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

 

 

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Highlighting Heroes: Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch Honors Her Oath

It is highly likely that the State Department will not include Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in its Highlighting Heroes initiative.  So we will do our own highlights here. No matter what is in the future for her, we and many others will remember her and honor her for her courage in speaking up first when it mattered most.
The secretary of state, proud … um defender of the rule of law only when convenient, told the committee Ambassador Yovanovitch may not attend the deposition without agency provided counsel (counsel that looks after the government not the employee’s interest), and the undersecretary for management, who oversees personnel at the State Department instructed her not to appear for a deposition. She was issued a congressional subpoena and appeared for her deposition and public testimony.
Her private counsel wrote to U/S Brian Bulatao: “Although the Ambassador has faithfully and consistently honored her professional duties as a State Department employee—including at all times following her abrupt termination as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine—she is unable to obey your most recent directive.”
Excerpt from The Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report

Despite President Trump’s explicit orders that no Executive Branch employees should cooperate with the House’s impeachment inquiry and efforts by federal agencies to limit the testimony of those who did, multiple key officials complied with duly authorized subpoenas and provided critical testimony at depositions and public hearings. These officials adhered to the rule of law and obeyed lawful subpoenas.

Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Department of State
See PDF pp 245-247

On September 13, the Committees sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seeking a transcribed interview with Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and other State Department officials.287

The Committees received no direct, substantive response to this letter. On September 27, the Committees sent a letter informing Secretary Pompeo that Ambassador Yovanovitch’s deposition was being scheduled on October 2, stating:

On September 13, the Committees wrote to request that you make State Department employees available for transcribed interviews. We asked you to provide, by September 20, dates by which the employees would be made available for transcribed interviews. You failed to comply with the Committees’ request.288

Also on September 27, the Committees sent a letter directly to Ambassador Yovanovitch seeking her appearance at a deposition on October 2.289

On October 1, Secretary Pompeo sent a letter to the Committees stating:

Therefore, the five officials subject to your letter may not attend any interview or deposition without counsel from the Executive Branch present to ensure that the Executive Branch’s constitutional authority to control the disclosure of confidential information, including deliberative matters and diplomatic communications, is not impaired.290

After further discussions with Ambassador Yovanovitch’s counsel, her deposition was rescheduled for October 11. On October 10, Brian Bulatao, the Under Secretary of State for Management, sent a letter to Ambassador Yovanovitch’s personal attorney directing Ambassador Yovanovitch not to appear for her deposition and enclosing Mr. Cipollone’s October 8 letter stating that President Trump and his Administration would not participate in the House’s impeachment inquiry. Mr. Bulatao’s letter stated:

Accordingly, in accordance with applicable law, I write on behalf of the Department of State, pursuant to the President’s instruction reflected in Mr. Cipollone’s letter, to instruct your client (as a current employee of the Department of State), consistent with Mr. Cipollone’s letter, not to appear before the Committees under the present circumstances.291

That same day, October 10, when asked whether he intended to block Ambassador Yovanovitch from testifying the next day, President Trump stated: “You know, I don’t think people should be allowed. You have to run a country, I don’t think you should be allowed to do that.”292

On the morning of Ambassador Yovanovitch’s deposition on October 11, the Committees sent a letter to her personal attorney transmitting a subpoena compelling her appearance, stating:

In light of recent attempts by the Administration to direct your client not to appear voluntarily for the deposition, the enclosed subpoena now compels your client’s mandatory appearance at today’s deposition on October 11, 2019.293

Later on October 11, Ambassador Yovanovitch’s personal attorney sent a letter to Mr. Bulatao, stating:

In my capacity as counsel for Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, I have received your letter of October 10, 2019, directing the Ambassador not to appear voluntarily for her scheduled deposition testimony on October 11, 2019 before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on Oversight and Reform in connection with the House of Representatives’s impeachment inquiry. Just this morning, the Ambassador received a subpoena issued by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, requiring her to appear for the deposition as scheduled. Although the Ambassador has faithfully and consistently honored her professional duties as a State Department employee—including at all times following her abrupt termination as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine—she is unable to obey your most recent directive. As the recipient of a duly issued congressional subpoena, Ambassador Yovanovitch is, in my judgment, legally obligated to attend the depositions as scheduled.294

