Democrats are hoping the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony on Friday will draw sympathy from Americans watching the impeachment inquiry hearings, according to reports.
Yovanovitch is going to “tug at America’s heartstrings,” a Democrat aide told NBC News earlier this week.
A Democrat aide also told Axios earlier this week, “Yovanovitch was the first victim of the president’s scheme with Giuliani. [That draws the] sympathy of the audience.”
Yovanovitch, who was removed from her posting earlier this year around May, choked up during her closed-door deposition last month when she was describing her firing, prompting lawmakers to give her a short break. The moment came during questioning from the Democrat counsel Daniel Goldman.
Democrats may try to recreate that scene during the hearing’s first hour, which Democrats are designing to be as impactful as possible, according to reports.
“If the American people only watch the first hour, they’ll hear plenty,” a Democrat source told NBC News. “The first hour of each hearing is designed to be a blockbuster.”
House Republicans have slammed Democrats for trying to run a carefully orchestrated media smear campaign against the president.
House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-CA) said during his opening statement Wednesday at the first public impeachment hearing that witnesses “deemed suitable for television” were put through “a closed-door audition process in a cult-like atmosphere in the basement of the Capitol.”
“What we will witness today is a televised theatrical performance staged by the Democrats. Ambassador Taylor and Mr. Kent—I’d like to welcome you here, and congratulate you for passing the Democrats’ Star Chamber auditions held for the last six weeks in the basement of the Capitol,” Nunes told the witnesses.
“It seems you agreed, wittingly or unwittingly, to participate in a drama. But the main performance—the Russia hoax—has ended, and you’ve been cast in the low-rent Ukrainian sequel,” he said.
Although Democrats planned for the first hour of Wednesday’s hearing to be a “blockbuster,” opening statements lasted for 93 minutes, and the hearing overall was described by mainstream media outlets as “dull” and lacking “pizazz.”
Analysis: The first two witnesses called Wednesday testified to President Trump's scheme, but lacked the pizzazz necessary to capture public attention. https://t.co/1UfkaeZ3I4
— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 14, 2019
As with Bill Taylor and George Kent, the two State Department officials who testified Wednesday, Republicans will likely point out how Yovanovitch does not have any firsthand knowledge that the Trump administration tried to pressure Ukraine to launch political investigations in exchange for military aid or a White House meeting.
Still, Democrats, in continuation from Wednesday’s hearing, will likely try to lay out how the Trump administration had an “irregular channel” on Ukraine policy involving the president’s then-special envoy to Ukraine and long-time diplomat Kurt Volker and the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Yovanovitch testified last month that Ukrainian officials who did not like her had used Giuliani to run a smear campaign against her, to get her removed from her post in Ukraine.
Yovanovitch acknowledged that she served at the pleasure of the president, but discussed being “shocked” and “upset” that Trump fired her. However, in her testimony, she also went over the various reasons that at least several Ukrainian politician may not have liked her.
She also testified that she was unaware that the new Ukrainian president — who was elected on the platform of rooting out corruption — also did not like her.