The U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovich has reportedly been recalled and now expected to depart post on or about May 20. This development followed a persistent campaign for her removal among conservative media outlets in the United States as well as allegations by Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Lutsenko concerning a do not prosecute list.
The State Department reportedly told RFE/RL on May 6, that Ambassador Yovanovitch “is concluding her 3-year diplomatic assignment in Kyiv in 2019 as planned.” And that “her confirmed departure date in May aligns with the presidential transition in Ukraine,” which elected a new president in April.
While that may well be true – she was confirmed in 2016, a 3-year tour is a typical assignment; the new Ukraine president takes office on June 3rd — it is hard to ignore the louder voices calling for the ambassador’s removal from post for political reasons. It doesn’t help that there is no Senate confirmed EUR Assistant Secretary or that the Secretary of State did not see it fit to come forward to defend his top representative in a priority country in Europe.
Ambassador Yovanovich is a career diplomat and a Senate-confirmed Ambassador representing the United States in Ukraine. She previously served as Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia (2008-2011) under President Obama and to the Kyrgyz Republic (2005-2008) under President George W. Bush. We’ve seen people calling career diplomats “holdovers”. If they were political appointees, they would be called “holdovers” or “burrowers,” but they are career public servants; that term does not apply to them. If some folks insists on calling them “holdovers,” then the least that these folks can do is to accurately enumerate all the public servants’ prior presidential appointments, some going back 30 years at the start of their careers in the diplomatic service.
Perhaps it is helpful to point out that as career appointees, ambassadors like Ambassador Yovanovich do not go freelancing nor do they go rogue; they do not make their own policy concerning their host country. They typically get their marching orders from their home bureau, in this case, the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR) at the State Department, under the oversight of the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, who report to the Secretary of State. And they follow those orders. Even if they disagree with those orders or the administration’s policies. Career diplomats who do not follow their instructions do not have lengthy careers in the diplomatic service.
After all that, if the United States is taking the word of a foreign official over our own ambassador, it’s open season for our career diplomats. Will the “you want a U.S. ambassador kicked out from a specific country go on teevee ” removal campaign going to become a thing now? Will the Secretary of Swagger steps up?
"Ambassador Yovanovitch is a dedicated public servant and a diplomat of the highest caliber who has represented the United States under both Republican and Democratic administrations."
Read the full statement below. https://t.co/cwRUupdz79
— House Foreign Affairs Committee (@HouseForeign) May 7, 2019
Agreed. Amb Yovanovitch is one of our best. SecState should be protecting his people from this kind of nonsense. https://t.co/q710rG9s0h
— Brian P. McKeon (@bpmckeon64) May 7, 2019
Our story on US Ambassador to Ukraine Yovanovitch’s imminent departure: https://t.co/KTuD66iczn
(Again, correcting below tweet, it’s 2016, not 2018.) https://t.co/WuBqQfTIoL
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) May 6, 2019
U.S. State Department denies claim by Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko that the U.S. Ambassador to #Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, gave him "a list of people whom we should not prosecute." https://t.co/Do4TDJ67ay pic.twitter.com/gQ5xJri4MQ
— Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (@RFERL) March 23, 2019
US ambassador to Ukraine, a career diplomat, is being brought home two months early with no replacement in sight after attacks by Donald Trump Jr. and conservative media outlets. @RobbieGramer @ak_mack https://t.co/4KhcXVeztM
— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) May 7, 2019
— Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) May 7, 2019
We need more @RichardGrenell’s and less of these jokers as ambassadors.
Calls Grow To Remove Obama's U.S. Ambassador To Ukraine https://t.co/0jgzp1ZqmU
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) March 24, 2019
- Retired Army General John P. Abizaid to be U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia .
- Confirmations: Rosenblum(Uzbekistan), Scott (Malawi), Abizaid (Saudi Arabia), Tom (US/FAO) .
