Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch Retires From the Foreign Service After 34 Years of Service

Updated: 3:54 pm PST with correction on Amb. Yovanovitch’s promotion to Career Minister in 2016.

Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine who was one of the top witnesses in the Trump Impeachment hearings reportedly retired from the State Department.  Ambassador Yovanovitch served 34 years in the U.S. Foreign Service.  She previously served as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia (2008-2011) under President Obama and to the Kyrgyz Republic (2005-2008) under President George W. Bush.
Based on her online bio, Ambassador Yovanovitch is 61 years old, which is four years short of the mandatory retirement in the U.S. Foreign Service. (Foreign Service employees are eligible to retire at age 50 with 20 years of service).
Ambassador Yovanovitch was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service Class of Minister-Counselor in 2007. She was ranked Minister-Counselor during her last two appointments as Ambassador to Armenia in 2008 and as Ambassador to Ukraine in 2016. The maximum time-in-class (TIC) limits for Minister-Counselor is “14 years combined TIC with no more than seven years in the class of Counselor.” We don’t have public details beyond what is on congress.gov and the FAM, but it looks like she has not reach her maximum TIC in 2020. It is also likely that she was eligible for promotion to Career Minister prior to her retirement. Correction: Amb. Yovanovitch was promoted to Career Minister in 2016 (thanks B!)
So why would she retire? Perhaps she got exhausted by all the controversy. Or perhaps she simply realized that, given her rank, she could not find a warm home in Pompeo’s State Department nor is she going to get another presidential appointment under this Administration.  Having been yanked out of one assignment without an onward assignment, with a huge WH target on her back, we’ve always suspected that she would not be able to return to Foggy Bottom or get another overseas assignment.
Per 3 FAM 6215 career members of the Foreign Service who have completed Presidential assignments under section 302(b) of the Foreign Service Act, and who have not been reassigned within 90 days after the termination of such assignment, plus any period of authorized leave, shall be retired as provided in section 813 of the Act. 
Ambassador Yovanovitch was detailed to a university for a year. As a career member of the Foreign Service,  she was recalled from an assignment but wasn’t fired after her posting at the US Embassy in Kyiv. In reality, her career ended in Kyiv. Without that university assignment, it’s likely that she would have been subjected to the 90-day rule and be forced into mandatory retirement last summer.
In any case, that university assignment would have ran out this spring but in May 2019, it allowed the State Department to pretend that this was a normal job rotation. For the State Department, it also avoided one spectacle: given that the recall quickly became very high profile and political, they would have had to explain her mandatory retirement in Summer 2019 following the conclusion of her presidential appointment without an onward assignment.
Her case underscores some realities of the Foreign Service that folks will continue to wrestle with for a long time. How breathtakingly easy it was for motivated bad actors to whisper in powerful, receptive ears and ruin a 34-year career. You may have thought that Administration officials could not possibly have believed the whispers, that over three decades of dedicated service meant something, but believed them they did. Since this happened to her, how easily could it happen to anyone, at any post, at any given country around the world? Then to realize how thin the protection afforded career employees, and how easily the system adapts to the political demands of the day.
Note that in the Foreign Service, retirements may be either voluntary or involuntary. According to State, involuntary retirements include those due to reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65 (except DS special agents where the mandatory retirement age is 57), which cannot be waived unless an employee is serving in a Presidential appointment, or if the Director General of the Foreign Service determines that the employee’s retention in active duty is in the “public interest”; and those who trigger the “up-or-out” rules in the FS personnel system (e.g., restrictions in the number of years FS employees can remain in one class or below the Senior Foreign Service threshold).
Voluntary non-retirements include resignations, transfers, and deaths. Involuntary non-retirements consist of terminations, as well as “selection out” of tenured employees and non-tenured decisions for entry level FS employees.
Between FY 2018 and FY 2022, the Department projected that close to 5,900 career CS and FS employees will leave the Department due to various types of attrition.  Most FS attrition reportedly is due to retirements. In FY 2017, 70 percent of all separations from the FS were retirements. For the FY 2018 to FY 2022 period, the attrition mix is expected to be 80 percent retirements and 20 percent non-retirements.

