October 11, 2019

The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine called out President Trump in her congressional testimony Friday, saying he pushed her out based on "false claims" peddled by people with "questionable motives."

Marie Yovanovitch, who served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine until May 2019, testified as part of the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry, which was sparked by a whistleblower complaint alleging Trump abused his power by pushing for Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

Yovanovitch told lawmakers she was informed by the deputy secretary of state earlier this year she was being removed from her position even though "I had done nothing wrong" because Trump had been pressuring the State Department to do so since 2018. On Wednesday, two associates of Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested and charged with campaign finance violations, having allegedly lobbied for Yovanovitch's removal on behalf of a Ukrainian government official.

"Although I understand that I served at the pleasure of the president, I was nevertheless incredulous that the U.S. government chose to remove an ambassador based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives," Yovanovitch testified.

Among the allegations she refuted as being false were that she was "disloyal" to Trump or privately said to ignore his orders because he would be impeached. Giuliani has labeled her "part of the efforts against the president."

"I do not know Mr. Giuliani’s motives for attacking me," she says. "Individuals who have been named in the press as contacts of Mr. Giuliani may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine."

Yovanovitch concludes her withering opening statement by suggesting that "corrupt interests in Ukraine" fought back against her by "selling conspiracy theories to anyone who would listen."

"Sadly," she says, "someone was listening, and our nation is the worse off for that." Brendan Morrow

9:36 p.m.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg may have been pummeled at a Democratic debate less than a week ago, but the crowd in South Carolina sounded surprisingly sympathetic to the billionaire candidate on Tuesday night. Attacks on Bloomberg often spurred the audience to loudly boo, while his attacks on his opponents would receive enthusiastic cheers:

The tone was so markedly different from that of the debate in Nevada that many viewers were suspicious of the authenticity of the hecklers:

Tickets to attend the South Carolina debate were prohibitively expensive, some have pointed out; the only way to obtain a ticket was to sponsor the debate, with such sponsorships ranging from $1,750 to $3,200 each. Whether that meant the demographic of the attendees naturally skewed toward a group that was more tolerant of billionaires — or if the hecklers' seats were being paid for by someone else — wasn't immediately clear. Jeva Lange

9:13 p.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), like everyone else, has some regrets.

He let the country know about about one during Tuesday's Democratic primary debate in Charleston, South Carolina. Former Vice President Joe Biden went after Sanders for his past gun control record, which Biden doesn't think is strong enough.

Sanders was then asked about previously voting for the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act which shields gun manufacturers from liability in shootings. Instead of immediately pushing back, he admitted he considers that one of the bad votes among the thousands of his votes he's cast during his time in Congress, adding that he now has a D-minus rating from the National Rifle Association.

He then went on to point out that Biden also has what he considers bad votes under his belt, like his support for the Iraq War, which Sanders didn't back. Tim O'Donnell

9:13 p.m.

The shouts of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the screeches of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and the shrieks of former Vice President Joe Biden ricocheted around the stage during Tuesday night's Democratic debate in South Carolina.

Right from the start, it was a raucous affair, with the candidates consistently — and loudly — interrupting each other and ignoring the time limits to respond. At one cacophonous point, it sounded like all of the candidates were trying to answer a question, but no one could understand what they were saying. When things settled down a bit, billionaire investor Tom Steyer tried to get a word in, but was scolded by Sanders; later, an annoyed Sanders tried to get former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg to stop talking by saying, "Hellllooo!" It didn't work.

Biden cracked the code about 30 minutes into the debate, saying, "I guess the only way to do this is jump in and speak twice as long as you should." He then attacked Steyer for once investing in private prisons, said Sanders hasn't passed "much of anything" during his time in the Senate, and refused to yield any of his time to the other candidates. "I'm gonna talk," he snapped, which got the crowd cheering. Expect none of these people to have a voice tomorrow. Catherine Garcia

8:59 p.m.

The billionaire former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, has been slammed by his Democratic primary opponents for allegedly "buy[ing] his way into the debate[s]." On Tuesday night, he nearly admitted to buying a whole lot more than just that.

The Freudian slip came as Bloomberg was bragging about spending $100 million in the 2018 midterm elections to back 21 of the 40 Democrats who were elected to the House. "All of the new Democrats that came in, put Nancy Pelosi in charge, and gave the Congress the ability to control this president, I bought — I got them," Bloomberg said, quickly correcting himself.

Bloomberg is self-funding his campaign, the most expensive in presidential history; he broke the $500 million mark in ad spending on Monday. Read more about the former mayor's possible attempts to "buy an election" here at The Week. Jeva Lange

8:43 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden pulled a Joe Namath during Tuesday night's debate in Charleston, South Carolina.

Biden, the frontrunner in the Palmetto State, was quiet for the first few minutes of the debate before he was asked about his shrinking lead ahead of Saturday's state primary. The vice president, though, wasn't lacking any confidence about his chances, despite having previously described South Carolina as his campaign's firewall.

He said he was determined to win the state and would maintain his support among African American voters, but he eventually went into a full-on Namath-style guarantee when he was asked if he would drop out in a scenario where he didn't emerge victorious. Biden never answered that question directly, opting only to say "I will win South Carolina."Tim O'Donnell

8:37 p.m.

With Super Tuesday looming, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has cemented himself as the man to beat in the Democratic primary. During Tuesday night's debate in South Carolina, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren rose to the challenge in her most direct attack on her progressive colleague to date. "The way I see this is, Bernie is winning right now because the Democratic party is a progressive party and progressive ideas are popular ideas," Warren began. She then added in no uncertain terms that "Bernie and I agree on a lot of things, but I think I would make a better president than Bernie."

Warren explained that "getting a progressive agenda enacted is going to be really hard and it's going to take someone who digs into the details to make it happen." She went on to site her record on battling big banks and health care, emphasizing that "I dug in. I did the work. And then Bernie's team trashed me for it."

As Sanders shook his head in disagreement, Warren finished: "Progressives have got one shot and we need to spend it with a leader who will get something done." Jeva Lange

8:24 p.m.

Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg's campaign manager Mike Schmuhl wants to be realistic about Super Tuesday.

In a memo sent Tuesday, Schmuhl said the goal for next week when voters in 14 states, including Texas and California, head to the polls is not to win, but "minimize" frontrunner Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) margin of victory. But, fear not, Buttigieg supporters, that doesn't mean the campaign is giving up. Schmuhl added that the subsequent Tuesdays on March 10 and 17 are where the mayor really has a chance to shine, pointing out that while Super Tuesday accounts for 34 percent of available delegates, those two voting slates account for 28 percent.

FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver thinks the memo is admirable in that it sets "realistic expectations," but he also argues it means Buttigieg might eventually have to rely on a contested convention to win the nomination, because without a healthy amount of delegates on Super Tuesday it will become incredibly difficult to win outright. Tim O'Donnell

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