Back in the Fall of 2016, when the FBI released the notes on the interviews in the Clinton email investigation, I read through all of the notes released and wrote some blog posts about them. With the just released transcripts of the “impeachment inquiry” closed hearings, reading these transcripts seemed a good way for me to form my own opinion about the testimony and the hearing process, which has been much complained about by Republicans and Trump pundits.
I read through the former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch transcript (317 pages). Based on the transcript, the Democrats seemed to have a lot more time than the Republicans, Schiff seemed very heavy-handed in this hearing, but I didn’t get the impression the process was anything remotely “Soviet-style”. Yovanovitch made an opening statement, then the hearing progressed in blocks of time given to Dems and Republicans to ask questions. As one who has read a lot of Congressional hearing transcripts over the years and watched way more Congressional hearings than I care to admit (okay, years ago I was addicted to C-Span and even watched British and other foreign government goings on, along with the US Congress), so I’ve seen some really rancorous governmental proceedings over the years and while this one was heavy-handed, it wasn’t the worst U.S Congressional hearing I’ve seen. Schiff would have gained more credibility if he had not tried so hard to stage and control the hearing with the intent to control the spin narrative.
When I start reading a transcript I try to get a feel for facts that are undisputed, timelines of events and the veracity of the testimony. The media, pundits and politicians like to affix the term “credible” to witnesses that feed their partisan agenda and spin narrative, regardless if the testimony leaves huge gaping holes, is contradictory, lacks any corroboration and conflicts with other testimony or is even contradictory throughout the testimony, so I hesitate to use the term “credible” lightly. Yovanovitch’s testimony sounded credible to me and her answers, particularly the ones where she expanded on how she viewed US foreign policy objectives, how she evaluated events in a foreign country and laying out the conflicting issues that a US embassy deals with in complicated countries, like Ukraine, struck me as insightful, honest and coming from a seasoned foreign service professional.
She expressed complete support for the Trump official foreign policy, including the military aid, to Ukraine (pages 144-150 of the transcript). I’ve read the Yovanovitch transcript at NPR – HERE.
Marie Yovanovitch served in the US Foreign Service at the US State Department for 33 years, under 5 different US presidents and has served as an ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Ukraine. The Trump State Department asked Yovanovitch to extend her stay in Ukraine for another year and she was told by her superiors that they were happy with the job she was doing. Then Rudy Giuliani, Don Jr., Hannity and other Trump pundits escalated a media smear campaign against Yovanovitch on social media and on FOX News to destroy her reputation. Trump then fired her.
Trump appears to have been running two competing Ukraine policies, the official one, run through his State Department and which Yovanovitch worked to advance and a personal Ukraine policy, run through a back channel by his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani and son, Don Jr. In the phone call with the president of Ukraine, Trump appears to me to have been advancing his own personal political objectives, not the official foreign policy objectives of his own State Department.
I’ll just cite some pages and lines in the transcript and comments, because I can’t just copy and paste them from that transcript and it will take me forever to figure out the screenshot stuff.
Pages 126-132, Yovanovitch explains how she was notified about being fired by President Trump and how her superiors told her she had to leave immediately out of security concerns that Trump might tweet something that could jeopardize her safety.
Pages 173-174, Schiff questions Yovanovitch about her knowledge of President Trump trashing her in his phone call with the President of Ukraine, saying she was a bad ambassador. This behavior of Trump’s is the most disloyal behavior of any American president, that I can recall and it’s not the first time Trump has engaged in trashing American officials while talking to foreign leaders. In our hyper-partisan political environment, it’s easy to just dismiss this as “Trump being Trump”, but around the world, every leader reads this as Trump has no loyalty to his own team. He is all about his own ego – that’s it. At some point, I fear, this “Trump being Trump” will lead to some serious national security crisis.
Pages 192-193, Trump while trashing Yovanovitch in his call with Zelensky went one step further than just trashing. On page 193, lines 9-15 is where Trump commits the ultimate betrayal of an American citizen as President of the United States, he issues a veiled threat against an American citizen talking to a foreign leader.
9 Q At the bottom of that same page, President Trump 10 says, "Well, she's going to go through some things." 11 Q What did you understand that to mean? 12 A I didn't know what it meant. I was very concerned. 13 I still am. 14 Q Did you feel threatened? 15 A Yes.
Pages 267-268, Yovanovitch asked the Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, for advice on how to handle this media smear campaign against her and his advice was to tell her she should “go big or go home” and he suggested she tweet out support for Trump and say all the smears were lies. He was advising a senior US diplomat to engage in overt political activity… That was his best advice…
This career Foreign Service officer, was asked to extend her tour as ambassador in a difficult country, with a lot of internal strife, by top officials in the US State Department – Trump’s State Department – and then she was left with no legal means to protect herself from a media smear campaign being led by the president’s personal attorney and his son. This is the most egregious abuse of power I’ve seen and no employee in America should be trapped in a hostile workplace environment where there’s absolutely no legal avenue to protect or defend against a media smear campaign coming from the chief executive’s office. All the partisan politics aside, what happened to Marie Yovanovitch is totally outrageous.