 

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For the Record: “Get rid of her! Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it.” #ParnasTapes

 

 

As Ukraine Opens Probe Into Yovanovitch Surveillance, Foggy Bottom Remains Mute as a Mouse

Update 1:37 pm PST: Mid-day on Friday, CNN reports: After more than 48 hours of silence, Pompeo says State will investigate possible surveillance of ex-US ambassador

On January 14, we blogged about the Parnas documents indicating a possible surveillance of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch while she was posted as U.S. Ambassador to Kyiv (see Parnas Materials: Surveillance of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in Kyiv).
According to NBC News reporter Josh Lederman, Robert F. Hyde reportedly dismissed the Parnas texts as “colorful texts” from when they’d “had a few pops way back when I used to drink” (see). When asked about Hyde’s claims of tracking Ambassador Yovanovitch, Lev Parnas in his first TV interview also said, “Well, I don’t believe it’s true.”  He added, “I think he was either drunk or he was trying to make himself bigger than he was, so I didn’t take it seriously.”
Since we have not heard anything from the State Department or Secretary Pompeo, are we to understand that the State Department is just taking their words that they’re joking around or drunk as claimed in their worrisome exchange? Given subsequent reporting on the Hyde character, that’s possible, of course. But if there was something there, anyone really expect that these individuals would admit to some nefarious intent publicly?
On January 16, Ukraine’s Ministry of Interior announced that it opened an investigation on the possible surveillance:

Ukraine’s position is not to interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States of America. However, the published references cited contain a possible violation of the law of Ukraine and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which protects the rights of a diplomat on the territory of the foreign country.

Ukraine cannot ignore such illegal activities on the territory of its own state.

Also on January 16, NBC News reported that the FBI paid a visits to Republican congressional candidate Robert Hyde’s Connecticut home and business.  FBI spokesperson told The Hill, “There is no further information that can be shared at this time.”  But as former DOJ staffer Matthew Miller points out, DOJ has had these messages for months. They’re investigating this claimed surveillance just now.
As of this writing, neither Pompeo nor the State Department has released any statement of concern on the possibility that one of its ambassadors was under surveillance for unknown reasons by people directly connected to Rudy Giuliani, the shadow secretary of state.
When State officials and Pompeo talk about protecting and supporting our diplomats in their town halls and chitchats, do they still say that loud with straight faces? Really, we’re curious.

 

 

 

 

HFAC Seeks @StateDept Documents on Possible Surveillance of Amb Yovanovitch

 

 

US Embassy Ukraine Chargé d’Affaires Bill Taylor to Leave Kyiv at End of Year

 

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@StateDept Releases First Ukraine-Related Documents Under FOIA

 

The State Department is about to get inundated once more with FOIA requests.  Anyone anticipating an “FOIA surge” this time around? You may download the documents here, the first set in a court-ordered document production via American Oversight.
The November 1 court order from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the State Department must search for and produce by November 22, 2019 records from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl containing any readouts or summaries of President Trump’s July call with the President of Ukraine.
We’ve looked through a hundred pages of these newly released documents, and while the most notable are the telephone calls between Mr. Giuliani and the secretary of state (two calls referred to in the Hale deposition), there does not appear to be any documents specific to readouts and summaries of the July 25 call.
So, how soon do you think before we’ll see those documents?

 

Pompeo Wants to Go Home to Kansas? So When’s the Audition For Next SecState?