- White House Submits Some @StateDept/Related Agencies Re-nominations to the Senate
— U.S. Mission to KSA (@USAinKSA) May 2, 2019
— Saudi Gazette (@Saudi_Gazette) May 2, 2019
Trump nominated Abizaid, who led US Central Command (Centcom) during the Iraq war, for the position in November 2018https://t.co/1fqIpkb3eh
— Middle East Eye (@MiddleEastEye) May 3, 2019
On April 29, the White House announced the President’s intent to nominate senior career diplomat Roxanne Cabral to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Marshall Islands.The WH released the following brief bio:
Roxanne Cabral of Virginia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
Ms. Cabral, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires at the United States Embassy in Panama. Previously, she was Director of the Office of Policy, Planning, and Resources in the Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the Department of State. Ms. Cabral served as Public Affairs Officer at the United States Consulate General Guangzhou, China, and at the United States Embassy Tirana, Albania. She also served in the Office of South-Central Europe in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs in the Department of State, the United States Embassy Mexico City, Mexico, and the United States Embassy Kyiv. Ms. Cabral has a B.A. from Vanderbilt University and Master of Public Health degree from Johns Hopkins University.
After serving one full year as the 70th Secretary of State, Secretary Pompeo unveiled the “new professional ethos” for the State Department last Friday. The celebration was done on a glorious spring day when the tulips were in full bloom and the cherry blossoms were nodding their heads in the wind. The event reportedly featured “Happy!” by Pharrell Williams, and all the happy people they could find. It sounds like for Mr. Pompeo and his top level buddies, this is the best of times, even touting a year, in their view, of “enormous success.” This in the face of another fiscal year with a new round of proposed deep budget cuts for Pompeo’s agency, cuts that this secretary of state supported and defended.
The good news is (coz we have to find one) although the “new professional ethos” went though some 30 versions, and involved some sort of “listening tour”, we have not yet heard that this cost thousands of dollars in public money for management consultants’ fees. (If you know otherwise, let us know). The banner and printed paper featuring the new professional ethos killed some trees, so we all definitely need to plant new trees next Arbor Day. Also, the rumored language alluding to leaks, and to NDAs apparently got killed somewhere along the way (not that you need a new NDA when you already have OF312). Soon there will be an “Ethos Award”, and when that is done, how long before we see the “Best in Swagger” Award?
If the “ethos” initiative is intended to help shore up morale in Foggy Bottom, they’ll have a long way to go. As of this month, halfway through this administration’s term, the career appointments to ambassadorial posts is 51%. In actual numbers that means, 74 career professionals were nominated and confirmed as chief of mission, while 70 political appointees were nominated and confirmed as ambassadors.
When it comes to senior officials in Foggy Bottom, the situation is much worse; in two under secretary offices (M, R) overseeing multiple bureaus, the appointees in acting capacity are not even Senate-confirmed officials. And you can definitely count career appointees with one hand. With the exception of the Under Secretary for Political Affairs and the Director General of the Foreign Service (who are both active senior Foreign Service officers), and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs who is a retired FSO, all the regional and functional bureaus are headed by political appointees. According to the AFSA tracker, the assistant secretary career appointments during the last several presidential terms are as follows: GWBush – 32%, Clinton-53%, GHWBush-50%, Reagan-39%, Carter-48.5%, Ford-78%).
Budget and staffing. Money and people. Secretary Pompeo may say and write the right things to employees, and may be more accessible than his immediate predecessor, and he may be well-intentioned with his “new ethos” and swagger “initiatives” but in the grand scheme of things … as“Your actions speak so loudly, I can not hear what you are saying.”
