Marie Yovanovitch is the former ambassador to Ukraine who was controversially removed earlier this year by President Trump. She is testifying before Congress as part of the impeachment hearings today.
President Barack Obama appointed Yovanovitch as the ambassador to Ukraine in 2016. She continued in her role under President Trump until she received a phone call at 1 AM where she was told she had to come back to the United States due to security issues.
Yovanovitch said in her testimony on Friday that this was “extremely irregular” and protested the move. She eventually returned, where she learned that President Donald Trump no longer wanted her to serve.
Yovanovitch is a graduate of Princeton University where she earned a BA in History and Russian Studies. She studied at the Pushkin Institute and received an MS from the National Defense University. She has been a government employee for over 30 years focused on the sphere of the Soviet Union.
She served under six presidential administrations over her 33-year career, two Democratic and four Republican. During the Bush years, she was appointed by the President to serve as the ambassador to Kyrgyzstan and Armenia before becoming deputy chief of mission of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. She’s worked at U.S. embassies around the world, including in Kiev, Moscow, London, Ottowa and Mogadishu.
She was also the dean of the School of Language Studies at the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute, the principal deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Eurasian Affairs, and used to be in charge of handling issues in Nordic, Baltic and Central European countries for that office.
Yovanovitch was abruptly removed from her position in May and told to get “on the next plane” in May without an explanation. Once she returned, she was told that the President had been pressuring State Department officials for many months to remove her and had lost confidence in her.
Republicans claim that her removal was solely based on job performance and had nothing to do with the investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden’s ties to Burisma holdings. However, the Wall Street Journal reported that she was removed after Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani said she was “undermining him abroad and obstructing efforts to persuade” Ukrainian leaders to investigate the Bidens.
She’s a career diplomat and has said several times that her actions and decisions are not based on partisan politics.
“I have understood that oath, a commitment to serve on a strictly nonpartisan basis, to advance the foreign policy determined by the incumbent president, and to work at all times to strengthen our national security and promote our national interests,” she said, according to a transcript of her deposition.
In her opening statement, she touted her non-partisanship, “I come before you as an American citizen who has spent 33 years in public service to the country all of us love. I have no agenda. My Service is an expression of my gratitude to this country.”
President Trump Called Her “Bad News” and Said that “Everywhere” She Went “Turned Bad”
President Trump hopped on Twitter during Yovanovitch’s testimony to add his opinion on the former diplomat.
“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.” He wrote on Twitter, “She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.”
“….They call it “serving at the pleasure of the President.” The U.S. now has a very strong and powerful foreign policy, much different than proceeding administrations. It is called, quite simply, America First! With all of that, however, I have done FAR more for Ukraine than O.” He added.
In a shocking turn of events, Rep. Adam Schiff was made aware of the Tweets and brought them up during the impeachment hearing. He read the tweets to Yovanovitch and asked her to respond to them in real-time.
“I don’t think I have such powers, not in Mogadishu, Somalia, and not in other places. I actually think that where I’ve served over the years, I and others have demonstrably made things better for the U.S.” Yovanovitch responded.
“Some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously.” Schiff added.
Trump referenced Yovanovitch in the now-infamous July 25 phone call with President Zelensky where he called her “bad news”. In her deposition, Yovanovitch was asked what she felt when she read in the readout of the July 25 phone call that Trump said about her, “Well, she’s going to go through some things.”
“I was very concerned,” Yovanovitch said. “I still am.”
The House counsel asked, “Did you feel threatened?”
She responded, “Yes.”
The House counsel continued “What were you concerned about?”
“‘She’s going to go through some things.’ It didn’t sound good. It sounded like a threat.” She said.
The White House and Republicans previously tried to paint Yovanovitch as a partisan ambassador working against President Trump but have pivoted their strategy to focus on her job performance.
Republicans Claim She Was Biased Before Her Removal
President Trump’s son, Don Jr., also tweeted about Yovanovitch earlier this year when he retweeted an article from The Daily Wire that called for her removal.
Former federal prosecutor Joe diGenova appeared on Fox News back in March and said that “The current United States ambassador Marie Yovanovitch has bad mouthed the President of the United States to Ukrainian officials and has told them not to listen or worry about Trump policy because he’s going to be impeached.”
Republicans have claimed that Yovanovitch’s bias was clear before the impeachment hearings. Congressman Pete Sessions sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in May 2018 which asked that Yovanovitch be removed from her position.
“I wanted to bring to your attention an interaction that I recently had with individuals regarding the current U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine,” Sessions wrote. “I have received notice of concrete evidence from close companions that Ambassador Yovanovitch has spoken privately and repeatedly about her disdain for the current Administration in a way that might call for the expulsion of Ms. Yovanovitch as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine immediately.”
Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko also raised concerns about Yovanovitch earlier this year in an interview with The Hill, “Unfortunately, from the first meeting with the U.S. ambassador in Kiev, [Yovanovitch] gave me a list of people whom we should not prosecute,” Lutsenko said. “My response of that is it is inadmissible. Nobody in this country, neither our president nor our parliament nor our ambassador, will stop me from prosecuting whether there is a crime.”
Yovanovitch was asked about this during her testimony on Friday and said that President Trump’s assessment “wasn’t certainly based on anything that the State Department would have reported or frankly anybody else in the U.S. government.” She also explained that Lutsenko’s anti-corruption stance was merely rhetoric.
She also commented on the Giuliani-Lutsenko ‘smear’, saying “How could our system fail like this? How is it that foreign corrupt interests could manipulate our government?”
Marie Yovanovitch is currently registered to vote as a Democrat in Connecticut. Other than that, there is no definitive evidence in her career history or testimony that shows any bias towards democrats or republicans.