 

Impeachment Inquiry: Public Document Clearing House (Via JustSecurity)

 

 

Open Hearings Week #2: Williams, Vindman, Volker, Morrison, Sondland, Cooper, Hale, Hill, Holmes

 

Related posts: Impeachment Inquiry: Transcripts of Depositions Released (Updated 11/18/19)Impeachment Open Hearings Week #1: William Taylor, George Kent, Marie Yovanovitch

Thursday, November 21

  • WH/NSC: Fiona Hill, Fiona Hill, Former Senior Director for Europe and Russia
  • State/FSO David Holmes, Political Counselor, US Embassy Kyiv, Ukraine

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Impeachment Inquiry: Transcripts of Depositions Released (Updated 11/18/19)

Posted: Nov 12, 2019
Updated: Nov 16, 2019
Updated, November 18, 2019

On September 24, 2019, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the beginning of the impeachment inquiry. (see Tuesday, September 24, 2019: Speaker Nancy Pelosi Announces Formal Impeachment Inquiry).  Below are links to the full transcripts of the depositions that the Committee has released on a rolling basis. We will update this post as new transcripts are released to the public.
State/P Ambassador David Hale, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
  • The testimony of Mr. Hale can be found here.
  • Key excerpts of Hale’s testimony can be found here.
State/FSO David Holmes, Political Counselor, US Embassy Kyiv, Ukraine
  • The testimony of Mr. Holmes can be found here.
  • Key excerpts of Holmes’ testimony can be found here.
WH/FSO Jennifer Williams, Vice President Pence’s Special Adviser on Europe and Russia
  • The testimony of Jennifer Williams can be found here.
  • Key excerpts of Jennifer Williams’s testimony can be found here.
WH/Timothy Morrison, Deputy Assistant to the President
  • The testimony of Timothy Morrison can be found here.
  • Key excerpts of Timothy Morrison’s testimony can be found here.
DOD/Laura Cooper, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Department of Defense
  • The testimony of Deputy Assistant Secretary Laura Cooper can be found here.
  • Key excerpts of Deputy Assistant Secretary Laura Cooper testimony can be found here.
STATE/FSO Catherine Croft, Ambassador Volker’s Advisor
  • The testimony of Catherine Croft can be found here.
  • Key excerpts of Catherine Croft’s testimony can be found here.
STATE/FSO Christopher Anderson, Ambassador Volker’s Advisor
  • The testimony of Christopher Anderson can be found here.
  • Key excerpts of Christopher Anderson’s testimony can be found here.
WH/Dr. Fiona Hill, NSC Russia Expert
  • The testimony of Dr. Fiona Hill can be found here.
  • Key excerpts of Dr. Fiona Hill’s testimony can be found here.
WH/Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, NSC Russia Expert
  • The testimony of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman can be found here.
  • Key excerpts of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman’s testimony can be found here.
STATE/George Kent: Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR)
  • The testimony of Deputy Assistant Secretary Kent can be found here.
  • Key excerpts from Deputy Assistant Secretary Kent can be found here.
STATE/Ambassador Bill Taylor: Current Chargé d’Affaires, US Embassy Ukraine
  • The testimony of Ambassador Taylor can be found here.
  • Key excerpts from Ambassador Taylor’s testimony can be found here.
STATE/Kurt Volker:  Former U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine
  • The testimony of Ambassador Volker can be found here.
  • Key excerpts from Ambassador Volker’s testimony can be found here.
  • the Committees released all additional Volker text messages received by the Committees, which can be found here.
  • Key excerpts from these additional text messages can be found here.
  • The Committees first released excerpts of text messages produced by Ambassador Volker on October 2, 2019, which can be found here.
STATE/Ambassador Gordon Sondland:  Current U.S. Ambassador to the European Union
  • The testimony of Ambassador Sondland can be found here, including an addendum he filed on November 4, 2019
  • Key excerpts from Ambassador Sondland’s testimony can be found here.
STATE/Ambassador Michael McKinley:  Former Senior Advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
  • The testimony of former Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State Ambassador P. Michael McKinley from October 16, 2019 can be found here.
  • Key excerpts from McKinley’s testimony can be found here.
STATE/Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch: Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine
  • The testimony of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch from October 11, 2019 can be found here.
  • Key excerpts from Yovanovitch’s testimony can be found here.