Yovanovitch, former Ukraine ambassador, set to testify amid impeachment push

By Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver

The House impeachment effort will roll along this morning as Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, will testify before the House Intelligence Committee as it continues to probe President Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine.

Yovanovitch, a longtime diplomat, will be the third witness to testify publicly before investigators. Last month, Yovanovitch told the three investigatory committees in private about the “dangerous precedent” set by Rudy Giuliani, corrupt Ukrainian officials and disreputable media figures to oust an ambassador they believed was standing in the way of their business and political interests.

Ahead of the hearing, Scott Wong and Olivia Beavers lay out their five things to watch, including whether any new information comes to light in her testimony.

The main takeaway from Wednesday’s hearing was far and away when William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, dropped a new detail that he did not reveal during his closed-door testimony: That a staffer of his overheard U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland on a phone call with Trump where the president reportedly said that he cared more about possible investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

The Hill: Trump knocks testimony from “Never Trumpers” at Louisiana rally.

Taylor’s revelation has taken on a life of its own over the past two days. The Associated Press reported Thursday that David Holmes, who worked at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine under Taylor, was not the only person who overheard the call. According to the report, Suriya Jayanti, a foreign service officer based in Kyiv, also heard the phone call.

Holmes is expected to testify behind closed doors to investigators on Friday afternoon following the Yovanovitch hearing. Jayanti was scheduled to be deposed privately in late October, but her deposition was postponed due to the funeral of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

Reuters: Impeachment witnesses scheduled next week.

With those hearings upcoming, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) escalated her criticism of the president on Thursday, arguing that with Ukraine Trump committed bribery — to “grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into the elections. That’s bribery.” However, the Democratic leader said House members had not determined whether or how many articles of impeachment Trump might face (The Hill).

The Hill: Trump files to dismiss lawsuit from Bolton aide on impeachment testimony.

The Hill: Bill Clinton advises Trump to ignore impeachment: “You got hired to do a job.”

Peter Nicholas, The Atlantic: Trump is surrounded.

The Hill: Day One of impeachment hearings attracts 13.1 million viewers.

Bloomberg News: Giuliani faces U.S. probe on campaign finance, lobbying breaches.

With impeachment taking center stage, it may be hard to believe, but lawmakers are actually working on other items. Chief among them: trying to avoid a government shutdown over the next month and change.

Top appropriators met on Thursday as they look to make progress toward avoiding a government shutdown either next week or ahead of the Christmas holiday. The government is funded through Nov. 21, and it remains likely that lawmakers will pass a stopgap measure to extend funding through Dec. 20. Negotiators are working toward a deal on top-line spending figures by next week as they look to also hammer out the larger fiscal 2020 spending bills (The Hill).

Risks of a shutdown diminished on Thursday as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters following a meeting with Pelosi that the administration has “no intention” of letting federal funding lapse (The Hill).

Lawmakers also are pushing toward a deal on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Pelosi touted bipartisan progress during remarks to reporters on Thursday. She said an update to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is “imminent” (The Hill). However, some Democrats tossed some cold water on that characterization (The Hill).

Finally, as Jordain Carney reports, Senate Republicans are eagerly awaiting the Justice Department’s report on alleged surveillance abuse of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. The findings are expected to be released in the near future.

Republicans, including some of Trump’s best known allies, believe the findings will address their long-held suspicions of wrongdoing within the Obama administration, and help fuel follow-up investigations on Capitol Hill.

The New York Times: Multiple lawmakers under investigation over ethical misconduct.

The Washington Post: Besieged on all sides, Sondland clings to power.

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