Mike Pompeo held a one-year anniversary event today at the State Department featuring “Happy!” by Pharrell Williams. But he’s struggled to make progress on key goals, @TracyKWilkinson reports https://t.co/1BIUBwWDJz
— Chris Megerian (@ChrisMegerian) April 26, 2019
Trump and his top foreign policy officials Pompeo & Bolton are angering allies every few days with hardline actions. That leaves openings for China & Russia to build ties. Much of the damage is over US obsessions that pose no big threat, like Iran & Cuba. https://t.co/TLzLjCDFOm
— Edward Wong (@ewong) April 26, 2019
Pompeo deserves credit for rescuing the State Dept from the hapless management of Tillerson BUT that’s a historically low bar. 1/ https://t.co/jz3XvVEMcS
— Laura Kennedy (@AmbKennedy_ret) April 27, 2019
KCNA on Pompeo via KCNAWatch: https://kcnawatch.org/newstream/1555606947-602022423/u-s-secretary-of-state-slammed/Meanwhile in DC:
Today Jared Kushner addressed Ambassadors at the Blair House pic.twitter.com/rcLqRgIuii
— Avi Berkowitz (@aviberkow45) April 17, 2019
On April 12, the WH announced President Trump’s intent to nominate senior career diplomat Jonathan R. Cohen of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Arab Republic of Egypt. The WH released the following brief bio:
Jonathan Cohen, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as Acting United States Representative to the United Nations and Acting United States Representative to the United Nations Security Council. He was the Deputy United States Representative from June 2018 to December 2018 and was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs from 2016 to 2018. His other assignments included service as Deputy Chief of Mission at the United States Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission at the United States Embassy in Paris, France, Minister Counselor for Political Affairs at the United States Embassy in Paris, France, and Deputy Chief of Mission at the United States Embassy in Nicosia, Cyprus. Mr. Cohen earned his A.B. at Princeton University. He was the recipient of the United States Department of the Army Commander’s Award for Civilian Service, the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award, and the James Clement Dunn Award for Excellence. He speaks French, Swedish, and Italian.
If confirmed, Ambassador Cohen would succeed career diplomat Robert Stephen Beecroft (1957–) who served as Embassy Cairo’s chief of mission from 2015 – 2017. Yes, it’s been that long since there was a Senate-confirmed U.S. Ambassador to Egypt.
The current Chargé d’Affaires Thomas Goldberger has been CDA in Egypt since June 2017.
Ambassador Jonathan Cohen on Afghanistan elections: “There must be voter registration that is as accurate and transparent as possible—ensuring that women have the opportunity to participate and have their voices heard.” pic.twitter.com/Owi8E5jyvR
— US Mission to the UN (@USUN) September 18, 2018
Transcript: 03/21/19 Interview With Chris Mitchell and David Brody of Christian Broadcasting Network; Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo; David Citadel Hotel; Jerusalem
QUESTION: Okay. Look where you are today. But your faith has informed your views, clearly. And not only that, but you’re not shy to talk about it. And I’m wondering about how that – how that really manifests in your life.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So of course my mission as a Secretary of State, the thing I rose my – raised my right hand to do, I swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. And I’ve done that now a handful of times – first as a soldier, then as a member of Congress, then as the director of the CIA, now as Secretary of State. But in each of those missions, the task that I have is informed by my understanding of my faith, my belief in Jesus Christ as the savior. It doesn’t drive answers and outcomes every day; we all as Christians are searching. But it does inform how I try to treat every human being with dignity and respect in ways that Christians ought to. I don’t always live up to that standard, but it does inform the way I think about the world. I think that makes a real difference, and so I want people to know. It’s why I talk about it from to time. I want folks to know the perspective that I am bringing to the challenges in the job that I face, and it also requires me to try to hold myself to the standards that Christians hold themselves out for.
QUESTION: And you also mentioned a Bible story last night when you had your statements with the prime minister. Today’s being Purim, a celebration. Jews worldwide and here in Jerusalem are talking about the fact that Esther 2,500 years ago saved the Jewish people with God’s help from Haman. And now 2,500 years later there’s a new Haman here in the Middle East that wants to eradicate the Jewish people like just like Haman did: the state of Iran. Could it be that President Trump right now has been sort of raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace?
SECRETARY POMPEO: As a Christian I certainly believe that’s possible. It was remarkable – so we were down in the tunnels where we could see 3,000 years ago, and 2,000 years ago – if I have the history just right – to see the remarkable history of the faith in this place and the work that our administration’s done to make sure that this democracy in the Middle East, that this Jewish state remains. I am confident that the Lord is at work here.
Could it be that President Trump right now has been raised for such a time as this – just like #QueenEsther – to help save the #Jewish people from the Iranian #menace?”
