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Adam Schiff Holds Press Conference Following Impeachment Testimony; Marie Yovanovitch Testifies. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired November 15, 2019 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:00:00]

WELCH: -- that expression in a new way. But thank you.

YOVANOVITCH: Thank you.

MALONEY: I want to ask you about the day you were let go. And I know this is a painful series of events, so forgive me, but I think it's very important. It's -- April 24th, and you -- you -- you told us a few things that really stuck with me. You said you were at the Embassy in Ukraine, you were honoring a Ukrainian woman, a -- an anticorruption activist, I believe her name is Kateryna Handziuk, is that correct?

YOVANOVITCH: That's correct, yes, it was...

MALONEY: Am I saying that correctly?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes, it was at my house.

MALONEY: Oh, right, your house, excuse me.

YOVANOVITCH: Yes. Yes.

MALONEY: And you were giving her the Woman of Courage Award, I believe.

YOVANOVITCH: Yes, the -- Embassy Kyiv's (ph) Woman of Courage Award.

MALONEY: Right, and of course that's the day you get a call from Carol Perez, a senior member of the Foreign Service. Did you know Carol Perez?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

MALONEY: You're both senior women in the Foreign Service, you had an opportunity to meet her before (ph)?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes. Yes.

MALONEY: And she says there's trouble coming, I want to give you a heads up -- correct me if I get this wrong, and I don't know a lot, but it's coming from the White House, I'll call you later.

YOVANOVITCH: Yes. Yes, that's -- sums it up.

MALONEY: But you're -- literally that evening honoring this anticorruption activist. Is that right?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

MALONEY: And not just any woman, but a woman who was, you said, horribly attacked and -- and killed for her -- for her efforts, and -- and she wasn't just killed, you said she -- you said I believe that someone threw acid on her?

YOVANOVITCH: That's correct.

MALONEY: And I went and I checked during the break, and it turns out she -- she was horribly injured and it took four months for her to die, is that right?

YOVANOVITCH: A very painful death.

MALONEY: Why would somebody attack her with acid? There are easier ways to kill people. Why do you think they did it with acid?

YOVANOVITCH: Well, I think they wanted her out of the way, but I think the message was this could happen to you, too, if you continue her work.

MALONEY: That's what happens when you go up against corrupt people in Ukraine.

YOVANOVITCH: It is something that can happen. I mean, there are other ways of sidelining people.

MALONEY: Do you remember speaking at that event?

YOVANOVITCH: I do.

MALONEY: I went and looked at what you said. You said Kateryna paid the ultimate price for her fearlessness in fighting against corruption and for her determined efforts to build a democratic Ukraine. Remember saying that?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

MALONEY: And then your phone rings, and you hear there's trouble up the street, and Carol Perez called you back later that night, right?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

MALONEY: It was one AM I believe.

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

MALONEY: Were you sleeping?

YOVANOVITCH: No.

MALONEY: You had stayed up?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

MALONEY: To get the phone call?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

MALONEY: And that's when she says two things, I believe, that really stuck with me. She said we're worried about your security.

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

MALONEY: You've just been honoring a woman who was killing for fighting anti --

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

MALONEY: For her anti-corruption efforts and she says you got to get on the next plane. Was she speaking euphemistically get on the next plane, you know, when you get time -- did she mean literally the next plane?

YOVANOVITCH: Well, I think she meant, you know, as soon as possible. But pretty much it was the next plane.

MALONEY: And that's a pretty good flight back from Kyiv to Washington and you're on your way to meet with Deputy Secretary Sullivan.

[15:05:00]

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

MALONEY: And he says to you, two things, he says there was a concerted effort against you and he says you've done nothing wrong.

YOVANOVITCH: Right.

MALONEY: And when he said -- what I'm fascinated about is when he says you've done nothing wrong, what did you expect the United States Government would do next?

YOVANOVITCH: You know, it was pretty clear that a decision had been made by the President, implemented by the State Department that I had to leave Ukraine. But I -- you know -- I -- I had hoped that there would be more public support.

MALONEY: Did you expect them to have your back?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

MALONEY: And were you surprised when you found out they weren't going to?

YOVANOVITCH: Not at that point, anymore.

