USEU Ambassador Gordon Sondland in the News: Drip …Drip … Drip…

 

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, a Trump donor and a central figure in the Ukraine nightmare is scheduled to appear for a deposition on Thursday, October 17. As far as we could tell there are currently three streams of reporting concerning Sondland: Ukraine. the late breaking news of the renovation of the Chief of Mission Residence (CMR), in Brussels, and the reported ongoing boycott of his Portland-based hotel properties, Provenance Hotels. The Oregonian citing Oregon Public Broadcasting also said that “the popular local ice cream company Salt & Straw had severed its professional ties with Provenance, a chain of upscale hotels across the country, including six in Portland.”
We imagine that if his testimony is favorable to his boss, that we would likely see him tweeted as, oh, who knows … superman or the greatest ambassador ever. Or he could end up spending more time with his family. We should know soon.
WaPo on the $1 million official residence renovation:

The State Department defended the renovations, saying they were part of a “regular 17-year cycle of reviewing and refreshing furnishings and interior décor in representational residences.” The renovations were funded in April, after Sondland’s confirmation, a spokesman said. “Other minor renovations currently underway” were reviewed and approved by staff at the U.S. mission and funded in fiscal 2019, which began in October, after Sondland was confirmed.

Remember when a political ambassador was not pleased with the condition of the official residence mattress, or when embassy staff members spent several days to locate and purchase an umbrella for the official residence patio? Those were way cheaper than  a “family kitchen,” at a cost of just under $223,000. Not sure why he was not allowed to spend his own money. Anyone remember Ambassador Ronald Spogli and the $1.1M wine cellar donated to Villa Taverna in Rome? Also Ambassador Thomas Foley who reportedly spent $500,000 of his own money restoring the US ambassador’s residence in Phoenix Park in Dublin?
By the way, we’d like to know what other official residences are on State/OBO’s docket for renovations. These renovations are not unheard of but these are often scheduled years in advance. We’ve looked for the fiscal year projection for the USEU official residence in Brussels going back to FY2016, and so far have not been able to locate it.  But we see that the “major rehabilitation” of the Chief of Mission Residence Paris is on the expected to be awarded list for FY 2019. Cost for that should be interesting.

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EUR/DAS George Kent Honors Subpoena, Appears For Deposition Over #Ukraine

 

Ex-NSC Russia Expert Dr. Fiona Hill Appears For Transcribed Deposition

 

Mike Pompeo Insults Reporters Who Ask Questions He Doesn’t Like #OhGoodness!

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, the 70th Secretary of State, whose predecessors include John Quincy Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Dean Acheson,  and George C. Marshall, glaringly shows how small his shoes are for this job.  He may think he got swagger — he’s the least swaggerific person we could think of — but this secretary of state somehow also doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with asking a prospective foreign recipient of U.S. military aid to investigate a political opponent.  Close your eyes and imagine if this were a a president from a party you did not vote for making the same request, and see if you think this is okay. 
These reporters were doing their jobs, asking important questions of the day, but  instead of answering them, as Mr. Pompeo should — being a “public servant’ and all — he insulted them as being somehow working for the DNC? C’mon, that’s just lazy. He could not even get a little more creative with his insults? 
Were they too shy to call this part of the State Department’s “freethepress campaign? That is, he’s free to slam the press, if he doesn’t like the question? 
And then he said this to PBS’s Judy Woodruff:

Everyone keeps suggesting that somehow there was undue pressure.  I assure you countries all around the world every day call me to try and get America to behave in the way that’s in the best interests of their country.  They try to apply pressure to me.  And we work on it.  We work on it diplomatically to achieve good outcomes for the American people.  And the results – the results that President Trump has achieved with respect to our relationship with Ukraine I think will stand on their own as a hallmark of success of the State Department and what this administration has done.

“A hallmark of success,” no doubt, just as as soon as Ukraine President Zelensky and President Putin “get together” and “solve” their “problem” which by the way, is the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation. If some country were to invade, say Alaska, should we get together and solve that problem with the invading forces? No?
When asked if he has decided that there will be cooperation with the House impeachment, his response was a familiar Pompeo quip, there’s always “oh goodness” and he or somebody is always clear: “Oh, goodness, I’ve made clear.  I think the White House has made very clear.  We will ensure that we do everything we’re required to do by the law and the Constitution.  Every time.”
It’s so clear we could see though the mud, every day and twice on Sunday like old Vaudeville shows.
Also see the transcript of Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Nancy Amons of WSMV-TV or click below for the link to the uncut 7-min interview which includes the secstate smileon/smileoff display. This is how all interviews with the secretary of state ought to be conducted.

Read: Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s Prepared Deposition Statement

 

Excerpt from Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s prepared deposition statement:

Before I close, I must share the deep disappointment and dismay I have felt as these events have unfolded. I have served this nation honorably for more than 30 years. I have proudly promoted and served American interests as the representative of the American people and six different presidents over the last three decades. Throughout that time, I—like my colleagues at the State Department—have always believed that we enjoyed a sacred trust with our government.

We make a difference every day on issues that matter to the American people—whether it is war and peace, trade and investment, or simply helping with a lost passport. We repeatedly uproot our lives, and we frequently put ourselves in harm’s way to serve this nation. And we do that willingly, because we believe in America and its special role in the world. We also believe that, in return, our government will have our backs and protect us if we come under attack from foreign interests.

