The next round of public impeachment hearings is scheduled for Friday, with former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch preparing to take center stage.
She is a career diplomat who was abruptly pulled from Kiev last spring after a personal order from President Donald Trump. He made the decision after a months-long public campaign against Yovanovitch, led by his attorney Rudy Giuliani and others in the right-wing media.
Yovanovitch testified behind closed doors last month, but Friday’s public hearing will be different. It’s her first opportunity to tell her side of the story directly to the American people.
Here are four things to look for as the historic impeachment inquiry goes public once again:
This will be testimony from someone who was under attack
It’s not in dispute that Yovanovitch’s career suffered because of decisions made by Trump and Giuliani.
The former New York City mayor trumpeted discredited allegations against Yovanovitch in his many television appearances, on social media and surely in his conversations with Trump. She blamed these “‘unfounded and false claims'” for her ouster as ambassador, a significant blow to her career, as a lifelong diplomat who had served in many US posts overseas.
Democrats might try to portray her as a sympathetic victim of Giuliani’s schemes. In her private testimony, she said she felt “threatened” and “concerned” by Trump’s comments and actions.
A window into Giuliani’s shadow foreign policy
If anything, Yovanovitch can provide an insider account of Giuliani’s shadow foreign policy, and how he pressed the State Department to assist his quest to find dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter in Ukraine.
Democrats will likely bring up Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two Soviet-born Giuliani associates who were indicted last month. The Justice Department has accused them of funneling foreign money into US campaigns and pressing the US government to recall Yovanovitch (they pleaded not guilty last month). Giuliani has openly acknowledged that the men connected him with Ukrainian officials to discuss Biden.
In her closed-door testimony, Yovanovitch said Giuliani’s associates “may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.” If she can provide new information about that, it could undermine Trump’s defense that he was working with Giuliani on a good-faith effort to clean up long-standing corruption in Ukraine.
A chance to deny conspiracy theories
One of the main reasons Giuliani and other Trump allies wanted Yovanovitch sidelined was because she was allegedly a member of the anti-Trump “deep state,” who was trying to undermine his presidency. She was appointed to her post in Ukraine by President Barack Obama, and some of Giuliani’s allies have tied her to liberal billionaire George Soros.
Yovanovitch denied all these allegations during her private deposition on October 11. But on Friday, she’ll be on national television, under oath, for all to see. Democrats will likely give her a platform to rebut the allegations from Giuliani and Trump, and from former Ukrainian officials who accused her (without evidence) of pressuring them to stop investigating certain people.
Prepare for Republican pushback
While she might have a compelling story to tell about her personal experience, Yovanovitch wasn’t around for any of the other events that are part of the impeachment inquiry, including Trump’s controversial phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July.
CNN reported that House Republicans are planning to highlight that Yovanovitch doesn’t have firsthand knowledge of Trump’s conversations with Zelensky or his interest in having Ukraine announce investigations into his political rivals, including Biden.
She left her post in May, two months before the critical phone call with Zelensky, and before the Ukrainians learned that there was a holdup in the $391 million package of US military aid.