MALONEY: Why? YOVANOVITCH: Well, because over the last several months that had not been the case.

MALONEY: Ma'am, in your opening statement you said how could our system fail like this?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

MALONEY: How is it that a foreign -- excuse me, how is it that foreign corrupt interest could manipulate our government? How could our system fail like this, how is it that foreign corrupt interests could manipulate our government? I want you know, ma'am, that that is the very question we are determined to get an answer for and I want to thank you on behalf of your country for your service and with our work, and answering that question. I yield back, Mr. Chair.

YOVANOVITCH: Thank you.

SCHIFF: Ms. Demings.

DEMINGS: Thank you so Mr. Chairman. Ambassador, everyone in this room should be thankful for your service to our nation. I have four little girls in my life and I sit here thinking about them and as a woman I can not be prouder of you and I consider you an inspiration for women around the world. I just have to say before I get into my questioning, is -- I think it's disgraceful to hear my colleagues refer to your sworn testimony as a performance today or speak in a condescending way basically suggesting that the woman -- because I think that's how the President referred to you, I'm not sure he knows your name or there's some other meaning -- meaning there, but to baselessly [ph] suggest that the woman should be thankful for whatever she was left with, smear campaign and all after your -- you were recalled.

But I want you to know today that we thank you for your service, your 33 years of service. Ambassador, on a press conference call on October 17th acting White House Chief of Staff, Mulvaney discussed his belief that it's entirely appropriate to politicize U.S. foreign policy. Here's what he said, "if you read the news reports and you believe them, what did McKinley say yesterday? Well, McKinley said yesterday that he was really upset with the political influence in foreign policy. That was one of the reasons he was so upset about this. And I have news for everybody, get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy."

Ambassador Yovanovitch, do you share the concern raised by Ambassador McKinley in testimony before this committee about political influence in foreign policy?

YOVANOVITCH: Well as I said before, I think it's important to keep political influence out of foreign policy because we all, whether we are Republican or Democrats or something else, have common security interests and that needs to be safeguarded and advanced.

DEMINGS: And what message do you think it sends to other foreign service officers in public service, which we so desperately need good ones, when an administration refuses to support its own officials in the face of a smear campaign?

YOVANOVITCH: Well it's - it's deeply troubling. It's deeply troubling and there are morale issues at the State Department.

DEMINGS: Morale issues at the State Department, I can understand why. On March 20th of 2019, President Trump tweeted an article that included a letter from Representative Pete Sessions that said you had, and I quote, "spoken privately and repeatedly about your disdain for the current administration, a way that might call for the expulsion of you as Ambassador to Ukraine and - immediately."

Did you speak publicly and privately about your disdain for the Trump administration?

YOVANOVITCH: No.

DEMINGS: Why do you think the President would want to push such a lie?

YOVANOVITCH: I don't know - I don't know.

[15:10:00] DEMINGS: Policies change but U.S. interests don't, not for those who are seeking to do the work of protecting our nation, the work you have done for decades. The President, his Chief of Staff and his allies seem to want nothing more than to spear the - smear the good people trying to protect this country and to hijack our institutions for their personal and political gain.

Again, Ambassador, we thank you so much for your service and I'll yield my remaining time to the Chairman.

YOVANOVITCH: Thank you.

SCHIFF: I thank the gentlewoman. I'm going to go to Mr. Krishnamoorthi.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Good afternoon, Ambassador, and thank you to the family, as well, for being here in support of you today. I'd like to direct you to an area of bipartisanship, namely aid to the Ukraine. Congress, on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis, appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance to Ukraine, correct?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: And that aid is being used by Ukraine to fight a common adversary, namely Russia, right?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: The U.S. in fact has consistently partnered with other European countries to keep Russia at bay and maintain the peace in Europe, right?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: As Ambassador Taylor suggested earlier this week, supporting Ukraine helps maintain peace so that Americans don't have to go to war again in Europe, right?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Suspending that aid and weakening Ukraine can increase the likelihood of the opposite, correct?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes, it is extremely short-sighted.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: The last time you were in Ukraine was May 20th of this year, right?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: In his opening statement, Ambassador Taylor said he took charge in Ukraine on June 17th.