That basic understanding no longer holds true. Today, we see the State Department attacked and hollowed out from within. State Department leadership, with Congress, needs to take action now to defend this great institution, and its thousands of loyal and effective employees. We need to rebuild diplomacy as the first resort to advance America’s interests and the front line of America’s defense. I fear that not doing so will harm our nation’s interest, perhaps irreparably.

That harm will come not just through the inevitable and continuing resignation and loss of many of this nation’s most loyal and talented public servants. It also will come when those diplomats who soldier on and do their best to represent our nation face partners abroad who question whether the ambassador truly speaks for the President and can be counted upon as a reliable partner. The harm will come when private interests circumvent professional diplomats for their own gain, not the public good. The harm will come when bad actors in countries beyond Ukraine see how easy it is to use fiction and innuendo to manipulate our system. In such circumstances, the only interests that will be served are those of our strategic adversaries, like Russia, that spread chaos and attack the institutions and norms that the U.S.helped create and which we have benefited from for the last 75 years.

I am proud of my work in Ukraine. The U.S. Embassy, under my leadership, represented and advanced the policies of the United States government as articulated, first by the Obama Administration and then by the Trump Administration. Our efforts were intended, and evidently succeeded, in thwarting corrupt interests in Ukraine, who fought back by selling baseless conspiracy theories to anyone who would listen. Sadly, someone was listening, and our nation is the worse off for that.

Read in full here:

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SDNY Alleges That Political Donors Target a Career U.S. Ambassador For Removal With Sludge People Assist

 

It is no longer news when political donors end up with ambassadorships. We just did not know until today that political donors apparently are now also able to affect the removal or the recall of a career ambassador according to the indictment (see p.8) from the Southern District of New York. The SDNY alleged that these political donors sought assistance from “Congressman-1” in causing the U.S. Government to remove or recall the then U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine (that would be Marie Yovanovitch). The effort was conducted in part at the request of Ukrainian officials.
Congressman-1 has not been indicted nor identified in the indictment. SDNY said that investigations are ongoing.
The recall of Ambassador Yovanovich in May 2019 followed a persistent campaign for her removal among conservative media outlets in the United States. 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.
We now know that none of that is true. What other truth-sounding stuff are they telling us?
Those who are quick to point out that she was appointed United States Ambassador to Ukraine by President Obama, should know that Ambassador Yovanovitch was first appointed United States Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan by President George W. Bush.  She was also appointed United States Ambassador to Armenia by President George W. Bush, but her tenure in Yerevan, as a career diplomat, spanned the Bush Administration and the  Obama Administration (2008-2011). We’ve seen folks insists on calling her an Obama “holdover,” perhaps they’ll think otherwise if they realize that she was a Bush “holdover” before she became an Obama “holdover. Career people do tend to serve from one administration to the next.
We expect that we’ll hear more about this case in the days ahead. What is clear to us right now is if this could happen to Ambassador Yovanovitch who has over three decades of dedicated service, this could happen to anyone in the U.S. diplomatic service.
Also, Ambassador P. Michael McKinley, Senior Advisor to Pompeo, Quits.
Read the full SDNY Indictment of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman here (PDF).

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USEU Sondland Turns Over WhatsApp Messages and Other Docs to @StateDept

 

Via Yahoo News:

The State Department waited until 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday to tell U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland not to show up for his scheduled deposition with three House committees later that morning, the ambassador’s lawyer told Yahoo News. Robert Luskin, Sondland’s attorney, said he got the extraordinary middle-of-the-night directive in a phone call from a State Department official he declined to identify. The official offered no explanation of the grounds on which the State Department was blocking Sondland’s appearance at the last minute.

Michael Isikoff reported that Luskin confirmed that Sondland has already turned over to the State Department WhatsApp messages, text messages and other documents in his possession relevant to the House investigation.
Also, which State Department official made the call to Sondland at 12:30 a.m.? Curious people wants to know.

Trump Admin Blocks USEU Amb Gordon Sondland From Being Deposed 10/8 Over #Ukraine (Updated)

 

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Read: Kurt Volker’s Prepared Testimony in Ukraine Investigation

 

WSJ: Amb. Yovanovitch’s Removal, a Priority For Trump; Pompeo Supported the Move #championofdiplomacy

What do you get after 33 years of dedicated service to your country?

 

Via state.gov:

Marie L. Yovanovitch, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as Dean of the School of Language Studies at the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute, a position she has held since 2014. Ms. Yovanovitch has extensive leadership and management experience, having previously served twice as an ambassador. She also has broad and deep expertise, gained from numerous assignments working on the region, including as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) and Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR), and as DCM in Ukraine. This range of experience makes her well qualified to return to Embassy Kyiv as Ambassador.

Previously, Ms. Yovanovitch was Deputy Commandant at the Eisenhower School at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. (2013-2014), and served as EUR PDAS and DAS (2011-2013). Prior to that, she served as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia (2008-2011) and U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan (2005-2008). She also served as Senior Advisor and Executive Assistant in the Office of the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (2004-2005), and Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassy Kyiv (2001-2004). Ms. Yovanovitch also served as Deputy Director of EUR’s Russia Desk (1998-2000), Political-Military Officer at U.S. Embassy Ottawa, Canada (1996-1998), and Political Officer at U.S. Embassy Moscow, Russia (1993-1996). After joining the Foreign Service in 1986, Ms. Yovanovitch also served in Somalia, the United Kingdom, the Department’s Operations Center, and in EUR’s Regional Political Military Office.

Ms. Yovanovitch earned a B.A. from Princeton University and a M.S. in Strategic Studies from the National War College. She has won numerous Department of State performance awards. Her languages are Russian and some French.