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Testimony in impeachment inquiry makes matters worse for Trump

Marie Yovanovitch's and Fiona Hill's testimony in the impeachment inquiry appear to have made Trump's scandal even more serious.

Late last week Marie Yovanovitch, a 33-year veteran of the U.S. State Department, appeared on Capitol Hill to testify before lawmakers in the impeachment inquiry. And while we don't know exactly what was said during her nine hours of Q&A, we have a pretty good sense of what Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, brought to the table.

After the White House and the State Department tried to block her, Yovanovitch honored a congressional subpoena, and explained to lawmakers that she was removed from her post after a campaign against her was organized by Rudy Giuliani and his suspected criminal associates -- not because Yovanovitch had done a bad job, but rather, by some accounts, because she stood in the way of Giuliani's political scheme.

Indeed, Yovanovitch reportedly testified that Donald Trump was directly and personally involved in her ouster from her ambassadorial post in Kiev, despite having been asked two months earlier to extend her term into 2020.

It was, by all accounts, a dramatic hearing held behind closed doors, which helped set the stage for another round of dramatic testimony yesterday from Fiona Hill, the former top adviser in Trump's White House on U.S. policy toward Russia and Ukraine, who had high praise for Yovanovitch, and who shared with lawmakers some striking details.

Then-national security adviser John Bolton was so disturbed by the efforts to get the Ukrainians to investigate President Donald Trump's political opponents that he called it a "drug deal," former White House official Fiona Hill reportedly told Congress on Monday.Hill, the former top Europe expert in Trump's White House, testified that Bolton told her over the summer that he wanted no part of the effort, which he said involved acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, a person in the room for Hill's testimony told NBC News.Bolton also was said to have referred to Rudy Giuliani as a "hand grenade."

It's worth pausing to appreciate a political dynamic in which John Bolton, of all people, may have been the voice of reason.

He may have been a little too eager to wage war against other countries, but Bolton also apparently had the good sense to see a corrupt scheme unfolding -- and he knew he wanted no part of it.

This also serves as a reminder that Trump may believe his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was "perfect" and uncontroversial, but a whole lot of White House officials in Trump's immediate orbit seemed to know better.

Among some of the other revelations from the policy adviser's testimony:

* Hill told lawmakers she considered the Ukraine scheme "to be a clear counterintelligence risk to the United States."

* Hill reportedly confirmed that the administration "leveraged a coveted White House invitation for Mr. Zelensky to a commitment to investigate corruption, which was seen as code for investigating Democrats."

* Hill described a policy environment in which Giuliani, in his capacity as the president's personal lawyer, "ran a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine that circumvented U.S. officials and career diplomats in order to personally benefit President Trump."

* Hill's reference to acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is of particular interest because it suggests his role in the scandal may yet prove to be greater than currently known. Of particular interest is whether, and to what extent, Mulvaney may have been involved in blocking U.S. military aid to Ukraine, which was apparently part of the broader political scheme to gain leverage over the country.

There's more testimony on Capitol Hill, and I suspect we'll have more on this on tonight's show.