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Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, center, arrives to testify to the House Intelligence Committee, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington, in the second public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump’s efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. At left is one of her attorney’s Laurie Rubenstein. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Published 11/15/2019 | Reading Time 1 min 13 sec

By Lisa Mascaro and Mary Clare Jalonick, with the Associated Press 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House opened a second day of Trump impeachment hearings Friday with a key witness: Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was targeted by the president’s allies in a “smear” campaign now central to the inquiry.

The public session was gaveled open before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill.

Yovanovitch, a career diplomat, who has served both Republican and Democratic presidents, was expected to relay her striking story of being told to “watch my back” and then being suddenly recalled by Donald Trump in a swiftly developing series of events that sounded alarms about a White House shadow foreign policy.

She and other officials now testifying publicly in the historic House hearings are providing accounts that Democrats are relying on to make the case that the president’s behavior was impeachable.

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With the start of a second day of hearings to consider removal of America’s 45th president, Democrats and Republicans are both hardening their messages to voters.

Americans are deeply entrenched in two camps over impeachment, resulting in a mounting political battle that will further test the nation in one of the most polarizing eras of modern times.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Trump’s actions toward Ukraine amount to “bribery.”

Trump repeatedly assails the proceedings as a “hoax” and a “sham” and says he did nothing wrong.

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The impeachment inquiry focuses on Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that first came to attention when an anonymous government whistleblower filed a complaint.

In the phone conversation, Trump asked for a “favor,” according to an account provided by the White House. He wanted an investigation of Democrats and 2020 rival Joe Biden. Later it was revealed that the administration was withholding military aid from Ukraine at the time.

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