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Therefore, there was almost a one month gap between the time you departed and when Taylor took over, right?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes - yes.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: During that time, on May 20th, Ambassador Sondland, Rick Perry and others came to the inauguration of President Zelensky, right?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: And during that gap in time, Ambassador Sondland visited the White House, along with others, and got directions from President Trump to talk to Rudy - those were his words, talk to Rudy about what to do in Ukraine, right?

YOVANOVITCH: That's my understanding.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: In other words, isn't it the case that your departure and the one month gap between the time you left and when Ambassador Taylor arrived provided the perfect opportunity for another group of people to basically take over Ukraine policy. Isn't that right?

YOVANOVITCH: Yeah.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Ambassador, you're going to have to speak a little louder into the mic.

YOVANOVITCH: Yes - yes.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you. On Page 10 of your opening statement, you mentioned quote-unquote "corrupt interests apparently hijacking our Ukraine policy," right?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: A couple of suspect individuals in that regard were Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, right? YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: You mentioned in response to minority counsel earlier that you learned that Fruman and Parnas were attempting to open a liquefied natural gas company, correct?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: How'd you learn that, by the way?

YOVANOVITCH: I heard it from the Minister of Interior.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Interestingly, at noon today, the Wall Street Journal reported that federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether Rudy Giuliani stood to personally profit from that liquefied natural gas venture. Do you have any knowledge of that?

YOVANOVITCH: No, I do not.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Maybe we should talk to Rudy, huh? Ambassador, I'd like to direct you to another line of questioning that I had for Ambassador Taylor earlier this week. He said that there were irregular channels of diplomacy at work in Ukraine, circumventing normal diplomatic channels and threatening American interests in favor of private interests.

I asked him the question can you rule out the possibility that these irregular channels of diplomacy are being used in other countries where we conduct foreign policy? In response, he said that he could not rule it out. Ambassador Yovanovitch, I ask you - and I assume that you can't rule it out, either, correct?

YOVANOVITCH: I can't but I would also add I have no knowledge of that.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I understand. Are you concerned that these irregular channels of diplomacy may be at work elsewhere?

YOVANOVITCH: I think it's a possibility.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: You testified that it was a quote-unquote "dangerous precedent that private interests and people who don't like a particular Ambassador could combine to replace that Ambassador." Are you concerned that other ambassadors may suffer the same fate as you?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

[15:15:00] KRISHNAMOORTHI: Ambassador, in your service as an American diplomat, you have encountered various dictators and strong men ruling other countries, right?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: In your personal life, your parents fled the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany and they became familiar with despots and dictators, as well, correct?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Indeed, you're an authority - authority on authoritarianism, right?

YOVANOVITCH: Well, maybe.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Is it a feature of authoritarianism to allow corrupt interests to hijack foreign policy?

YOVANOVITCH: Yeah.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Is it a feature of authoritarianism for the rulers there to claim absolute rights?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: And is it a hallmark of authoritarianism for those rulers to smear their opponents?

YOVANOVITCH: Sometimes, yes.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you.

SCHIFF: The time of the gentleman has expired.

Mr. Nunes, do you have any concluding remarks?

NUNES: I would just say to the American people, today's show trial has come to an end. We're headed down now to the basement of the Capitol to go until I don't know what time. We'll be back there, hiding again behind the closed doors, interviewing more witnesses that you may or may not be able to see in the public.

I hate to break it to my colleagues, if there's anyone else out there watching television ratings, but they must be plummeting right now. And I would suggest that we get back to the work of the Intelligence Committee, that we pass a trade agreement with the United States, Mexico and Canada that would actually help the American people out. Because this is an embarrassment.

I'll yield back.

CONAWAY: Mr. Chairman, may I be recognized for a motion?

SCHIFF: No, I have some...

CONAWAY: Mr. Chairman?

SCHIFF: ... concluding remarks.

I want to -- Ambassador, I want to thank you for your decades of service. I want to thank you, as Mr. Maloney said, for being the first one through the gap. What you did in coming forward and answering a lawful subpoena, was to give courage to others that also witnessed wrongdoing, that they too could show the same courage that you have, that they could stand up, speak out, answer questions. They could endure whatever threats, insults may come their way.

And so in your long and distinguished career, you have done another great public service in answering the call of our subpoena and testifying before us today.

