Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock this past week (like you know who), you’ve probably already seen, read or heard about former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s appearance at a public hearing on the first week of the impeachment inquiry. Beyond the obvious parts of the testimony concerning her removal, and the president’s detestable tweet while she was in the middle of the hearing, we were struck by a few things:
Just doing what needs to be done
At one point during the hearing, Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Alabama) said: “You spoke about how your service is not just your own personal service, it affects your family, and today we have seen you as this former ambassador of this 33 year veteran of the Foreign Service. But I want to know about you personally and how this has affected you personally and your family.”
Ambassador Yovanovitch’s answered that “It’s been a difficult time. I am a private person, I don’t want to put all of that out there, it’s been a very, very difficult time because the president does have the right to have his own, her own ambassador in every country in the world.”
Rep. Terri Sewell tried again asking, “how has it affected your family?”
Ambassador Yovanovitch gave a very diplomatic and firm response by simply saying that “I really don’t want to get into that, but thank you for asking.” She could have told them about the recent loss of her 91-year old mother, but she did not. She had one job to do there and she was not going to get distracted from that despite what ever else may be going on in her personal life. Her resoluteness in the face of difficulties and the challenges she will face going forward is admirable.
No praises for Trump even to save her job
When Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) asked Ambassador Yovanovitch about the advice given to her by political ambassador to USEU Gordon Sondland, Ambassador Yovanovitch said, “He suggested that I needed to go big or go home. And he said that the best thing to do would be to, you know, send out a tweet, praise the president, that sort of thing.” When asked about her reaction to that advice, she responded that she’s sure “he meant well, but it was not advice that I could really follow. It felt — it felt partisan, it felt political and I just — that was not something that I thought (ph) was in keeping with my role as ambassador and a Foreign Service officer.”
When asked if Ambassador Sondland gave “any specific suggestions on what to say about the president of the United States, or just say something nice about him”, Ambassador Yovanovitch responded , “Yeah, just to praise him.”
She could have easily “gone big” as suggested by somebody who donated big to this president’s inauguration; no one but her and Sondland would have known about the advice had she done it. But the 33-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service declined to sing Trump praises — even to save her job — because she thought it was not “in keeping ” with her “role as ambassador and a Foreign Service officer.”
How many ambassadors (or cabinet secretaries for that matter) would make the same choices or would folks just start thinking, hey what’s the harm with a simple tweet? But how long before it will be more than just a simple tweet and folks start wearing dark eye googles just to comb their thinning hair in front of the mirror?
Fellowship at Georgetown
New York Representative Elise Stefanik wanted confirmation that Ambassador Yovanovitch is still an employee of the State Department so “there’s no public confusion” and said that “Georgetown students are lucky to have” her.
Texas representative K. Michael Conaway wanted to know “what happened when you — when you came back here as to what your next assignment would be at — at State?” (This is the same representative who wanted to know if somebody paid George Kent to say those “glowing” things about Ambassador Yovanovitch. He also asked her, “Do they shun you at the lunch counter? I mean, do they treat you badly as a — as a result of the way you were treated by — by the president?”)
Ambassador Yovanovitch responded that when she came back “obviously it was sort of out of cycle, there was nothing set up…”. She added, “And again, I am grateful that Deputy Secretary Sullivan asked me what I would like to do next. I recalled that there was the fellowship at Georgetown and asked whether that might be something that could be arranged.”
Representative Conaway asked “Was that your only choice?” She responded “I’m not sure.... We didn’t really discuss other options.” He ended up his inquiry by saying, “I hope that, whatever you decide to do after the Georgetown fellowship, that — that you’re as successful there as you’ve been in the first 33 years.” He has no idea, does he?
Foreign Service assignments for tenured employees typically run 3 years, with occasional 1 year extensions. These assignments are usually handed out a year before the actual rotation. Since she was reportedly asked earlier to extend her assignment in Kyiv until 2020, it most probably means she was not “bidding” for any assignment by the time she was yanked out of Ukraine. There are few jobs available when assignments are suddenly curtailed or shortened. And given the target on her back after Ukraine, Georgetown may have been the only option for her. But here’s the thing, she could not stay there forever. At most, that’s a one year assignment. Which also means that she would have been looking for her next assignment during this year’s bidding cycles.
No next time, Mr. Pompeo and State Department spoxes talk about their support for Foreign Service employees, ask them what is Ambassador Yovanovitch’s next assignment.
Most jobs appropriate for her rank (Minister-Counselor, equivalent to Two-star rank (O-8) require a nomination or a State Department leadership approval. She previously served as Deputy Commandant at the Eisenhower School at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.as well as Dean of the School of Language Studies at the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute. She could do the schools again or get back and serve in Foggy Bottom. But it’s not a simple question of “whatever” she decides to do after the Georgetown fellowship, it’s a question of what the State Department will allow her to do. We do not expect her to get another ambassadorship under this administration. We are concerned, however, that she will also have difficulties finding an onward assignment after her fellowship and that she will be forced into retirement.
— Edward Loo (@edloo) November 15, 2019
Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2019
AND WE’RE DONE: Yovanovitch has left after six hours of testimony. She received an ovation from the public (and some Dem lawmakers in the crowd) as she exited, not something you see often at public hearings. pic.twitter.com/ijaw4kggfH
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) November 15, 2019
The crowd in the public seating — as well as some Democrats — stood up and clapped and cheered for ambassador Yovanovitch after Schiff announced the end of the 2nd public hearing. pic.twitter.com/VtbqlOOls5
— Olivia Beavers (@Olivia_Beavers) November 15, 2019
— Lisa Dickey (@LisaWritesBooks) November 18, 2019