- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2019

House Democrats plan to use former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch to humanize the abuse-of-power impeachment case against President Trump, which so far has been a complicated tale of bureaucracy and foreign policy.

She will take center stage Friday at the second public hearing in the impeachment investigation of President Trump, cast as a sympathetic character caught up in what Democrats describe as the president’s bribery scheme to get Ukraine to investigate a political rival.

Ms. Yovanovitch, who was recalled from her Ukraine post in May, will testify that she was the victim of a smear campaign because she wouldn’t help push Ukrainian officials to launch a corruption probe targeting former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter.

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“It’s humiliating that she was smeared in the way that she was, but this isn’t about her,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell, California Democrat. “It’s about, ‘What does it mean when a president can fire an ambassador so that he can run a shakedown scheme?’”

He pushed back against Mr. Trump’s defenders who note that Ms. Yovanovitch, like all ambassadors, served at the pleasure of the president and could be recalled at any time for any reason.

“He can fire and hire anyone he wants. But if he’s doing that because he’s corruptly trying to personally benefit, there’s also a way to hold him to account,” he said.

His remarks preview the back-and-forth expected at the hearing.

Ms. Yovanovitch also is expected to bolster the Democrat’s bribery case, describing how she reacted to efforts by Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, to pressure Kyiv.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spelled out the extortion argument Thursday.

“The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into the elections,” said the California Democrat. “That’s bribery.”

Bribery is both easier for the public to understand and specifically named in the Constitution as one of the crimes that merit impeachment.

She stopped short of saying bribery would be in articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump.

“We haven’t even made a decision to impeach,” she said.

Republicans are prepared to challenge the relevance of Ms. Yovanovitch’s testimony.

“She wasn’t there during the relevant time,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, North Carolina Republican. “This is a sidebar meant to have a different narrative that has nothing to do with the potential impeachable offenses.”

The impeachment inquiry stems from accusations that Mr. Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July 25th phone call to investigate corruption involving the Bidens, as well as the country’s interference in the U.S. 2016 election.

Mr. Trump had delayed a $391 million of military aid to Ukraine and a promised White House visit by Mr. Zelensky, actions that Democrats say constitute extortion.

Ms. Yovanovitch left her post in May, well before the phone call. Rather than an alleged quid pro quo, her testimony focuses on her concerns about political biases influencing foreign policy, particularly involving Mr. Giuliani.

In her closed-door deposition, she testified that she felt she was the victim of a whisper campaign by Mr. Giuliani and the Ukrainian officials with whom he met.

Republicans are bracing for Mr. Giuliani to be dragged through the mud on Friday in an attempt to damage Mr. Trump.

“That’s going to be the Democrats’ motive to try to bring Giuliani in front and center. And they believe by impeaching Giuliani, they can impeach the president,” Mr. Meadows said. “That’s a harder sell on Main Street.”

Ms. Yovanovitch’s solo appearance will be only the second hearing in a packed two-week schedule leading up to the Thanksgiving recess. She follows the kickoff hearing with William B. Taylor, her successor in the Ukraine ambassadorship, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, who oversaw Ukraine policy.

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