I think you gathered from our comments that we not only grieve for what you went through, but what damage is being done to the State Department, to career federal foreign service officers all over the country.

I am profoundly grateful to you and Mr. Kent and Ambassador Taylor, who have done so much in the last two days or three days to show the American people the face of our diplomatic corps, the extraordinary public servants who work all around the world in very dangerous places, as you have.

And so I'm glad they've gotten to see you because you're often vilified as bureaucrats or diplomacy is -- is diminished as unimportant, anything other than military doesn't really matter, when it's your efforts that often prevent us from going to war.

Sometimes, you're disparaged as the deep state. But what you are is what holds this country together, what holds our foreign policy together, what makes it seamless, what makes it work. And I'm glad America gets to see that.

I will just emphasize once again about the importance of your testimony. Mr. Kent and Ambassador Taylor gave us the broad outlines of this story. This is a story about an effort to coerce, condition or bribe a foreign country into doing the dirty work of the president, investigations of his political rival. By conditioning U.S. taxpayer money, by conditioning a meeting that President Zelensky desperately wanted and needed to establish that relationship with the most powerful patron of Ukraine, the United States of America.

[15:25:00] The fact that they failed in this solicitation of bribery doesn't make it any less bribery, doesn't make it any less immoral or corrupt. It just means it was unsuccessful. And to that, we owe other dedicated public servants who blew the whistle. Had they not blown the whistle, we wouldn't be here. And I think it is appalling that my colleagues continue to want to out this whistleblower so that he or she can be punished by this president.

But let's underscore once again, while you are the beginning of this story, you're not the end of it. But nonetheless, the beginning is important because the beginning of the story is an effort to get you out of the way, an effort by Rudy Giuliani and Fruman and Parnas and corrupt Ukrainians like Lutsenko, to get you out of the way because they felt you were an impediment to these political investigations the president so desperately wanted.

Giuliani has made it abundantly clear, he was in Ukraine on a mission for his client, for the president, to investigate the Bidens. And you were viewed as an obstacle that had to go, not just by Giuliani but by the president of the United States. And if people had any doubt about it, they should do what the president asks: Read the transcript. And what they'll see in that transcript is, the president praises the corrupt. He praises the corrupt, Lutsenko. He condemns the just, you. And then he asks for an investigation of the Bidens. There is no camouflaging that corrupt intent.

We are adjourned.

CONAWAY: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker, a condition (ph)? Mr. Chairman, you...

SCHIFF: Please allow the witness to leave.

CONAWAY: ... Mr. Chairman, you disparaged...

SCHIFF: Please allow the witness to leave.

CONAWAY: ... you disparaged those members on this side of the aisle...

(APPLAUSE)

CONAWAY: ... we should have a chance to respond to your disparaging remarks. Mr. Chairman, I demand or seek -- Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You're watching a somewhat chaotic end to today's House impeachment inquiry hearing, in which we heard testimony from former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Masha Yovanovitch.

There was -- at the end of the hearing, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Adam Schiff, made some comments. And then you heard Republicans objecting that they didn't get a chance to respond before he gaveled the proceedings closed.

It was an eventful hearing.

And one of the participants via Twitter was President Trump, who, in the middle of Ambassador Yovanovitch's testimony at the beginning of the day, tweeted an attack on her, saying -- quote -- "Everywhere Maria Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia. How did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian president spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him.

"It is a U.S. president's absolute right to appoint ambassadors. They call it serving at pleasure of the president. The U.S. now has a very strong and powerful foreign policy, much different than preceding administration's. It is called, quite simply, America first. With all of that, however, I have done far more for Ukraine than President Obama."

And, obviously, that caused quite the ruckus. The chairman of the committee asked Ambassador Yovanovitch to respond in real time to the tweet. She said that she found it intimidating. And now Chairman Schiff is

suggesting that the tweed constituted, in one way, at least, witness intimidation.

Let's -- as we watch the Republican members, including the jacketless Congressman Jim Jordan, not actually a member of the House Impeach -- House Intelligence Committee normally, but put on the committee to be a bulldog of sorts, we are expecting him and the chairman of the committee, Adam Schiff, to come out and take questions from reporters.

We will bring that to you live as it happens.

