My take on Ukraine Ambassador testimony

Published 3:27 pm Wednesday, November 20, 2019

J David Derosier

Former US Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, testified in public last week in Impeachment hearings held by the House of Representatives. The opinions expressed by most public media reports are that she was a victim of mistreatment by the President of the US for being fired without cause, as well as by the US State Dept. for whom she was a career diplomat employee.

She is being treated by the press as a “hero” who was a “casualty” of corruption in both the USA and Ukraine and is speaking out against it.

Ambassador Recall

The Daily Beast, a American news and opinion website focused on politics and pop culture, reported that “…in May 2019, the State Department recalled Yovanovitch, a move that shocked U.S. diplomats.”

The Washington Post on November 15th reported that “Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told the House Intelligence Committee that Trump recalled her after a ‘smear campaign’ aimed at advancing corrupt interests in Ukraine.”

Relevant facts not reported by the Post include:

  1. An Ambassador is nominated by the President, confirmed by the Senate, and serves at the pleasure of the President.
  2. The normal tenure for a career diplomat in an Ambassador post is 3 years. In this case, her nomination to the Senate was May 18th, 2016 and she was confirmed on July 14th, 2016.
  3. She was recalled on May 20th, 2019, over three years after her nomination by our previous president (Obama) and just 55 days short of 3 years after her confirmation.

MY TAKE: It would appear that an employee of the State Dept that served at the pleasure of the president and had been publicly associated with bad-mouthing the president, was recalled with less than 2 months to go in a normal rotation. I’m not sure how she can complain about her boss doing that. She sounds more like a pompous person complaining about her boss (a good reason for the recall).

Witness Intimidation

The same Washington Post article went on to say that, “Yovanovitch, who said that she had felt threatened by Trump’s previous negative comments about her, was forced to respond to a fresh attack by the president while she spoke. ‘It’s very intimidating,’ she said after Trump took to Twitter to criticize her career during her testimony.”

Relevant facts not reported by the Post include:

  1. The tweet made by the President was sent while the former Ambassador was testifying and because of rules about computers and cell phones were off, she could not have seen such a tweet until she had completed the testimony.
  2. It was the chairman of the hearings, California Democrat Rep. Adam B. Schiff, who interrupted her testimony to tell her about the tweet and ask her about her feelings in relation to the tweet.

MY TAKE: Perhaps Rep. Schiff could be accused of attempting to intimidate the witness because if he had not intervened the witness would not have known of the tweet until after completion of testimony.

Employee’s Public Criticism of Boss’s Boss

Yovanovitch testified to the Congressional committee that the President of the US is wrong because he is not doing things the way it was done in the past, as she is used to. Specifically, he was using “back door” diplomacy rather than going through regular channels.

The Daily Beast quoted Yovanovitch as saying that her boss, Secretary Pompeo, “will soon cause real harm if it hasn’t already” to other diplomats and U.S. interests. She seems to feel qualified to criticize and condemn, not just her boss, but her boss’s boss. Perhaps because she thinks she knows better?

Relevant facts not included:

  1. The President is charged with, and responsible for, setting policy and strategy for American diplomacy.
  2. President Trump’s nature as a politician is to be unorthodox. And he has accomplished a lot by being so.
  3. President Obama, who appointed Yovanovitch, refused to send lethal aid to Ukraine because he was afraid of what Russia would think.
  4. President Trump chose to change that policy and lethal aid is included in the help to Ukraine.
  5. The main role of an ambassador is to represent the (current) President and his policy and strategy in a foreign country.

MY TAKE: Different President, different policy and strategy. If you can’t represent the President, you should not be the Ambassador.

Afraid of Losing Her Pension

In her deposition, Yovanovitch included that she had concerns about losing her six-figure job at the State Department and even the pension that came along with it.

Relevant facts not included:

  1. Although retaining the position of Ambassador is at the pleasure of the president, Yovanovitch did not lose her employment at the US State Dept. nor any accrued benefits under the Foreign Service program.
  2. She is still employed by the department and is teaching at Georgetown University.

MY TAKE: What’s the problem?

Direct Questioning

U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) specifically asked Yovanovitch, “Do you have any information regarding the president of the United States accepting any bribes?”  Yovanovitch: “No.”

Stewart: “Do you have any information regarding any criminal activity that the president of the United States has been involved with at all?”  Yovanovitch: “No.”

MY TAKE: If the purpose of the testimony was supposed to be about bribery and/or criminal activity, that was answered. If the purpose of the testimony was an attempt to smear the President, it did its job and convinced the media (not that they needed it).


David Derosier consults with small business on planning and marketing issues, and provides web design and hosting services through, an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau that is rated A+ by BBB. He can be reached at