TIMELINE: The Pressure Campaign Against Yovanovitch
November 15, 2019
Ambassador Yovanovitch, a veteran diplomat who made combating corruption a top priority of her tenure in Ukraine, was removed for one reason: she opposed Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political opponent. Trump and Giuiliani wanted her out of the way.
2017-2018: A Republican donor — who happens to be a registered lobbyist for a Ukrainian corporation — repeatedly called on the State Department to remove Yovanovitch, citing outlandish concerns.
Politico: “Catherine Croft, a State Department official, told House impeachment investigators on Wednesday that Livingston had told her on multiple occasions while she was working for the National Security Council that the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine should be fired. Croft left her NSC post last year.”
Croft: “He characterized Ambassador Yovanovitch as a, quote, ‘Obama holdover,’ end quote, and associated with George Soros.”
APRIL 2018: Lev Parnas told Trump that Yovanovitch was “unfriendly” to Trump and his interests. Trump suggested she should be fired.
Washington Post: “One of the men, Lev Parnas, has described to associates that he and his business partner, Igor Fruman, told Trump at the dinner that they thought the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was unfriendly to the president and his interests. According to Parnas, the president reacted strongly to the news: Trump immediately suggested that then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who had been in the Foreign Service for 32 years and served under Democratic and Republican presidents, should be fired, people familiar with his account said.”
MAY 2018: Following a similar conversation with Parnas, Pete Sessions requested Yovanovitch be removed from her post.
New Yorker: “‘I had a meeting with Pete Sessions that had nothing to do with that. It was about our gas company,’ Parnas said. ‘In the meeting, Pete asked me, ‘Do you know anything about Yovanovitch?’ I told him what I heard. Unbeknownst to me, Pete was already looking into it, and when I left he opted to write a letter to [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo that day.’”
NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2018: Ukrainian officials confirmed to Yovanovitch that Giuiliani met with Ukraine’s corrupt prosecutor general multiple times about plans to hurt her.
Yovanovitch’s deposition: “Q: When did you first become aware that Rudy Giuliani had an interest in or was communicating with anyone in Ukraine? A: Probably around November, December timeframe of 2018. Q: And describe those circumstances when you first learned about it. A: Basically, it was people in the Ukrainian Government who said that Mr. Lutsenko, the former prosecutor general, was in communication with Mayor Giuliani, and that they had plans, and that they were going to, you know, do things, including to me. Q: So you first heard about it from Ukrainian officials? A: That’s correct.”
Yovanovitch’s deposition: Q: And from your staff members or your own conversations, what did you come to learn about Mr. Giuliani’s interest in Ukraine? A: That basically there had been a number of meetings between Mr. Lutsenko and Mayor Giuliani, and that they were looking—I should say that Mr. Lutsenko was looking to hurt me in the U.S. I couldn’t imagine what that was. But, you know, now I see. Q: What do you see now? A: Well, that I’m no longer in Ukraine.”
JANUARY 2019: Giuliani met again with the corrupt Ukrainan prosecutor general, questioning Yovanovitch’s loyalty and pressing him for investigations.
Bloomberg: “From his office in Kiev, Lutsenko said Giuliani had extended an invitation to meet in New York late last year. When the two finally met in January, they spoke over two days about the Ukrainian political situation and the fight against corruption, he said. Giuliani asked him about investigations into the owner of Burisma, Mykola Zlochevsky, as well as whether the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, was ‘not loyal to President Trump.’”
FEBRUARY 2019: Yovanovitch was warned by a concerned Ukrainian official about Giuiliani’s efforts, and told that she needed to watch her back, because Giuliani, Parnas, Fruman, and Lutsenko wanted a different ambassador.
Yovanovitch’s deposition: “Q: Did you ever have any conversations after November, December 2018, with Ukrainian officials about Mr. Giuliani up until the time that you left in May? A: I think perhaps in the February time period, I did where one of the senior Ukrainian officials was very concerned, and told me I really needed to watch my back. Q: Describe that conversation. A: Well, I mean, he basically said, and went into some detail, that there were two individuals from Florida, Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman, who were working with Mayor Giuliani, and that they had set up the meetings for Mr. Giuliani with Mr. Lutsenko. And that they were interested in having a different ambassador at post, I guess for—because they wanted to have business dealings in Ukraine, or additional business dealings. I didn’t understand that because nobody at the embassy had ever met those two individuals.”
