Yovanovitch is latest casualty of Trump war on career diplomats

  • In US
  • 2019-10-06 11:08:02Z
  • By By Arshad Mohammed and Jonathan Landay
Yovanovitch is latest casualty of Trump war on career diplomats
Yovanovitch is latest casualty of Trump war on career diplomats  

By Arshad Mohammed and Jonathan Landay

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The treatment of U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch - disparaged by President Donald Trump and abruptly recalled from Ukraine - exemplifies what current and former U.S. officials describe as a campaign by Trump against career diplomats.

A veteran diplomat who has led the U.S. embassies in Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine, Yovanovitch's stint as ambassador in Kiev was cut short when she was recalled to Washington in May as Trump allies leveled unsubstantiated charges of disloyalty and other allegations against her.

Former Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, a career foreign service officer who served in top diplomatic posts under Republican and Democratic presidents, described her treatment as part of a wider "campaign within and against the department."

"There is a quite reckless and dangerous effort underway not only to sideline career expertise but to sideline the department as an institution," said Burns, author of "The Back Channel," a memoir of his career that calls for a renewal of U.S. diplomacy.

Yovanovitch is now embroiled in the Democratic-led House of Representatives' inquiry into whether Trump should be impeached for pressing his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to investigate unsubstantiated corruption charges against Democratic political rival Joe Biden and Biden's son, Hunter.

She has agreed to give a deposition to congressional committees on Oct. 11.

Trump has denied pressuring Zelenskiy and defended his request to the Ukrainian president, tweeting on Thursday that he has an "absolute right" to ask other countries to investigate corruption "to help us out."

Described by colleagues as a consummate professional, Yovanovitch in March became the target of allegations - vehemently denied by the State Department - that she gave a Ukrainian prosecutor a list of people not to prosecute.

Trump allies called for her removal, accusing her of criticizing the president to foreign officials, something current and former colleagues found inconceivable. Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, alleged that she blocked efforts to persuade Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

Trump himself, according to a White House summary, described her as "bad news" to Zelenskiy in a July 25 call in which he sought Zelinskiy's help to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden, a former board member of a Ukrainian gas company.

"She's going to go through some things," Trump added.

"There is the particularly pernicious practice of going after individual career officers, either because they worked on controversial issues in the last administration, or as in the case of Masha Yovanovitch, a terrific apolitical career diplomat who was doing her job extraordinarily well, were attacked, deeply unfairly, for political reasons," Burns said.

"We have career people who did their jobs, followed their instructions, served their country loyally, and they are being treated as pawns in a political struggle," said a senior U.S diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pompeo has tried to improve morale at the State Department. Last year, he nearly doubled promotions of top American diplomats as he sought to restore ties with a workforce alienated by his predecessor, Rex Tillerson.

However, current and former officials say Trump's push to marginalize career diplomats can be seen in his proposed roughly 30% State Department budget cuts, his appointment of the highest proportion of political ambassadors in modern history and his drastic reduction in the number of career officials with confirmed posts as assistant secretaries of state and higher.

As a result, there are fewer top jobs in Washington or abroad available for the most senior U.S. diplomats.

The State Department has been whipsawed by major policy decisions abruptly announced by Trump over Twitter. These include a 2018 suspension of security aid to Pakistan and a breakoff of talks in September with the Taliban on a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

It also has been shaken by high-profile investigations by the department inspector general and Congress into allegations of retaliation and other mistreatment of career officials by political appointees.

"My impression is that the president does not respect diplomats or diplomacy at all and this translates to many of his political appointees in the Department of State," said Richard Armitage, a veteran Republican foreign policy expert who served as deputy secretary of state under Republican George W. Bush.

Asked why so many senior State Department positions are held by "acting" assistant secretaries, Armitage replied: "Because they don't care about personnel. They don't care about policy. They only care about the care and feeding of Donald J. Trump."

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Jonathan Landay; Editing by Mary Milliken and Tom Brown)


More Related News

The Latest: Pelosi says Trump "most afraid" of Schiff
The Latest: Pelosi says Trump "most afraid" of Schiff

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says President Donald Trump and his Republican allies are "afraid" of the chief impeachment investigator, following a failed effort to censure him. Pelosi said "the GOP has not even tried to deny the facts" of Trump's pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democrats. Schiff later tweeted that Republicans will be remembered for lacking the courage to confront Trump.

Donald Trump calls for public identification of Ukraine whistleblower
Donald Trump calls for public identification of Ukraine whistleblower

Railing against impeachment, President Trump called for the identification of the whistleblower who accused him of improperly pressuring Ukraine.

Trump accidentally refers to Defense Secretary Esper as
Trump accidentally refers to Defense Secretary Esper as 'Mark Esperanto' in tweet defending Syria withdrawal

President Trump quoted "Mark Esperanto, Secretary of Defense" on Sunday. But the man in charge of the Pentagon is named Mark Esper, not Esperanto.

Trump drops plan to host G-7 at Doral
Trump drops plan to host G-7 at Doral

President Donald Trump on Saturday abruptly reversed his plan to hold the next Group of Seven world leaders' meeting at his Doral, Florida, golf resort next year. Accused of using the presidency to enrich himself by hosting the international summit at a private resort owned by his family, Trump announced a rare backtrack Saturday night. "Based on both Media & Democrat Crazed and Irrational Hostility, we will no longer consider Trump National Doral, Miami, as the Host Site for the G-7 in 2020," Trump tweeted.

'We're going to have him for another four years.' Impeachment fight riles up Donald Trump supporters for 2020

Rather than hunkering down in Washington, Donald Trump is using the impeachment fight to rile up supporters in cities like Minneapolis and Dallas.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


Top News: US

Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.