Insider Marie Yovanovitch says it will take a ‘concentrated effort over a number of years’ to undo the ‘damage’ that Mike Pompeo did to the State Department
Sonam Sheth,Nicole Gaudiano – March 25, 2022
- Yovanovitch told Insider that it will take “years” to undo the “damage” Pompeo did to the State Department.
- He “presided over the hollowing out of a great institution,” she said.
- The former ambassador accused Pompeo of being a hypocrite in her memoir and wondered if the State Department would “survive the betrayals of the Pompeo years.”
Marie Yovanovitch, the former US ambassador told Ukraine, told Insider in a wide-ranging interview that it will take “years” to reverse the damage that former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did to the State Department.
Pompeo “presided over the hollowing out of a great institution,” Yovanovitch told Insider. She added that Donald Trump’s first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, “started it and Pompeo continued it, so there’s is lasting damage.”
President Joe Biden’s secretary of state, Antony Blinken, made a commitment to following the rule of law, protecting diplomats and foreign service officers, and promoting US policy abroad when he took the helm at the department.
But “it takes a concentrated effort over a number of years not only to knit the fabric of the State Department back together again, but to give it the kinds of resources that are necessary for our diplomacy,” Yovanovitch told Insider.
The former ambassador didn’t mince words about her view of Pompeo in her new memoir, “Lessons From The Edge.” She struck a blunt tone when she said that Pompeo’s “hypocrisy was galling” and wondered if the State Department would “survive the betrayals of the Pompeo years.”
Yovanovitch was abruptly recalled from her post in Ukraine in April 2019 following a concerted smear campaign against her by Trump’s allies, led by his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. In her book, Yovanovitch discussed her pleas for the State Department, and Pompeo himself, to publicly support her against Giuliani’s efforts to discredit her work in Ukraine and bogus allegations that she was a partisan Obama holdover.
But Pompeo failed to protect her from the White House, Yovanovitch later testified to Congress. She was one of more than a dozen witnesses to testify at Trump’s first impeachment inquiry in late 2019. It centered around his efforts to strongarm the Ukrainian government into launching bogus political investigations into the Biden family while withholding vital security assistance and a White House meeting.
When congressional staffers began contacting her in mid-August 2019 — shortly before the impeachment inquiry was launched — to discuss “Ukraine-related” matters, Yovanovitch started thinking about hiring a lawyer.
“Although the department lawyers usually tried to watch out for State personnel, their job was to protect State’s interests, not mine,” she wrote. “I was a team player, but the past six months had shown me that I could no longer trust the coach.”
She also wrote that it was ironic that Pompeo pledged to work with “uncompromising personal and professional integrity” after being unable to guard her against Giuliani and Trump’s attacks on her. She recalled, in particular, the day that she flew back to Washington, DC, from Kyiv after being abruptly fired without cause.
The same day, Pompeo unveiled an “ethos statement” at the State Department “with great fanfare,” the memoir says. In addition to promising to work with “uncompromising personal and professional integrity,” the statement also promised to “show ‘unstinting respect in word and deed for my colleagues,'” Yovanovitch writes.
“Every Foreign Service officer I knew agreed with these points, but coming from Pompeo, the irony was too much to handle,” the book says. “We were all tired of Pompeo’s talk. We just wanted him to walk the walk. He didn’t need to swagger.”
Looking forward, the former ambassador told Insider that the way the US conducts diplomacy needs to be overhauled, in the same way that the US military reformed after the Vietnam War and intelligence services did after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Diplomacy in 2022 needs to “meet the challenges of the 21st century in a way that reflects many of the tools that we’ve got now that we didn’t have back in the day,” she said. One example she highlighted is the advent of social media and how journalists, activists, and governments use it to spread awareness about key issues of the day.
“When we respond on social media, we don’t have to have it approved by, you know, 20 different people in Washington, but we can be more nimble and more effective,” Yovanovitch said.