Former ambassador to the Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch calmly dismantled Republican staff attorney Steve Castor’s line of questioning centered on the idea that Ukrainian officials were out to get then-candidate Donald Trump during the second half of her Friday hearing.
Castor started by bringing up Alexandra Chalupa, a former DNC contractor who conveyed her concerns about Paul Manafort’s hiring by the Trump campaign to her employers, due to his reputation in Ukraine. Republicans have painted her as the link between the Clinton campaign and Ukraine, part of their baseless conspiracy theory that the country meddled in the 2016 election.
Yovanovitch neatly brushed off Castor’s questioning, saying that she doesn’t recall ever even meeting Chalupa and didn’t have much further information about her.
Castor gave up and moved on to the black ledger, which revealed undisclosed payments to Manafort from former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party. Castor tried to spin Ukrainian journalist Serhiy Leshchenko’s exposing of the ledger as an anti-Trump attack.
“Just speaking about Mr. Leshchenko, he is an investigative journalist, as you said, and he got access to the black ledger and he published it, as I think journalists would do,” she responded. ” I don’t have any information to suggest that that was targeting President Trump.”
Yovanovitch shoots down black ledger line of questioning pic.twitter.com/bnKzs7RPJ2
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) November 15, 2019
Castor shifted gears and brought up an op-ed written by Valeriy Chaly, former Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S., in which Chaly blasts Trump for musing that if elected, he may consider lifting the sanctions on Russia and making Crimea one of its territories.
Castor asked her if she could see how that piece of writing, regardless of the substance, could create the “perception” that the Ukrainian establishment was anti-Trump.
She replied that he was merely criticizing Trump’s policy position, and that Crimea’s status is a “tremendously sensitive issue” in Ukraine.
In his final feeble attempt to make out Ukrainians as hostile to then-candidate Trump, Castor brought up some anti-Trump comments Arsen Avakov, Ukrainian minister of internal affairs, made online.
“He said some real nasty things,” Castor said.
Yovanovitch raised her eyebrows. “Well, sometimes that happens on social media,” she responded, as the hearing room burst into laughter.