Ambassador Yovanovitch participated in the deposition on October 11, in compliance with the Committees’ subpoena.295 During her deposition, Ambassador Yovanovitch’s personal attorney confirmed that “she received a direction by the Under Secretary to decline to appear voluntarily.”296

On November 15, the Committees transmitted a subpoena to Ambassador Yovanovitch compelling her to testify at a public hearing of the Intelligence Committee that same day.297 Ambassador Yovanovitch complied with the Committees’ subpoena and testified at the public hearing. During the hearing, Chairman Schiff acknowledged Ambassador Yovanovitch’s compliance, stating:

Ambassador, I want to thank you for your decades of service. I want to thank you, as Mr. Maloney said, for being the first one through the gap. What you did in coming forward and answering a lawful subpoena was to give courage to others that also witnessed wrongdoing, that they, too, could show the same courage that you have, that they could stand up, speak out, answer questions, they could endure whatever threats, insults may come their way. And so in your long and distinguished career you have done another great public service in answering the call of our subpoena and testifying before us today.298

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.

 

 

 

A Resolute Marie Yovanovitch Shines at the Impeachment Inquiry

 

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.”
Imagine that. 
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.

Foggy Bottom’s Top ‘Champion of Diplomacy’ to Step Up, or Maybe Not

 

On Wednesday, the WH released the transcript (PDF) of President Trump’s July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Just Security has a helpful timeline here for those not caught up with the matter yet.
Foggy Bottom watchers were immediately drawn to the two presidents’ exchange referencing the then U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Louise Yovanovitch who served as Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv from August 18, 2016 – May 20, 2019.  (see @StateDept Recalls Amb. Marie Yovanovitch From Ukraine After Persistent Campaign For Removal).
We have seen folks calling publicly for Secretary Pompeo to stand up for one of his top career diplomats. Maybe he’ll surprise us but those waiting will probably be in for a disappointment.
The Trump-Zelensky call occurred in July 25, 2019 (although there apparently was an April 2019 call, too), about two months after Ambassador Yovanovitch was recalled from Ukraine.  The released July 25 transcript does not indicate the individuals in on the call, but the declassified whistleblower complaint identified at least one participant from the State Department, Secretary Pompeo’s Counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl (see Pompeo Appoints West Point Pal, Ulrich Brechbuhl as @StateDept Counselor).  Somebody pointed out to us that the “counselor” title often causes outsiders to believe that this position handles legal matters. It does not. With few exceptions, most recently, Tom Shannon Jr. (2013–2016) and Kristie Ann Kenney (2016–2017), the “C” position is typically held by a political appointee who performs tasks assigned by the Secretary of State (i.e., a senior official without portfolio).

“Counselor of the Department, T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, is an Under Secretary-level principal officer who serves the Secretary as a special advisor and consultant on major problems of foreign policy and who provides guidance to the appropriate bureaus with respect to such matters. The Counselor conducts special international negotiations and consultations, and also undertakes special assignments from time to time, as directed by the Secretary.

