any have information regarding any criminal activity that the president of the United States has been involved with at all?
Yovanovitch: No. pic.twitter.com/W1sBGuCU0K
— CBS News (@CBSNews) November 15, 2019
Update 02:20 p.m.
Today’s largely boring testimony included a few fireworks – notably when House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) prevented Republicans from recognizing Rep. Elise Stefanik to ask Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch questions about Hunter Biden and Ukrainian gas company Burisma.
House resolution formalizing the impeachment inquiry:
"Only the chair and ranking minority member, or a Permanent Select Committee employee if yielded to by the chair or ranking minority member, may question witnesses during such periods of questioning."https://t.co/za7NTUWFYM https://t.co/8ENcjvLIAw
— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) November 15, 2019
And when Stefanik was allowed to question Yovanovitch, she pointed out that the Obama State Department prepared her to answer questions about perceived conflicts of interest regarding the unusual Biden arrangement.
— Quoth the Raven (@QTRResearch) November 15, 2019
In part two of Democrats’ impeachment hearing drama, the public will hear from former American Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was removed from her post in the spring. Yovanovitch was removed from her post in the spring by the administration, and has been cast by Democrats as an honorable public servant sacked for tying to do the right thing.
As BBG reminds us, Yovanovitch testified in private on Oct. 11 that she felt she was recalled following a “concerted campaign” by President Trump and Rudy Giuliani. Because she left Ukraine in May, she clearly doesn’t have any direct knowledge of Trump’s efforts to elicit a quid pro quo – or as the Dems are now calling it, a bribe.
Yovanovitch testified that she felt “threatened” by the way Trump spoke about her on the July 25 call, which is at the center of the impeachment issue. Trump called her “bad news” and said “she’s going to go through some things.”
Watch her testimony live below (it’s set to begin at 9 am ET):
Later, the committee will enter a closed-door session to hear from David Holmes, a staffer at the US embassy in Kyiv, about this week’s revelation that Trump allegedly asked envoy Gordon Sondland on July 26 about the status of certain “investigations” he sought from Ukraine into the Bidens.
We’re still waiting on President Trump to release a transcript of an April congratulatory call with Zelensky, something he promised to do, but has yet to follow through on.
Fortunately, so far, the hearings have been a disaster for the Dems, with even the NYT criticizing them as dull and boring. In response, the Dems tried to spice things up ahead of toady’s hearing by talking up the possibility of a bribery charge against Trump.
* * *
After two years of reporting on Ukraine issues, the Hill’s John Solomon said that Yovanovitch could still be an important fact witness, and that if he had his druthers, he would ask her these fifteen questions.
1. Ambassador Yovanovitch, at any time while you served in Ukraine did any officials in Kiev ever express concern to you that President Trump might be withholding foreign aid assistance to get political investigations started? Did President Trump ever ask you as America’s top representative in Kiev to pressure Ukrainians to start an investigation about Burisma Holdings or the Bidens?
2. What was the Ukrainians’ perception of President Trump after he allowed lethal aid to go to Ukraine in 2018?
3. In the spring and summer of 2019, did you ever become aware of any U.S. intelligence or U.S. treasury concerns raised about incoming Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and his affiliation or proximity to certain oligarchs? Did any of those concerns involve what the IMF might do if a certain oligarch who supported Zelensky returned to power and regained influence over Ukraine’s national bank?
4. Back in May 2018, then-House Rules Committee chairman Pete Sessions wrote a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggesting you might have made comments unflattering or unsupportive of the president and should be recalled. Setting aside that Sessions is a Republican and might even have donors interested in Ukraine policy, were you ever questioned about his concerns? At any time have you or your embassy staff made comments that could be viewed as unsupportive or critical of President Trump and his policies?
5. John Solomon reported at The Hill and your colleagues have since confirmed in testimony that the State Department helped fund a nonprofit called the Anti-Corruption Action Centre of Ukraine that also was funded by George Soros’ main charity. That nonprofit, also known as AnTac, was identified in a 2014 Soros foundation strategy document as critical to reshaping Ukraine to Mr. Soros’ vision. Can you explain what role your embassy played in funding this group and why State funds would flow to it? And did any one consider the perception of mingling tax dollars with those donated by Soros, a liberal ideologue who spent millions in 2016 trying to elect Hillary Clinton and defeat Donald Trump?
6. In March 2019, Ukrainian prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko gave an on-the-record, videotaped interview to The Hill alleging that during a 2016 meeting you discussed a list of names of Ukrainian nationals and groups you did not want to see Ukrainian prosecutors target. Your supporters have since suggested he recanted that story. Did you or your staff ever do anything to confirm he had recanted or changed his story, such as talk to him, or did you just rely on press reports?
7. Now that both the New York Times and The Hill have confirmed that Lutsenko stands by his account and has not recanted, how do you respond to his concerns? And setting aide the use of the word “list,” is it possible that during that 2016 meeting with Mr. Lutsenko you discussed the names of certain Ukrainians you did not want to see prosecuted, investigated or harassed?
8. Your colleagues, in particular Mr. George Kent, have confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee that the U.S. embassy in Kiev did, in fact, exert pressure on the Ukrainian prosecutors office not to prosecute certain Ukrainian activists and officials. These efforts included a letter Mr. Kent signed urging Ukrainian prosecutors to back off an investigation of the aforementioned group AnTac as well as engaged in conversations about certain Ukrainians like Parliamentary member Sergey Leschenko, journalist Vitali Shabunin and NABU director Artem Sytnyk. Why was the US. Embassy involved in exerting such pressure and did any of these actions run afoul of the Geneva Convention’s requirement that foreign diplomats avoid becoming involved in the internal affairs of their host country?
9. On March 5 of this year, you gave a speech in which you called for the replacement of Ukraine’s top anti-corruption prosecutor. That speech occurred in the middle of the Ukrainian presidential election and obviously raised concerns among some Ukrainians of internal interference prohibited by the Geneva Convention. In fact, one of your bosses, Under Secretary David Hale, got questioned about those concerns when he arrived in country a few days later. Why did you think it was appropriate to give advice to Ukrainians on an internal personnel matter and did you consider then or now the potential concerns your comments might raise about meddling in the Ukrainian election or the country’s internal affairs?
10. If the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States suddenly urged us to fire Attorney General Bill Bar or our FBI director, would you think that was appropriate?
11. At any time since December 2015, did you or your embassy ever have any contact with Vice President Joe Biden, his office or his son Hunter Biden concerning Burisma Holdings or an investigation into its owner Mykola Zlochevsky?
12. At any time since you were appointed ambassador to Ukraine, did you or your embassy have any contact with the following Burisma figures: Hunter Biden, Devon Archer, lawyer John Buretta, Blue Star strategies representatives Sally Painter and Karen Tramontano, or former Ukrainian embassy official Andrii Telizhenko?
13. John Solomon obtained documents showing Burisma representatives were pressuring the State Department in February 2016 to help end the corruption allegations against the company and were invoking Hunter Biden’s name as part of their effort. Did you ever subsequently learn of these contacts and did any one at State — including but not limited to Secretary Kerry, Undersecretary Novelli, Deputy Secretary Blinken or Assistant Secretary Nuland — ever raise Burisma with you?
14. What was your embassy’s assessment of the corruption allegations around Burisma and why the company may have hired Hunter Biden as a board member in 2014?
15. In spring 2019 your embassy reportedly began monitoring briefly the social media communications of certain people viewed as supportive of President Trump and gathering analytics about them. Who were those people? Why was this done? Why did it stop? And did anyone in the State Department chain of command ever suggest targeting Americans with State resources might be improper or illegal?