A Guide to the Impeachment Inquiry’s Most Powerful Women

Molly Jong-Fast

The impeachment inquiry has been overrun with men. Ever since news broke that President Donald Trump had attempted to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election, attempting to withhold crucial aid to Ukraine in order to extract an investigation into his political rival, the stories have been filled with men.

There’s Trump himself, of course. But also: his Ukrainian counterpart, President Volodymyr Zelensky; his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani; U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland; Energy Secretary Rick Perry; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Andrey Yermak, an aide to Zelensky; Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a top Ukraine expert on the White House National Security Council; George Kent; William Taylor; Hunter Biden; former vice president Joe Biden. And on.

And on.

But for all the men—in the Oval Office, the cabinet, Ukraine, Russia, the House of Representatives, the National Security Council, Trump’s ear, his Twitter feed—women continue to play a prominent role in the impeachment inquiry, providing crucial testimony, addictive commentary, and the political will to hold this president to account.

Here, a guide to those women who’ve quickly become Trump’s worst nightmare.

Nancy Pelosi, the Boss

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wasn’t the first Democratic woman in Congress to call for Donald Trump’s impeachment (in fact, she was closer to the last), but her support for this inquiry is the reason it’s happening at all. At 79, Pelosi is still a master vote counter. She’s also adept at dealing with petulant children; she has five. That combination—decades of experience and zero patience for shenanigans—has readied her for this moment.

So when the political tide did turn on impeachment, with moderates in the Democratic caucus reversing their stances to back it (joining the likes of Representatives Maxine Waters, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who had been calling for impeachment for months) as more and more damning details trickled out, Pelosi seized on the momentum. Within a matter of weeks, Pelosi was publicly accusing Trump of violating his oath of office, threatening national security, and compromising the integrity of our democracy.

Last week she tacked a new claim onto the list of Trump offenses—bribery. It’s one of the few violations that the Constitution expressly names, so it is a big deal. It’s also likely more intelligible to the American people than a “quid pro quo.” First we save the republic. Then we learn Latin.

Or as Pelosi put it to reporters last week: “The devastating testimony corroborated evidence of bribery uncovered in the inquiry, and that the president abused his power and violated his oath by threatening to withhold military aid and a White House meeting in exchange for an investigation into his political rival—a clear attempt by the president to give himself an advantage in the 2020 election.”

With the probe underway and taking place within congressional committees, Pelosi is no longer its face. But she’s still one of the most prominent voices on Capitol Hill, and so how she chooses to frame the stakes of it still matters.

Marie Yovanovitch, the Stateswoman

If it were up to her, Marie Yovanovitch would not be trending on Twitter. Until she was fired from her post in Ukraine and recalled to Washington, D.C., in May, she wasn’t well known outside of the civil service. Yovanovitch has been a career diplomat for most of her professional life, quietly serving in Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, and Ukraine under both Democratic and Republican administrations. But after Trump dismissed her, her profile grew. First she was turned into the target of a conspiracy-fueled, utterly baseless smear campaign, thanks to Rudy Giuliani and the right-wing news media. Then she became a star witness in the impeachment inquiry, testifying privately in October and in public last week.

During her appearance Trump engaged in real-time witness intimidation, tweeting about Yovanovitch as she testified under oath. (“How could our system fail like this?” she asked, posing a question that sits at the crux of the investigation. “How is it that foreign corrupt interests could manipulate our government?”)

At one point Trump declared that “[e]verywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” countering her sterling record in the foreign service. Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a Democrat, asked Yovanovitch how that made her feel. “It’s very intimidating,” she said.

Still, she pushed on, detailing the effect that Trump's and Giuliani’s efforts had on the State Department, U.S.-Ukraine relations, and America’s democratic institutions. She explained how she came to learn of a plot to foil her efforts to fight corruption in Ukraine and what it meant to her to learn that Trump had disparaged her in a call with President Zelensky, telling him she was “bad news” and would “go through some things”—a statement she understandably interpreted as a vague threat.

The Washington Post summed up the impact of her appearance best: “The testimony of the former ambassador put a compelling human face on a complex international scandal that has involved a cast of unfamiliar Ukrainian characters, descriptions of shadowy back channels and constitutional debates.”

Clearly, it moved people in the room, including at least one member of the GOP. Rep. Will Hurd, a Republican from Texas, praised Yovanovitch to a degree that should make the president nervous: “You’re tough as nails and smart as hell. You’re an honor to this country and I thank you.”

When she left the hearing, she received a standing ovation.

Fiona Hill, the Russia Expert

She was Donald Trump’s top adviser on Russia and Europe, appointed by the president to the National Security Council. Before that, she was an intelligence expert and a Putin critic. Now she’s someone who sat for 10 hours on Capitol Hill in October in an attempt to make clear to lawmakers just how unorthodox her tenure in the Trump administration was. She described a pattern of abuse, which included death threats, that she interpreted as an attempt to get her and other officials to move on from the facts of Russian interference in the 2016 election. And her account corroborated elements of what Yovanovitch described, including when it came to Rudy Giuliani’s involvement in her smearing. Hill told Congress that Giuliani worked to sidestep official State Department channels, instead prioritizing Trump’s obsession with investigations into the Bidens.