EARLY MARCH 2019: As Trump’s allies took on a concerted campaign to remove Yovanovitch, her superior at the State Department asked her to extend her tour in Ukraine and stay on for an additional year.
Yovanovitch’s deposition: “Finally, after being asked by the Department in early March to extend my tour, to stay on an extra year until 2020, in late April, I was then abruptly asked to come back to Washington from Ukraine on the next plane.”
MARCH 2019: Conservative columnist John Solomon published an interview with Ukraine’s corrupt inspector general, who claims Yovanovitch was an obstacle to anti-corruption efforts.
Washington Post: “Lutsenko also floated suggestions that Marie Yovanovitch, who was then the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was cooperating with the scheme to help Clinton and undermine Trump’s campaign. The ambassador, Lutsenko alleged, was “interfering in his ability to prosecute corruption cases” and had even given him a list of defendants that he would not be allowed to prosecute, Solomon wrote. Solomon’s piece urged ‘a serious, thorough investigation’ of Lutsenko’s claims.”
SPRING 2019: Giuliani launches a smear campaign against Yovanovitch, joined by allies like Sean Hannity.
Vox: Soon, top Trump allies like Giuliani and Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity were openly attacking Yovanovitch.
LATE MARCH 2019: Donald Trump Jr. attacked Yovanovitch on Twitter.
Washington Post: “In late March, the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. amplified this campaign by sharing an article on Twitter titled ‘Calls Grow To Remove Obama’s U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.’ He then referred to the ambassador as a ‘joker.’”
LATE MARCH 2019: Giuliani gave Pompeo a dossier of damaging information about Yovanovitch. Pompeo promised to investigate and requests additional documents.
Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Giuliani said he gave Mr. Pompeo a nine-page document dated March 28 that included a detailed timeline of the Bidens’ dealings in Ukraine and allegations of impropriety against Ms. Yovanovitch, including that she was ‘very close’ to Mr. Biden.”
Wall Street Journal: “‘He called me back and he said they were going to investigate,’ Mr. Giuliani said of the secretary of state, saying Mr. Pompeo asked for additional documents to back up the allegations.”
LATE APRIL 2019: Yovanovitch was told to return to the United States and step down as ambassador to Ukraine.
Yovanovitch’s deposition: “Q: What did she say to you? A: Well, in the first call, which happened at quarter of 10 in the evening Kyiv time, she said that she was giving me a heads-up, that things were going wrong, kind of off the—off the track, and she wanted to give me a heads-up. She didn’t know what was happening, but there was a lot of nervousness on the seventh floor and up the street. Q: What did she mean by “up the street”? A: The White House. … A: She called me about an hour later, so it’s now 1 a.m. in the Ukraine. Q: And what did she say to you then? A: She said that there was a lot of concern for me, 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 home on the next plane.”
Yovanovitch’s deposition: “Q: What did Mr. Reeker say to you at that point? A: Mr. Reeker said that I, you know, I would need to leave. I needed to leave as soon as possible. That apparently, as I stated in my statement, the President had been—had wanted me to leave since July of 2018 and—or the summer, I should say, the middle of the summer of 2018—and that the Secretary had tried to protect me but was no longer able to do that. Q: Who had concerns as of July 2018? A: President Trump.”
LATE APRIL 2019: When Yovanovich returned, she was informed of an almost year-long pressure campaign from the president and his allies in support of her ouster.
Yovanovitch’s deposition: “I met with the Deputy Secretary of State, who informed me of the curtailment of my term. He said that the President had lost confidence in me, and no longer wished me to Serve as an ambassador. He added that there had been a concerted campaign against me, and that the Department had been under pressure from the President to remove me since the summer of 2018.”
MAY 2019: Yovanovitch’s removal was publicly reported.
RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty: “The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine is departing her position in May, two months ahead of schedule. A State Department spokesperson said in a statement e-mailed to RFE/RL on May 6 that Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch ‘is concluding her 3-year diplomatic assignment in Kyiv in 2019 as planned.’ ‘Her confirmed departure date in May aligns with the presidential transition in Ukraine,’ which elected a new president last month, the spokesperson said.”