'I do not understand Mr. Giuliani's motives' – Quotes from Trump impeachment hearing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee held its second public hearing on Friday in an impeachment inquiry examining President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. The witness was Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

Below are some quotations from Friday’s hearing.

WITNESS MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE:

Yovanovitch said not all Ukrainians “embraced” U.S. anti-corruption work. “Thus, perhaps, it was not surprising, that when our anti-corruption efforts got in the way of a desire for profit or power, Ukrainians who preferred to play by the old, corrupt rules sought to remove me. 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.

“I do not understand Mr Giuliani’s motives for attacking me,” she said, referring to the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, “nor can I offer an opinion on whether he believed the allegations he spread about me. Clearly, no one at the State Department did. What I can say is that Mr. Giuliani should have known those claims were suspect, coming as they reportedly did from individuals with questionable motives and with reason to believe that their political and financial ambitions would be stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.

“I still find it difficult to comprehend that foreign and private interests were able to undermine U.S. interests in this way.

“These events should concern everyone in this room. Ambassadors are the symbol of the United States abroad, they are the personal representative of the president,” Yovanovitch said.

“If our chief representative is kneecapped, it limits our effectiveness to safeguard the vital national security interests of the United States. This is especially important now, when the international landscape is more complicated and more competitive than it has been since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.”

She also warned: “The State Department is being hollowed out from within at a competitive and complex time on the world stage. This is not a time to undercut our diplomats.”

HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN ADAM SCHIFF:

Schiff, a Democrat, opened the impeachment hearing explaining how Yovanovitch was removed from her post earlier this year “because she did not have the confidence of the president.”

“Getting rid of Ambassador Yovanovitch helped set stage for an irregular channel that could pursue the two investigations that mattered so much to the president, the 2016 conspiracy theory, and most important, an investigation into the 2020 political opponent he apparently feared most, Joe Biden. And the president’s scheme might have worked but for the fact that the man who would succeed Ambassador Yovanovitch, whom we heard from on Wednesday, acting Ambassador Taylor, would eventually discover the effort to press Ukraine into conducting these investigations and would push back hard, but for the fact that someone blew the whistle,” Schiff said.

“Ambassador Yovanovitch was serving our nation’s interest in fighting corruption in Ukraine, 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,” Schiff said. “The powers of the presidency are immense, but they are not absolute and cannot be used for a corrupt purpose.”

Schiff also responded to Representative Devin Nunes’ reading aloud of the first telephone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

“I’m grateful the president has released the call record. I would now ask the president to release the thousands of other records that he has instructed the State Department not to release. … We would ask the president to stop obstructing the impeachment inquiry,” Schiff said.

“And finally I would say this Mr. President: I hope you explain to the country today why it was after this call, and while the vice president was making plans to attend the inauguration, you instructed the vice president not to attend Zelenskiy’s inauguration.”

HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE SENIOR REPUBLICAN DEVIN NUNES:

The top Republican on the committee, Devin Nunes, said Democrats had gone “too far” in their efforts to impeach Trump, castigating them for accusing the president of being a “Russian agent” and comparing them to “some kind of strange cult.”

“Democrats have been vowing to oust President Trump since the day he was elected. So Americans can rightly suspect that his phone call with President Zelenskiy was used as an excuse for the Democrats to fulfill their Watergate fantasies,” Nunes said.

Much of the testimony so far relied on rumors, the Republican said.

“The problem with trying to overthrow a president based on this type of evidence is obvious. But that’s what their whole case relies on, beginning with secondhand and thirdhand information cited by the whistleblower,” Nunes said.

“And just when you thought this spectacle couldn’t get more bizarre, committee Republicans received a memo from the Democrats threatening ethics referrals if we out the whistleblower. As the Democrats are well aware, no Republicans here know the whistleblower’s identity because the whistleblower only met with the Democrats — not with Republicans.”

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