The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was abruptly removed by President Donald Trump earlier this year will take center stage on Friday morning to testify in the second public hearing in his impeachment inquiry.
Ambassador Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch, 61, was ousted in May after what her former colleagues describe as a “smear campaign” by Trump’s allies, led by his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. In a July 25th call with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, which sparked the initial whistleblower complaint, Trump described her as “bad news” and someone who was “going through some stuff.”
“I didn’t know what it meant,” Yovanovitch told lawmakers in a closed-door hearing last month in regards to those comments. “I was very concerned. I still am.”
Other diplomats have testified that Yovanovitch, who was known as an outspoken critic of corruption in Ukraine, was unfairly removed after a sustained lobbying campaign from Giuliani and others. Ahead of Friday’s hearing, Democratic investigators said Yovanavitch’s ouster is a crucial piece of the timeline. “She was the first casualty of the President’s efforts that would ultimately lead to the pressure campaign in support of the 2020 election,” one Democratic aide told reporters the evening before her testimony. The inquiry is focused on whether Trump used military aid to Ukraine as leverage to pressure the country to open probes into his political rivals.
An apolitical career diplomat with over three decades of experience, Democrats hope Yovanavitch’s testimony will help bolster their narrative that the President undercut his own State Department to further his political agenda.
This is a developing story. Stay tuned for more updates from TIME reporters in the room.