Mike Pompeo has come under intense scrutiny in Congress, where his former senior adviser testified that the secretary of state ignored his appeals to stand up for the former ambassador to Ukraine, who was ousted for apparently political reasons.
In testimony to the House committees pursuing impeachment hearings on Donald Trump’s conduct towards Ukraine, Michael McKinley said that foreign service officers had been left feeling unprotected in the face of improper political pressure.
Marie Yovanovitch's testimony on Trump cracks the wall of silence
McKinley is the latest of a series of former diplomats to come forward to describe plummeting morale and growing politicisation in the state department – in particular because of Trump’s conduct of a parallel policy based on narrow political objectives through the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
According to CNN, McKinley asked Pompeo several time to speak up for ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who was withdrawn from her post prematurely in May, in part from pressure from Giuliani. She had refused to help his efforts to persuade Ukrainian officials to hand over compromising information about Trump’s potential rival for the presidency in 2020, Joe Biden.
McKinley is reported to have told the House committees he was appalled at Trump’s dismissive references to Yovanovitch in a 25 July phone call with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which Trump called “the woman” who was “bad news” and who would be “going through some things”.
McKinley’s appeals were “greeted with silence” CNN reported, prompting McKinley to resign last week. As a top adviser, McKinley was a fixture at Pompeo’s side but the relationship between the two has soured dramatically. Pompeo did not even issue a statement thanking McKinley for his 37 years of service, as would have been customary for any departing veteran diplomat.
Yovanovitch testified last week that Trump had forced her out of her job, and there was a concerted campaign to smear her. She speculated that Giuliani had attacked her because he was representing “private interests” in Ukraine.
Two Soviet-born US businessmen, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who worked with Giuliani in his trawl for anti-Biden material, were arrested last week on charges of fraudulently funneling foreign money into the Trump campaign.
Pompeo had boasted he would bring “swagger” back to the state department which had become demoralised under his predecessor, Rex Tillerson. But congressional testimony in recent days has painted a picture of disillusion and disarray.
On Tuesday, George Kent, deputy assistant secretary in the bureau of European and Eurasian affairs, told the House committees he was sidelined on Ukraine policy and told to “lay low”. Yovanovitch said that the state department had been “attacked and hollowed out from within”.
Writing in the Foreign Affairs journal, William Burns, a former deputy secretary of state wrote that in three and a half decades of service: “I’ve never seen an attack on diplomacy as damaging, to both the state department as an institution and our international influence, as the one now underway.”