But her overall point was that she has no partisan affiliations, having served both presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Her job as she sees it now is just to tell the truth. “I am not writing a book,” she said, according to her deposition, later adding: “I did not leak, and I was not Anonymous. I am not the whistleblower. And I’m not the second whistleblower.”

Instead, Hill is “just” a woman with bottomless experience who decided to be frank about the information she has, information that should make the president of the United States a little nervous. Hill left the administration before Trump’s infamous July 25 call with Zelensky, but was in high-level conversations with most of the people involved in that conversation and in ongoing conversations with the Ukrainians. She recounted to lawmakers that her boss, then national security adviser John Bolton, had referred to the negotiations as “a drug deal” that he wanted no involvement in.

Her deposition makes clear that there was a growing concern within the White House about the behavior of a “shadow” foreign policy team and that Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, a Trump donor with no other diplomatic experience, bumbled into the heart of it. Sondland’s name has come up over and over in these testimonies, as someone who served as a go-between for the Ukranians, Giuliani, and Trump.

“Gordon, you’re in over your head,” Hill testified she told him. “I don’t think you know who these people are.”

Rachel Maddow, the Voice of Reason

At 9 p.m. each night, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow unravels the day’s impeachment insanity, distilling hours of testimonies and dozens of the president’s tweets into cogent, straightforward, appropriately infuriating segments.

While hosts on other networks invite in panels of people to “both-sides” the issue of Trump’s behavior, Maddow just delivers an immaculate, logical summation of the latest news in the ever-growing scandal. She’s quite simply the CliffNotes of impeachment. Also, she does extremely good impressions when reading court documents.

But don’t take my word for it. Watch her do her thing, here:

Catherine Croft, the Ukraine Specialist

Catherine Croft is another State Department employee who worked on Ukraine and whose name you wouldn’t know if the fate of our democracy weren’t so compromised.

Croft, who served on the National Security Council, testified that the lobbyist Robert Livingston called her more than once to call for the firing of then Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. As she recalled, Livingston “characterized Ambassador Yovanovitch as an ‘Obama holdover’ and associated with George Soros.” Croft also testified that she told her boss Fiona Hill about the calls, communicating her discomfort.

Laura Cooper, the Pentagon Official

A two-decade veteran of the Pentagon, Laura Cooper described to House impeachment investigators the confusion that spread throughout the Pentagon over the summer as officials tried to understand how crucial aid to Ukraine had been suspended. Cooper explained that the holdup itself hadn’t followed the usual procedure, inviting more questions. She added that she learned of the pause on aid in mid-July and wanted an explanation but couldn’t get one. “We did not get clarification,” she said.

As the Wall Street Journal explained, “The temporary hold on the nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine is a central issue in the House impeachment inquiry,” with investigators exploring whether Trump “conditioned the funding” on the demand that Zelensky authorize an investigation into the Bidens.

In this matter, Cooper’s account was essential—although her testimony was delayed for five hours in October when Republicans inexplicably stormed the secure facility inside the Capitol where her deposition was scheduled to take place. Once it was able to proceed, Cooper testified for three hours in brave defiance of a directive to not cooperate with the investigation.

Jennifer Williams, the Pence Aide

Two simple words that pack a big punch: unusual and inappropriate.

That's how Jennifer Williams, an adviser to Vice President Mike Pence and a veteran of the State Department, chose to characterize the infamous July 25 phone call in which Trump asked Zelesnky to “do us a favor” and investigate the Bidens. “I guess for me it shed some light on possible other motivations behind a security assistance hold,” she added.

“Tell Jennifer Williams, whoever that is, to read BOTH transcripts of the presidential calls, & see the just released ststement [sic] from Ukraine,” Trump tweeted. He went on to call Williams a Never Trumper, despite the fact that she works for...his vice president.

The Women Senators Running for President—Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Amy Klobuchar—the Jurors

With the 2020 primary in full swing, it can be hard to remember that three of the women running for president have rather serious full-time jobs off the trail. Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Amy Klobuchar have all expressed support for a probe into Trump's bottomless questionable behavior, but if the House of Representatives does vote to impeach him, the women will need to do more than tweet about it. Recalled for at least some period from the race, each will have to sit through the president’s trial in the Senate and vote on whether to remove him from office.

Their votes of course are not about gender, but Trump's track record suggests that the fact that they are women could play an outsize role in how he responds to them. Trump was, for example, able to control himself during the testimonies of (male witnesses) George Kent and William Taylor last week. But when (women) Marie Yovanovitch and Jennifer Williams came forward, he couldn't help but to tweet—and engage in real-time witness intimidation. Warren, Harris, and Klobuchar are well-prepared for Trump's tantrums, but it's still worth watching to see how the women will choose to respond to them.

Molly Jong-Fast is the author of three novels. Follow her on Twitter @mollyjongfast.

Originally Appeared on Glamour