Marie Yovanovitch’s Testimony

9 mins read
U.S. Embassy Kyiv Ukraine [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

We learn today that American democratic institutions are alive and well—and that Donald Trump is running out of defenses. 

In fact, each time the GOP tries out a defense, along comes some new evidence that obliterates that defense. 

For example, a GOP defense has been to dismiss all the evidence as hearsay.

Aside: in fact, hearsay is often admissible as evidence under numerous exceptions. In this case, the hearsay could be considered a co-conspirator statements in furtherance of a conspiracy.

But “it’s all hearsay!” sounds good, right? The idea is that nobody actually heard the president say anything more than politely asking for a favor. 

So where is the crime?

Then Taylor drops this bombshell on Wednesday:

And today we learn this:

There goes the “nobody can pin anything on the president” defense.

Today the GOP tried another defense: The president has the right to fire an ambassador at any time. 

That one also got obliterated.

Aside: Anytime someone argues, “The president has the right to to that,” the response is this: “but not for corrupt purposes.”

Yovanovitch pointed out that Trump could have recalled her anytime, so why did he feel it was necessary to smear her reputation in public?

There is only one answer to that question: to batter and demoralize and undermine the State Department officials (what the radicalized right wing calls the Deep State) leaving Trump free to move the levers of government to suit himself.

Democrats are building the case that Trump wanted to remove Yovanovitch so he could run a “shadow” foreign policy to further his own interests.

Masha Gessen, relying on Balint Magyar’s work, argues that we’re “using the wrong language” to describe this shadow policy.

A president, who is the chief foreign policy official in the nation, can’t, by definition, run a shadow foreign policy.

What he can do, however, is destroy the institutions that traditionally conduct foreign policy, in this case, the State Dept. staffed by career diplomats.

Why would he want to do that?

Because the way to establish a mafia state is to destroy the existing institutions.

Trump ran for president on a promise to destroy what he called the Deep State, which is another word for our democratic institutions. 

In the minds of the far right wing, the deep state are career officials like Marie Yovanovitch.

The other things that went wrong for Trump today is that Yovanovitch put a sympathetic—and patriotic—face on the “deep state.”

Yovanovitch’s story was so powerful and moving, in fact, that Chris Wallace said if viewers were not moved by her testimony “they have no pulse.”

Trump interrupted Yovanovitch’s testimony by attacking her with a tweet:

My guess is that Trump sought to reaffirm that he had a right to fire her by showing that he had grounds for doing so.

When Schiff interrupted the hearing to read Yovanovitch the tweet and allow her to respond, she responded with sadness, and a calm dignity.

The Democrats will no doubt add witness tampering / witness intimidation to the articles of impeachment.

To illustrate the extent of Trump’s blunder—and the success of Yovanovitch’s testimony—the last few minutes of the hearing says it all.

The Republicans were yelling and complaining about Schiff, but their complaining was drowned out when the audience spontaneously gave Yovanovitch a standing ovation as she walked from the room.

Over the next week I expect the Democrats to continue filling out the story.

They started with Taylor and Kent, who could offer the contours of the story, including testimony about how the Ukrainians were responding to the Trump-Giuliani shakedown.

Then they brought in Yovanovitch to fill in the events from the spring and describe the smear campaign against her.

Next week, I expect testimony concerning what happened over the summer, and when the security aid was withheld.

I’ve pieced the story we have so far from the witness testimony here.

Having read the depositions, I expect Hill, Vindman, and others, like Yovanovitch, to be sympathetic witnesses.

Because the GOP is so entrenched and desperate, I expect next week to be more of the same. I also expect the GOP antics to appear more and more desperate.

If the GOP was not so entrenched and desperate, they’d be planning an exit strategy for Trump.

The standing ovation Yovanovitch received from the public at the conclusion of her testimony was like a message from American democracy: I’m not dead yet.

The institutions are alive and well, and fighting back.

We heard the same message in the 2018 midterms.

Is the work ahead easy? No, I’m afraid not. I’ve been watching the 538 polling aggregate. You can see it here. The value of this aggregate (aside from being built by the math genius Nate Silver) is that it shows Trump’s approval over time, by aggregating and weighting all polls. It prevents people from focusing on outlying polls or short-lived trends.

What you can see is that so far the needle hasn’t moved much. I suspect Trump has a floor of about 36%, which means there’s room to go down.

Even if it remains steady, the bright side is that with 54% disapproval remaining steady, Trump will lose in a bloodbath similar to the 2018 elections.

On the other side, 40% of the population still approves of Trump.

That 40% has always been there. They supported slavery, they opposed Jim Crow, they opposed FDR’s New Deal, and they remain opposed to the equal rights amendment. They also exert power beyond their numbers.

We’ve never had a president try to turn the US into a mafia state, but if people were willing to embrace slavery to maintain white male supremacy, why not this?

We’ve been fighting the same battle since the start of the nation. Susan B. Anthony, Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King, Jr. were all fighting the same forces.

The battle isn’t easy. That’s why they were heroes.

It’s also why I keep posting my list of what people can do because really, it comes down to this: Democracy will survive if enough people want it to survive.

Originally posted on Musing About Law, Books, and Politics. Re-posted with permission.


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Teri has written novels, short stories, nonfiction for both young readers and adults, and lots of legal briefs. She is currently working on a book on disinformation to be published by Macmillan Publishers. Her political commentary has appeared on the NBC Think Blog and CNN.com. Her articles and essays have appeared in publications as diverse as Education Week, Slate Magazine, and Scope Magazine. Her short fiction has appeared in the American Literary View, The Iowa Review, and others. For twelve years she maintained a private appellate law practice limited to representing indigents on appeal from adverse rulings. She believes with the ACLU that when the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled. She also believe with John Updike that the purpose of literature is to expand our sympathies. Teri lives with her family on the beautiful central coast in California.

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