Marie Yovanovitch, Ex-Ambassador To Ukraine, To Testify In Impeachment Inquiry The diplomat will be the sole witness Friday, the second day of public testimony in the impeachment inquiry. State Department colleagues say she was removed after a slander campaign by Rudy Giuliani.
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Yovanovitch, Ex-Ambassador To Ukraine, Will Testify In Trump Impeachment Hearing

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Yovanovitch, Ex-Ambassador To Ukraine, Will Testify In Trump Impeachment Hearing

Yovanovitch, Ex-Ambassador To Ukraine, Will Testify In Trump Impeachment Hearing

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Trump has called her bad news. Former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch gets her chance to respond publicly tomorrow. She will share her take on how she was ousted after what her colleagues call a campaign of slander led by Trump's private lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Joining us to talk about this is NPR diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen.

Hi, Michele.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Like the other witnesses slated to testify publicly, Yovanovitch has already testified behind closed doors. What were the big takeaways from her deposition according to the transcript?

KELEMEN: Well, in those many pages of transcript, Marie Yovanovitch offered a pretty dramatic picture of her ouster. She said that she first learned that Trump's private lawyer was campaigning against her from a Ukrainian official who told her to watch her back. In late April she got a call from one of her colleagues that she should get on the first plane home and that this was about her security. When she got back, she was told simply that the president had lost confidence in her.

SHAPIRO: President Trump's defenders have pointed out that ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the president. He has a right to remove her. So what makes this situation different?

KELEMEN: Well, to answer that, I'm going to take you through a little bit for the next few minutes of the testimony that we've heard so far.

SHAPIRO: OK.

KELEMEN: So George Kent is another career foreign service officer. He had been Yovanovitch's deputy in Ukraine, and at the first public impeachment hearing yesterday, he said that, you know, as diplomats, they were used to criticism from Ukrainians or Russians who didn't like their messages.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GEORGE KENT: It was unexpected and most unfortunate, however, to watch some Americans, including those who allied themselves with corrupt Ukrainians in pursuit of private agendas, launch attacks on dedicated public servants advancing U.S. interests in Ukraine.

KELEMEN: Kent tried to get the State Department to push back at the disinformation campaign. Instead, the Department quietly brought Yovanovitch home, claiming it was time to coincide with the inauguration of a new president in Ukraine. Kent testified Wednesday that corrupt Ukrainian prosecutors who had their own axes to grind were feeding bad information to Trump's private lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KENT: They were now peddling false information in order to extract revenge against those who would expose their misconduct, including U.S. diplomats, Ukrainian anti-corruption officials and reform-minded civil society groups in Ukraine.

KELEMEN: The Democrat leading the impeachment inquiry says the sidelining of Yovanovitch set the stage for Giuliani to advance the president's personal and political interests. At that hearing, though, Republican John Ratcliffe dismissed that argument, quoting Kent himself as saying the president has the authority to recall an ambassador for any reason.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN RATCLIFFE: So you agree with me that we shouldn't impeach a president for exercising his constitutional authority.

KENT: I'm here as a fact witness to answer your questions. Your constitutional obligation is to consider the evidence before you.

KELEMEN: Former U.S. diplomats have been outraged by the treatment of Yovanovitch, a three-time ambassador and career public servant. Tom Countryman, who spent 35 years in the Foreign Service, says ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the president, but the president's rights are not unlimited.

THOMAS COUNTRYMAN: He's got the authority to do it, but if he exercises the authority for the purpose of extorting something from the government of Ukraine, I would certainly call that an abuse. But that's the judgment that the Congress has to make.

KELEMEN: Another former career diplomat, Nancy McEldowney, was furious that Mike Pompeo's State Department has not supported Yovanovitch. The secretary did not put out a statement even after a call transcript was released showing that Trump was telling Ukraine's new president that the ambassador would be, quote, "going through some things."

NANCY MCELDOWNEY: All of this considerable intimidation that has been imposed on these people - and yet they come forward because they feel duty-bound and honor-bound to tell the truth.

KELEMEN: She says public servants are putting their careers, privacy and personal safety at risk. And, Ari, you know, some Democratic lawmakers are warning the administration not to punish those State Department officials who do come to testify.

SHAPIRO: Because even though she's no longer the ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch is still a State Department employee, right?

KELEMEN: That's right. She's still a foreign service officer. She's just teaching for the year at Georgetown University.

SHAPIRO: Michele, thank you for your reporting on Yovanovitch. Before we let you go, on a slightly lighter note, the staff here at ALL THINGS CONSIDERED noticed something in yesterday's public hearings that I want to ask you about.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KENT: The U.S. embassy in Keev (ph)...

SHAPIRO: That was Kent saying Keev. We on the air have been saying Kyiv. Can you explain?

KELEMEN: Well, right. So it was actually - in 2006, the State Department adopted that pronunciation and a different spelling - K-Y-I-V rather than K-I-E-V - because it sounds more Ukrainian rather than Russian. And by the way, it was George Kent who was the one who got the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to agree to that change.

SHAPIRO: With apologies to George Kent, NPR's official pronunciation guidance remains Kyiv.

Michele Kelemen, thanks a lot.

KELEMEN: Thank you.

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