Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch Has Retired From Foreign Service

Jan 31, 2020
Originally published on January 31, 2020 7:15 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Some news tonight - NPR has learned that one of the key figures in the impeachment drama, Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, is retiring from the foreign service. She was the ambassador to Ukraine until last spring, when she was ousted following a disinformation campaign by the president's private lawyer. Yovanovitch testified before Congress about the moment that she got a call from Washington telling her, come home.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARIE YOVANOVITCH: They were concerned about my security and I needed to come home right away.

KELLY: Yovanovitch remained on the State Department payroll, teaching at Georgetown University, but sources say she is now retired. NPR diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen and I have both been reporting out this story, and Michele is in the studio with us now.

Hey there.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Hi there.

KELLY: All right, so let's walk through the details we know. I have confirmed that she retired - so not resigned. But this is months before her current assignment was set to end.

KELEMEN: Well, she was at Georgetown, so this wasn't an ambassadorship that she had. And she has been telling colleagues that she would be retiring soon. She's been the ambassador - an ambassador three times, appointed by both Democratic and Republican presidents. She was a very powerful voice in that impeachment hearing, describing how her last post in Ukraine ended.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

YOVANOVITCH: When I returned to the United States, Deputy Secretary of State Sullivan told me there had been a concerted campaign against me, that the president no longer wished me to serve as ambassador to Ukraine and that, in fact, the president had been pushing for my removal since the prior summer.

KELEMEN: And she felt that she was pushed out because of business interests of private individuals. It was a very powerful appearance, but perhaps not the way someone like that, a nonpartisan career diplomat, would have wanted to go out.

KELLY: To exit, yeah. Let me follow up on that timeline. Yovanovitch said she felt she had been under pressure since 2018, and we have been learning more lately about that pressure campaign.

KELEMEN: Yeah. Right. Lev Parnas - he's the indicted associate of Trump's private lawyer - has audio from a dinner in 2018. You can hear him telling President Trump that Yovanovitch was bad-mouthing him, saying he was going to be impeached, and Trump said he wanted her out.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Get rid of her.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: OK? Get her out tomorrow. I don't care. Get her out tomorrow.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: Take her out, OK?

KELEMEN: Taker her out, he said. Parnas has apologized for spreading rumors about Yovanovitch. He also said that Trump tried to fire him - tried to fire her four or five times, which suggests that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo may have quietly been fending off this campaign against her.

KELLY: Her name is still very much in the news, though. Just on Wednesday of this week, a group of senators, 22 senators, wrote a letter to Secretary Pompeo about her. What is it that they want Secretary Pompeo to do?

KELEMEN: Well, I mean, they're furious that Pompeo has not publicly supported her, as you know. You spoke to him recently.

KELLY: Yeah.

KELEMEN: And, you know, there are texts also from a U.S. citizen - also given by Parnas - and this man was suggesting that he had Yovanovitch under surveillance in Kyiv. Now, that man said he was drunk and joking, but the FBI has raided his house, and diplomatic security agents did go to the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv to look into it. And I should note, Mary Louise, that as we're talking about all of this, Secretary Pompeo was actually in Kyiv today.

KELLY: Exactly.

KELEMEN: And he went to the U.S. Embassy there. Reporters on the trip actually sent a picture that they saw hanging on the wall of Yovanovitch there with a group of senators, including the late John McCain. They had gone to visit the front lines between the Ukrainian forces and Russian-led troops.

KELLY: Thank you, Michele.

KELEMEN: Thank you.

KELLY: That is NPR diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen.

And the headline there again - NPR has learned that Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, one of the key figures in the impeachment of President Trump, has retired from the foreign service. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.