It’s becoming clear that Democrats are widening the net when it comes to bringing in Trump administration officials involved in dealing with Ukraine. Secretary of State Pompeo was subpoenaed by Democratic chairs of three House committees Friday for documents they claim relate to Ukraine and the impeachment inquiries.
A story in the Daily Mail about the resignation submitted by President Trump’s envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, a Special Representative just one day after the whistleblower’s complaint became public takes a turn. This whole impeachment inquiry now smacks of revenge against President Trump for the removal of the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. Volker was named in the complaint. He introduced Rudy Guiliani to President Volodymyr Zelensky. The complaint claims that along with the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, Volker advised Ukrainian officials on how to navigate pressure from Trump about cleaning up corruption.
Volker is Executive Director of the McCain Institute at ASU. He has served as special envoy to Ukraine since 2017 on a part-time, unpaid basis. He helped Ukraine’s government resolve its confrontation with Russia-sponsored separatists. Volker and Sondland were subpoenaed Friday, along with former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and Deputy Assistant Secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent.
On July 3 Volker tweeted about his “great” meeting with Zelensky. He tweeted about Zelensky’s “clear commitment to peace in Donbas, but Russia needs to do its part”. Volker said that Zelensky pledged his strong commitment to reforming Ukraine.
.@SpecRepUkraine: Провел замечательную встречу с Президентом 🇺🇦 @ZelenskyyUa — есть четкое стремление к миру на Донбассе, но #Россия должна выполнить свои обязательства. Владимир Зеленский выразил твердую приверженность реформам в #Украина, которые мы полностью поддерживаем. pic.twitter.com/FEf1WZnk7R
— США по-русски (@USApoRusski) July 3, 2019
Then came the phone call from Trump on July 25 that put the complaint into play. It looks like the CIA agent who registered the complaint was upset about Trump’s dealings with Ambassador Yovanovitch.
Three weeks later, President Donald Trump said in his July 25 phone call with Zelensky that Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was ‘bad news’ and that she is ‘going to go through some things,’ according to the memo of the call released this week by the White House. But that characterization of her and her performance was contradicted by five current and former officials who spoke to The Associated Press.
Yovanovitch’s name may ring a bell. She was unceremoniously relieved from her position in May and brought back to Washington, D.C. The story didn’t get a lot of press coverage at the time but I do remember reading that she left her post in Ukraine. I thought at the time that she was another Never-Trumper resigning to protest President Trump.
Months before the call that set off an impeachment inquiry, many in the diplomatic community were alarmed by the Trump administration’s abrupt removal of the career diplomat from her post as ambassador to Ukraine.
The ambassador’s ouster, and the campaign against her that preceded it, are now emerging as a key sequence of events behind a whistleblower’s complaint alleging that the president pressured a foreign country to investigate his political rival Joe Biden’s son.
She served as an ambassador in both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. Apparently the diplomatic community considered Trump’s remarks during the July 25 phone conversation to be of a threatening nature towards Yovanovitch. She was an Obama holdover in Ukraine.
Yovanovitch, 60, is a career official who was twice chosen for ambassadorships by President George W. Bush and once, to Ukraine, by President Barack Obama. Trump said of her on the call: “The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news,” Trump said in their July 25 conversation, according to a transcript released by the White House. “She’s going to go through some things.”
That prompted widespread condemnation from American diplomats. “The threatening tone of this statement is deeply troubling,” the American Academy of Diplomacy said in a statement. “Whatever views the Administration has of Ambassador Yovanovitch’s performance, we call on the Administration to make clear that retaliation for political reasons will not be tolerated.”
When calls for her removal began, Pompeo resisted but he eventually agreed. Her appointment was up in July so the State Department said she was just leaving a couple of months early.
The removal of Yovanovitch gained little attention at the time it occurred, when many in Washington were preoccupied with escalating tensions with Iran. State Department officials said she was merely ending her term a few months ahead of a departure that had been scheduled for July. She kept quiet and moved back to Washington, remaining a diplomat but with a university fellowship and no fixed State Department assignment.
But, in private, many in the diplomatic community in the U.S. and around the world were appalled, believing she had been improperly removed from a sensitive post at a critical moment, as a new president without any previous political experience was taking office in a struggling country in dire need of American economic and military aid in an ongoing fight against Russia-backed separatists.
The officials described Yovanovitch as a respected and highly skilled diplomat who was carrying out two main missions on behalf of the administration: pressing the Ukrainian government to address long-standing U.S. concerns about public corruption in the East European nation and building support for Ukraine’s effort to fight the separatists.
In fact, it was only because elements of the Ukrainian government wanted her to ease up on pressing for investigations into corruption – and expected her to do so because they perceived Trump would care less about the issue – that they began a campaign against her, said the current and former officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters. That campaign gained steam with the arrival on the scene of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
The CIA agent noted the ambassador’s removal in the complaint. ‘I learned from U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the situation that Ambassador Yovanovitch had been suddenly recalled to Washington by senior State Department officials for ‘consultations’ and would most likely be removed from her position.’
Is it possible that impeachment proceedings have begun against President Trump because of a complaint from disgruntled members of the diplomatic community based on revenge? It sure looks like the phone call between Trump and Zelensky conveniently became a way to seek that revenge.