Marie Yovanovitch Launches an Insurrection

   •    October 23, 2019

On October 11 the world watched as the former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch strode boldly into the Capitol. In a basement room away from cameras, she addressed the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees. Her deposition lasted more than nine hours.

A foreign service officer for 33 years, Yovanovitch was directed this spring while in Kiev to “get on the next plane” to Washington. She told the committees that she’d been dismissed as ambassador thanks to “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.” Her anti-corruption work in Ukraine may have rankled those who “believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied” by her efforts.

Yovanovitch’s opening statement, obtained by the New York Times and the Washington Post, caused a seismic shift in the landscape of the impeachment inquiry. The most important task of our embassy in Kiev, she said on the Hill, was “to understand and act upon the difference between those who sought to serve their people and those who sought to serve only themselves.”
In fact, the key question in the impeachment inquiry is to discover whether President Trump has sought to serve the American people, or only himself.

That same night I was hearing from experts here inside the Beltway saying that her testimony could be a turning point in the undoing of the President of the United States.

According to Yovanovitch’s testimony, the Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan told her there had been a “concerted campaign” against her, and that the President himself had pressured the State Department to remove her from the post. In a dismaying but no-longer unusual parallel, she faced the kind of bullying at home that she was fighting abroad.

More than a decade ago, Yovanovitch and I sat down for breakfast in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. As “Swanee” and “Masha,” we compared notes about our work with Kyrgyz women leaders. As we talked, I realized that Masha was herself an American role model in a country where strong women who led civil society held precious few positions in their corrupt government.

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