The day after the phone call, July 26, Secretary Pompeo also met with the president at the White House.  The notion that the targeting of a veteran public servant by this president, his personal lawyer, and others is a surprise to the secretary of state, begs for some creative imagination. He had a chance to stand up for her before she was recalled, did he do that? The idea that he must have done so or she would have been fired doesn’t make sense. She is a career FSO with workplace protections. They could not just fire her on a whim. But what could a recalled career diplomat do with no onward assignment? The State Department could send her to a university, right?
Ambassador Yovanovitch is currently a Senior State Department Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy (ISD), in the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown. She is a Career Minister (FE-CM) of the U.S. Foreign Service; that’s equivalent in rank to a Lieutenant General in the U.S. military.  She had three previous ambassadorial appointments: Ukraine (2016-2019) and Armenia (2008-2011) under the Obama Administration, and the Kyrgyz Republic (2005-2008) under the G. W. Bush Administration. She also previously worked as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, the #2 senior ranking official at the EUR bureau. Which is to say that she has extensive diplomatic experience overseas and in Foggy Bottom. And yet, for some reason, Secretary Pompeo, who talks way too much about swagger and professional ethos could not find a spot for Ambassador Yovanovitch in his org chart.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, we ‘d like to note once more that ambassadors like Ambassador Yovanovich, a career diplomat, do not go freelancing nor do they go rogue; they do not make their own policy concerning their host countries.  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 reports to the Secretary of State.  And they follow those orders.  Even on instances when they personally disagree with those orders or the administration’s policies, they follow orders. Career diplomats who do not follow their instructions do not have lengthy careers in the U.S. diplomatic service.
We, of course, have to acknowledged the presidential prerogative on the appointments of ambassadors. But. If her recall had really nothing to do with politics, if as the State Department puts it, the departure was “as planned” how come Foggy Bottom has not put her extensive experience and training to appropriate use?  How come she’s not in Foggy Bottom?  How come she had no senate-confirmed successor at the US Embassy in Kyiv, if this was “as planned”? There are a few officials at State who would know the whys and hows of her treatment based on their responsibilities in the bureaucracy.
The U.S. Senate confirmed Secretary Pompeo’s second bestie in Foggy Bottom in May 2019 (see Senate Confirms Brian Bulatao as Under Secretary of State For Management). Prior to Bulatao’s confirmation,  the Deputy Under Secretary for Management William Todd was running the bureau with oversight on personnel and assignments.
The Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources Carol Perez assumed her post as DGHR  on January 30, 2019. She directs the recruitment, assignments and professional development of State Department and Foreign Service personnel. Prior to her assumption of office, William Todd was also Acting DGHR.
At the geographic bureau, the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine is under the umbrella of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR) . The most recent Senate-confirmed assistant secretary Wess Mitchell took office in October 2017 and left post on February 15, 2019 (see EUR’s Wess Mitchell Quits, New Acting EUR A/S Millard Reportedly to Retire 2/22).  Since March 18, 2019, Ambassador Philip T. Reeker, a career diplomat has been the Acting Assistant Secretary for the bureau.
Given what we know now, what happened at the IO bureau was not a glitch but a marker to alert us of a dreadful trend (IO case involved the departures of 50 of 300 domestic IO employees). There are now two very public instances where Secretary Pompeo appeared unable to protect his people from political retaliation. How good a “champion of diplomacy” are you if your umbrella can only keep the shit off your head but not your people? This is a necessary question to ask as we enter a most difficult period in our national life.

Via Politico:

While it’s still not clear what Pompeo did or did not do, the still-unfolding Ukraine scandal could dramatically affect his standing at Foggy Bottom and on Capitol Hill, not to mention his well-known political future political ambitions.
[…]
State Department staffers, meanwhile, are questioning how the secretary could have allowed the Ukraine-related dealings to go on under his nose, and whether he was complicit in derailing the career of a respected ambassador along the way.

“It’s impossible to believe that the secretary wasn’t aware of what was happening,” said one State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “If he was kept in the dark, that’s even more troubling.”
[…]
Aside from Pompeo, lawmakers and their aides are trying to establish what role certain U.S. envoys played in connecting Giuliani with Ukrainian officials, and whether Pompeo signed off.

Those diplomats include the special envoy for Ukraine, Kurt Volker and the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland. There also are questions about the actions of U.S. ambassadors in other European countries where Giuliani may have met with Ukrainian officials.
[…]
Of special interest: the role Pompeo and his aides played in recalling Marie Yovanovitch, the career diplomat who was serving as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

Related posts:

Amb. Marie L. Yovanovitch

US Embassy Kyiv: Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch Presents Her Credentials in Ukraine

Posted: 1:22 am ET
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