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Ousted US envoy Marie Yovanovitch testifies at Trump impeachment hearing

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An ousted US envoy to Ukraine who said she felt threatened by Donald Trump testified Friday on Day Two of impeachment hearings looking into whether the president abused his office for personal political gain.

Earlier witnesses in the inquiry said ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was removed after a smear campaign involving Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, accused of helping to coordinate the president’s effort to pressure Kiev into investigating his Democratic rival Joe Biden.

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Yovanovitch, a highly regarded career diplomat who was pulled from her post in May, will now tell her side of the story in an open, nationally televised setting, as Democratic lawmakers sharpen their case against the president.

“Ambassador Yovanovitch was serving our nation’s interest in fighting corruption in Ukraine,” House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, who is overseeing the impeachment probe, said in his opening statement.

“But she was considered an obstacle to the furtherance of the president’s personal and political agenda. For that, she was smeared and cast aside.”

Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the panel, hit back by dismissing what he called “Watergate fantasies.”

“The Democrats have convened us once again to advance their operation to topple a duly elected president.”

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AFP / Gal ROMA The US impeachment process

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Thursday accused Trump of “bribery” for freezing US military aid to Ukraine in an effort to get the country to launch political investigations against his potential 2020 election rival Biden, and his son Hunter.

“The devastating testimony” from the first public impeachment hearing this week “corroborated evidence of bribery uncovered in the inquiry,” the top congressional Democrat said.

The investigation threatens to make Trump the third US president to be impeached, after Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998, although the Senate — where Republicans enjoy a majority — would need to convict him to remove him from office.

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Pelosi’s comments signal her party believes the evidence that emerged is strong enough to back their argument that Trump abused the power of his office.

It also revealed a clear effort to move away from the term “quid pro quo” — the Latin term they had been using to describe the withholding of both aid and a White House meeting until Ukraine announced the political investigations.

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Yovanovitch, who had urged Ukraine to do more to fight corruption, said in closed-door testimony last month that she was “shocked” to learn of Giuliani’s secret shadow policy to pressure Ukraine.

She also testified that she was told to “watch my back” after she made clear she would not be a part of the effort, and that a Ukrainian official who had met with Giuliani wanted to “hurt” her.

– ‘Bad news’ –

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Yovanovitch said she was ousted in May over “false claims” spread by questionable actors allied to Trump.

And she expressed concern about retaliation, especially after learning that Trump, on his July 25 telephone call with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, described her as “bad news” and told Zelensky that Yovanovitch was “going to go through some things.”

During Wednesday’s opening hearing, senior career State Department official George Kent told the House Intelligence Committee that he was “alarmed” when the smear campaign aimed at Yovanovitch began to bear fruit.

It led to Yovanovitch’s ouster “and hampered US efforts to establish a rapport with the new Zelensky administration in Ukraine,” Kent said.

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Also testifying Wednesday was William Taylor, the top US envoy to Ukraine, who revealed details of a previously unknown phone call between Trump and another diplomat involved in the irregular Ukraine policy channel.

Taylor said an aide at the embassy in Kiev overheard the call between Trump and US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, in which Trump asked about the status of the “investigations.”

That aide, David Holmes, was set to testify behind closed doors later Friday about the contents of the call — of which Trump says he has no recollection.


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The Republican Party resorts to suppressing its own voters after being overrun by Trump: former GOP congressman

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In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal this Thursday, former GOP congressman and current 2020 challenger to President Trump, Joe Walsh, argued that Republicans are shutting out any competition to Trump on their 2020 primary ballots, ultimately "disenfranchising GOP voters in eight states—so far."

"The Republican Party apparatus has been bound to one man through power plays and intimidation," Walsh writes. "Since Mr. Trump was elected, 40 Republican state party chairmen have turned over. The party’s leadership is unrecognizable from what it was before Mr. Trump."

According to Walsh, the GOP protecting Trump from primary challengers is a reflection of an infamous Trump personality trait -- a complete disregard for anyone who disagrees with him.

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Rick Santorum falls apart during CNN defense of Trump as fellow Republican Charlie Dent laughs

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As CNN contributor Rick Santorum struggled to defend Donald Trump's quid pro quo proposal to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday morning, his fellow Pennsylvania Republican, former Rep. Charlie Dent, laughed at his fumbling for answers.

Sitting down with "New Day" host John Berman, Santorum once again attempted to make the case that the president was withholding aid over Ukraine corruption and not because he was seeking dirt on political opponents -- and didn't fare well as Berman kept fact-checking him.

With the two former GOP lawmakers on split-screen, Santorum refused to concede that the president was asking for a personal favor during the phone-call that eventually led to a House impeachment inquiry into the president's actions.

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Ukraine’s ambassador to Austria shreds Trump allies for giving Putin their ‘enthusiastic help’

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Olexander Scherba, who currently serves as Ukraine's ambassador to Austria, sent out a scathing tweet on Friday excoriating allies of President Donald Trump who seem hellbent on helping Russian President Vladimir Putin reassert Russia's dominance over Eastern Europe.

In his tweet, Scherba explained the scope of Putin's ambitions, which he said went far beyond seizing Ukrainian territory.

"Putin isn’t just fighting Ukraine," he wrote. "He is fighting the whole world order, created by Reagan."

The ambassador then turned his attention to American supporters of President Donald Trump who have been cheering Putin's actions.

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