Read the transcript! The phone call was perfect! No quid pro quo!
This has been the deeply misleading and self-serving refrain of Donald Trump and his defenders regarding the now-infamous July 25 telephone call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. In deploying this line of nonsense, they seek to convince all who might listen that the July 25 call is the only element of the scandal engulfing the White House.
On Friday, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch used a golden opportunity to put that brazen misrepresentation to bed once and for all. For Yovanovitch, the story of Trump’s Ukraine extortion scheme did not begin when the news first broke several weeks ago. It began for her at the end of last year, when she found out that Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani was taking an active interest in Ukraine, and in her.
“Basically, it was people in the Ukrainian government who said that [Yuriy] Lutsenko, the former prosecutor general, was in communication with Mayor Giuliani, and that they had plans,” said Yovanovitch during deposition testimony given early this month, a year after she learned she was a target of her own government. “They were going to, you know, do things, including to me.”
Lutsenko, who was a prosecutor under the previous deeply corrupt Ukraine regime, was in discussions with Giuliani about digging dirt on the Biden family to aid Trump’s re-election campaign. Not only would Lutsenko get Ukraine to investigate Burisma, the natural gas company where Joe Biden’s son Hunter served as a board member; he would also get Ukraine to chase serially debunked conspiracy theories about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, a pet fever dream of Trump’s.
Marie Yovanovitch’s career-spanning professional integrity stood as an impediment to these intentions. If Giuliani was to effectively execute the plan to dragoon Ukraine into doing Trump’s political bidding, it was apparently understood that an individual of Yovanovitch’s reputation would not stand for it. She had to be removed from the equation… and so the whispers began.
She gave Lutsenko a “do not prosecute” list to help her cronies, the Rudy-driven rumors went. She’s a Trump critic. Giuliani, along with Fox News Trumpevangelist Sean Hannity and even Donald Trump, Jr., began slagging her in public. Yovanovitch reached out to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for support, but none was forthcoming.
At that point, the genuinely creepy stuff began in earnest. A comment about Yovanovitch made by Trump himself — “She’s going to go through some things” — filtered down to the ambassador. She was advised by European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland to tweet positive things about Trump in order to keep him from attacking her publicly. Finally, in February of this year, a senior Ukrainian official “told me I really needed to watch my back,” Yovanovitch said in her deposition testimony.
In April of this year, three days after Zelensky won the Ukrainian presidential election, Marie Yovanovitch was summarily dismissed as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
The deal went down on the 21st of that month. “[State Department Director General Carol Perez] said that there was a lot of concern for me,” recounted Yovanovitch during her deposition, “that I needed to be on the next plane home to Washington. And I was like, ‘What? What happened?’ And she said, ‘I don’t know, but this is about your security. You need to come home immediately. You need to come on the next plane.’”
Was Yovanovitch directly involved in the July 25 phone call, or in any aspect of Trump’s extortion scheme against the government in Ukraine? The answer is a definitive “no.” Yovanovitch, however, is living proof that Trump and his allies were up to some profoundly underhanded shenanigans many long months before that July 25 call, and those shenanigans not only cost Yovanovitch her post, but left her feeling that her own personal safety was in jeopardy.
On Friday, Yovanovitch told the House Intelligence Committee, the country and the world about her experiences as ambassador to Ukraine under the administration of Donald Trump. She was a threat to Trump’s plans in Ukraine, and now she is part of the threat to Trump’s presidency.
Before her three-year stint in Ukraine, Yovanovich served as senior advisor to the under secretary of state for political affairs, U.S. ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, U.S. ambassador to Armenia, and principal deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. She is a diplomat in residence at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University.
Yovanovitch is, in short, a testimonial nightmare for the likes of Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan and Trump: a smart, experienced, devoted career public servant in the vein of George Kent and William Taylor. In a room packed with Republican misogynists, she stood as a threat not only to Trump, but to their benighted understanding of the natural order of things. That, right there, was worth waiting in a long line to see.
Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and their co-conspirators in Ukraine tried to bully Marie Yovanovitch. On Friday, she got her broad-daylight opportunity to return the favor. There is nothing a bully hates more than getting punched back in return. If I were Nunes and Jordan, I would’ve call in sick on Friday. Ukraine Flu, y’know. It’s been going around.