What happened today
Marie Yovanovitch, the former American ambassador to Ukraine, center, arriving to testify in a closed hearing Friday on Capitol Hill.CreditDamon Winter/The New York Times
Marie Yovanovitch, the former American ambassador to Ukraine, told impeachment investigators in a closed-door interview that a top State Department official told her that President Trump had pushed for her removal even though the department believed she had “done nothing wrong.”
Ms. Yovanovitch said people associated with Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, “may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”
Gordon Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union, like Ms. Yovanovitch, agreed to comply with a House subpoena and testify, defying a State Department order not to appear.
What Marie Yovanovitch is thinking
Ms. Yovanovitch delivered her searing account before Congress at the risk of losing her job, since the White House has ordered officials not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. This afternoon I stopped by the desk of Sharon LaFraniere, who has written about Ms. Yovanovitch, to discuss why the former ambassador to Ukraine was so intent on speaking out.
Sharon, how unusual was her participation? And how unusual was her testimony?
She testified despite a White House declaration that there would be no more cooperation with Congress. She’s acting in defiance of the White House. Her testimony today was a really damning indictment of how the Trump administration is conducting foreign policy. She warned against people who in search of personal gain or private influence undermined the work of American government officials and threatened the policy goals of the United States. And on top of all that, she said the State Department is being hollowed out from within, because diplomats don’t feel the government has their back.
What does she know that House Democrats want to know?
She seemed to suggest that businesspeople who are allies of Rudy Giuliani may have orchestrated this campaign to get her out for their own private gain. Was she removed because she was standing in the way of some sort of quid pro quo deal that the White House was planning to execute? Did they see her as unwilling to play ball in what might have been a corrupt game? Those are the questions impeachment investigators want to answer.
What happened to Rudy Giuliani?
“Smart, charismatic, ruthless, a little megalomaniacal.” “Ambitious, righteous, then self-righteous.” “Personable … for a little while.” “Decisive, combative, conspiratorial.” “Pugilistic, erratic, extremely smart, reckless.” “Forceful, combative, energetic, vindictive, tireless, annoying.”
That’s Rudy Giuliani, as described by our reporters who have covered him over the past 35 years. A forthcoming episode of The Weekly traces his path from crime-busting prosecutor to Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, now at the center of the impeachment inquiry.
The episode focuses in part on a brutal zinger — that Mr. Giuliani needed only “a noun and a verb and 9/11” to construct a sentence — that was delivered by none other than Joe Biden, which helped sink the former New York City mayor’s 2008 presidential campaign.
“Giuliani did not like that line. I don’t think he ever forgot that Biden said it,” my colleague Maggie Haberman says on the show.
To better understand how we got to this point, I called Dan Barry, who appears in The Weekly episode and has chronicled Mr. Giuliani for decades.
What do you see in Rudy today that reminds you of the guy you’ve covered for so many years?
There’s this combativeness, that need to be at the center of attention — the willingness to go almost anywhere to champion whatever the cause of the moment is for him. All those character traits on display now are quite familiar to anyone who followed him closely 20 or 30 years ago. But the Rudy we see now is also at odds with the Rudy of the ’80s and ’90s, with his moral rectitude then. He was Mr. Law and Order.
Why, after so many years in the public eye, did he want to work for Mr. Trump?
He was leading in the polls in the 2007 to be the Republican nominee for president. He was spending oodles of money. He was getting a lot of ink. And then it all evaporated. He spent millions and ended up with one delegate. That stung. He was an international hero, and then was roundly rejected. He always wanted to be relevant. He needed to be relevant. What happened in 2016? He becomes relevant. Now, he’s effectively the shadow secretary of state. I think he revels in that.
Watch “The Weekly,” our new TV show, on FX Sunday at 10/9c.
What else we’re reading
Mr. Trump’s accounting firm must comply with a House committee’s demands for eight years of his financial records, a federal appeals court panel ruled on Friday.
The Justice Department asked another federal appeals court to stop the release of Mr. Trump’s tax returns to the Manhattan district attorney’s office, arguing that local prosecutors should have to meet a very high legal bar before investigating a sitting president.
“I think we do need an inquiry because we have to get to the bottom of it,” Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a moderate Republican, said when asked whether he supported the impeachment investigation. “I’m not ready to say I support impeachment and the removal of the president, but I do think we should have an impeachment inquiry.”
Trying to keep track of all the Ukraine-related characters from this week’s impeachment news? We wrote up a helpful guide.
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