But, while we wait, let us review the day.

Jen Psaki, what do you think was the headline of the day?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think there's no question, as we look back at today, what everyone will remember is that moment you just described, when President Trump tweeted in the middle of the testimony, when Adam Schiff went back to Masha Yovanovitch and asked her about it.

[15:25:07]

And she said: "Well, it's very intimidating. I can't speak to what the president is trying to do, but the effect is very intimidating."

That's what will remember.

Now, he then doubled down and basically said, went out and publicly said, I'm allowed to speak.

He's suggesting that he -- that every president can fire an ambassador, can hire an ambassador. What he's not acknowledging...

TAPPER: Which is true.

PSAKI: Which is true.

What he's not acknowledging here, and what I think the Democrats are pushing on here, is that he fired her or got her fired, pushed for her to be fired in order -- because she was pushing back on him advancing his own personal interest.

That's what this is about. That's what Adam Schiff brought it back to. But I think that tweet, the response and the moment with her is what we will all remember.

Mike Rogers, you were the House Intelligence Committee chairman. What do you think the Democrats accomplished today? What do you think the Republicans did?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I was never chairman of whatever that committee is.

(LAUGHTER) TAPPER: Well, because this is -- this -- it's almost an impeachment committee, even though...

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: It is.

Can I just said this on that? I really -- it's -- I'm disheartened by this, in the sense that committee is really very important. It's the only place that you can do really sensitive work outside the microphones in a classified area, where you can get the most sensitive information our intelligence services collect.

None of that work is being done. This is what worries me. I'm not sure what the Democrats got accomplished today. A lot of it seemed emotional to me, that didn't it hurt your feelings that you got fired and that people were talking bad about you?

TAPPER: A lot of questions for Yovanovitch...

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: Yes, but that's just not a legal matter. They may have been right. She was certainly mistreated in this.

And, again, did they point out that there is a bad system of this dual diplomacy that was operating in Ukraine by somebody who had business deals in Ukraine? We all, Republican, Democrat, everybody in between, should be offended by that. I know I am.

And so at least they pointed that out. And the Republicans just didn't seem like they could get their act together about a series of questions that would lead the audience to their position.

If there was, I didn't see it.

TAPPER: Well, here's your successor on the committee, although it was interrupted by Devin Nunes, the line of succession, Chairman Adam Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee, Democrat of California.

Let's listen to what the chairman has to say.

SCHIFF: We just wanted to share a few observations after the testimony today.

I think we could all see what an incredible public servant Ambassador Yovanovitch is. We are so fortunate to have dedicated professionals like her serving around the world.

She's served in some of the most dangerous places and has done so always with great distinction, with great courage under fire, sometimes quite literally. She showed that same, I think, level of devotion and courage and commitment to country today.

So we're grateful to her. We're grateful the other witnesses that have testified as well, who show the country what it means to be a public servant, what it means to be a career Foreign Service officer.

We're enormously proud of them.

That she had to endure yet another attack today, even as she was testifying, from the president of the United States is just appalling. But, as we have observed so often, appalling in this administration is not the least bit surprising.

Nonetheless, she endured the attack and went on. We're grateful for that. But it is quite clear that, I think, from her testimony, as well as others, that Rudy Giuliani and the president felt it was necessary to get her out of the way, that, notwithstanding what the president and others were told about her dedication to country, her commitment to fighting corruption, if anything, her commitment to fighting corruption was part of the reason why she was pushed out.

Pushing her out made it possible to put in the three amigos to conduct Ukraine policy. If there were any doubt about why she was pushed out, I think the call record eliminates that doubt.

It is apparent from that call record that the president associated his bias in favor of this corrupt prosecutor, Lutsenko, with a need to push out Yovanovitch, with a need to move forward with the investigations he wanted of his political rival.

That a U.S. ambassador would be so shamelessly smeared and cast aside to further this corrupt effort just adds further insult to the injury done to the country and to our national security.

Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Chairman, real quick question.

What is your expectation for next week? And we almost understand why you have the witnesses paired the way you do.

Is the expectation that Fiona Hill's public testimony will be the last public hearing that your community will hear in this impeachment proceeding?

SCHIFF: Well, we have -- as you have seen --

[15:30:00]