Listen to U.S. Department of State Secretary Pompeo in an exclusive interview with CBN News. #Purim pic.twitter.com/DyeKdCWbaI
— Jerusalem Dateline (@JlemDateline) March 21, 2019
Pompeo suggests Trump was put on Earth to save the Jews: ‘As a Christian, I believe it’s possible’https://t.co/HSe4AE7wyt
— Raw Story (@RawStory) March 21, 2019
Secretary Pompeo tours the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. pic.twitter.com/4PCmxO81FK
— The Hill (@thehill) March 21, 2019
Trump tweeting major policy change as @SecPompeo is at Netanyahu's home for dinner. I had asked @SecPompeo if this was about to happen earlier today he said: "I don't have anything to say about that." This is a major military and political boon for Bibi with election in 3 weeks https://t.co/d6WXxxhxJT
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) March 21, 2019
“Israeli and U.S. officials say they expect an announcement on U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan could come as early as Netanyahu’s visit to Washington next week…”
— Matt Lee (@APDiploWriter) March 21, 2019
The Trump budget proposal for the FY2020 State Department funding is now out. HFAC already called the proposal which includes a 23% cut ‘dead on arrival” on Capitol Hill. Even if this request doesn’t pass, it clearly reflects the administration’s views on diplomacy and development. If a Foggy Bottom joker starts calling prior State Department funding levels unsustainable, we may fall off our chair and scream out loud. The Administration’s budget request for DOD was $686.1 billion in FY2019 and $750 billion in FY2020. And $750 billion is sustainable? Anyway, brief run-down of the budget requests in the last few years:
FY2017: The FY2017 budget request under the Obama Administration amounted in $52.78 billion in new budget authority for the State Department, Foreign Operations, and Related Appropriations (SFOPS). When Congress passed the appropriations bill, the total enacted SFOPS funding for FY2017 was $57.53 billion, an 8.8% increase over the FY2016 SFOPS funding level. According to the CRS, the increase is entirely due to a 40% total increase in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding.
FY2018: President Trump submitted his FY2018 budget request to Congress on May 23, 2017. The request sought $40.25 billion (-30% compared with FY2017 enacted) for SFOPS, including Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds. The 115th Congress enacted the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, which provided FY2018 funding for the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS). Division K of the act―State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS)― provided a total of $54.18 billion, including Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds and rescissions. This represented a decrease of 6.1% from the FY2017 actual funding level according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS).
FY2019: The Trump Administration submitted to Congress its FY2019 budget request on February 12, 2018. The State Department budget proposal under Rex Tillerson included $41.86 billion for the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS). CRS notes: Comparing the request with the FY2018-enacted funding levels, the FY2019 request represents a 22.7% decrease in SFOPS funding. The proposed State and related agency funding would be 18.2% below FY2018 enacted and the foreign operations funding would be reduced by 24.7%. Both the House and Senate appropriations committees have approved FY2019 SFOPS bills that include funding at higher levels than the Administration requested and equal to or greater than FY2018 enacted funding. Congress eventually appropriated $56.1 billion, ensuring that the agency has the resources it needs.
FY2020: Trump’s FY2020 budget request for the State Department, the first under Pompeo, proposes $40 billion for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). State’s Bureau of Budget and Planning guy Doug Pitkin said, “the last two budgets, for example, included reductions to State and AID personnel. This budget does not propose that.” He also argued that despite the almost 25% cut, this budget request apparently “does support diplomacy and development”.
All that to highlight what Secretary Pompeo said in an interview recently. Secretary Pompeo (who we imagine is known …er fondly in Foggy Bottom as Swagger Mike) gave an interview to McClatchy’s Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle on March 11. We must admit that since this was an interview, we certainly could not blame his speechwriters for the gems here. Neither the video nor the transcript of this interview appears on state.gov, as of this writing but the reporters have a short video clip which we embedded below, and you can read the report with the quotes here.
“I’ll testify on Capitol Hill in a week or two on our budget and I’m very confident that the State Department will have the resources it needs,” Pompeo said. “It always has. President Trump has ensured that it has. And we’ll get to where we’ll need to be.”
“The people at the State department understand what’s going on,” Pompeo said.
“What they needed wasn’t more money,” he said. “What they needed was a leader who was prepared to empower them, was prepared to let them go out and do their job.”