READ: Marie Yovanovitch's opening remarks at public impeachment hearing
Posted November 15, 2019 9:51 a.m. EST
CNN — As prepared for delivery:
Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Nunes, and other Members
of the Committee: Thank you for the opportunity to start with this
statement, to reintroduce myself to the Committee and to
highlight parts of my biography and experience.
I come before you as an American citizen, who has devoted
the majority of my life, 33 years, to service to the country that all
of us love. Like my colleagues, I entered the Foreign Service
understanding that my job was to implement the foreign policy
interests of this nation, as defined by the President and Congress,
and to do so regardless of which person or party was in power. I
had no agenda other than to pursue our stated foreign policy goals.
My service is an expression of gratitude for all that this
country has given my family and me. My late parents did not
have the good fortune to come of age in a free society. My father
fled the Soviets before ultimately finding refuge in the United
States. My mother's family escaped the USSR after the
Bolshevik revolution, and she grew up stateless in Nazi Germany,
before eventually making her way to the United States. Their
personal histories—my personal history—gave me both deep
gratitude towards the United States and great empathy for
others—like the Ukrainian people—who want to be free.
I joined the Foreign Service during the Reagan
Administration and subsequently served three other Republican
Presidents, as well as two Democratic Presidents. It was my great
honor to be appointed to serve as an ambassador three times—
twice by President George W. Bush and once by President Barack
There is a perception that diplomats lead a comfortable life
throwing dinner parties in fancy homes. Let me tell you about
some of my reality. It has not always been easy. I have moved 13
times and served in seven different countries, five of them
My first tour was Mogadishu, Somalia, an increasingly
dangerous place, as that country's civil war kept grinding on and
the government was weakening. The military took over policing
functions in a particularly brutal way and many basic services
Several years later, after the Soviet Union collapsed, I helped
open our Embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. As we were
establishing relations with a new country, our small Embassy was
attacked by a gunman, who sprayed the Embassy building with
I later served in Moscow. In 1993, during the attempted
coup in Russia, I was caught in crossfire between presidential and
parliamentary forces. It took us three tries—me without a helmet
or body armor—to get into a vehicle to go to the Embassy. We
went to the Embassy, because the Ambassador asked us to come.
We went, because it was our duty.
My Service in Ukraine
From August 2016 until May 2019, I served as the U.S.
Ambassador to Ukraine. During my tenure in Ukraine, I went to
the Front Line approximately ten times during a shooting war: to
show the American flag, to hear what was going on (sometimes
literally as we heard the impact of artillery), and to see how our
assistance dollars were being put to use.
I worked to advance U.S. policy—fully embraced by
Democrats and Republicans alike—to help Ukraine become a
stable and independent democratic state, with a market economy
integrated into Europe. A secure, democratic, and free Ukraine
serves not just the Ukrainian people, but the American people as
well. That's why it was our policy to help the Ukrainians achieve
their objectives—they matched our objectives.
The War Against Russia
The U.S. is the most powerful country in the history of the
world, in large part because of our values. And our values have
made possible the network of alliances and partnerships that
buttresses our own strength. Ukraine, with an enormous
landmass and a large population, has the potential to be a
significant commercial and political partner for the U.S., as well
as a force-multiplier on the security side.
We see the potential in Ukraine. Russia, by contrast, sees
the risk. The history is not written yet, but Ukraine could move out of Russia's orbit. And now Ukraine is a battleground for great
power competition, with a hot war for the control of territory and
a hybrid war to control Ukraine's leadership. The U.S. has
provided significant security assistance since the onset of the war
against Russia in 2014. And as is well-known, the Trump
administration strengthened our policy by approving the
provision to Ukraine of anti-tank missiles known as Javelins.
Supporting Ukraine is the right thing to do. It is also the
smart thing to do. If Russia prevails and Ukraine falls to Russian
dominion, we can expect to see other attempts by Russia to
expand its territory and influence.
The War Against Corruption
As critical as the war against Russia is, Ukraine's struggling
democracy has an equally important challenge: Battling the
Soviet legacy of corruption, which has pervaded Ukraine's
government. Corruption makes Ukraine's leaders ever vulnerable
to Russia, and the Ukrainian people understand that. That's why
they launched the Revolution of Dignity in 2014 demanding to be
a part of Europe, demanding the transformation of the system,
demanding to live under the rule of law. Ukrainians wanted the
law to apply equally to all persons, whether the individual in
question is the president or any other citizen. It was a question of
fairness, of dignity.
Here, again, there is a coincidence of interests. Corrupt
leaders are inherently less trustworthy, while an honest and
accountable Ukrainian leadership makes a U.S.-Ukrainian
partnership more reliable and more valuable to the United States.
A level playing field in this strategically-located country
bordering four NATO allies, creates an environment in which
U.S. business can more easily trade, invest, and profit.
Corruption is also a security issue, because corrupt officials are
vulnerable to Moscow. In short, it is in America's national
security interest to help Ukraine transform into a country where
the rule of law governs and corruption is held in check. It was—
and remains—a top U.S. priority to help Ukraine fight corruption.
Significant progress has been made since the 2014 Revolution of
Unfortunately, as the past couple of months have underlined,
not all Ukrainians embraced our anti-corruption work. Thus,
perhaps, it was not surprising, that when our anti-corruption
efforts got in the way of a desire for profit or power, Ukrainians
who preferred to play by the old, corrupt rules sought to remove
me. What continues to amaze me is that they found Americans
willing to partner with them and, working together, they
apparently succeeded in orchestrating the removal of a U.S.
How could our system fail like this? How is it that foreign
corrupt interests could manipulate our government?
Which country's interests are served when the very corrupt
behavior we have been criticizing is allowed to prevail? Such
conduct undermines the U.S., exposes our friends, and widens the
playing field for autocrats like President Putin. Our leadership
depends on the power of our example and the consistency of our
purpose. Both have now been opened to question.
Addressing Specific Concerns
With that background in mind, I would like briefly to address
some of the factual issues I expect you may want to ask me about,
starting with my timeline in Ukraine and the events about which
I do and do not have first-hand knowledge.
Events Before and After I Served in Ukraine
I arrived in Ukraine on August 22, 2016 and left Ukraine
permanently on May 20, 2019. There are a number of events you
are investigating to which I cannot bring any first-hand
knowledge. The events that pre-dated my Ukraine service
the release of the so-called "Black Ledger" and Mr.
Manafort's subsequent resignation from President Trump's
the departure from office of former Prosecutor General
Several other events occurred after I returned from Ukraine.
President Trump's July 25, 2019 call with President Zelenskiy;
The discussions surrounding that phone call; and
Any discussions surrounding the delay of security assistance
to Ukraine in Summer 2019.
During my Tenure in Ukraine
As for events during my tenure in Ukraine:
I want to reiterate first that the allegation that I disseminated
a "Do Not Prosecute" list was a fabrication. Mr. Lutsenko,
the former Ukrainian Prosecutor General who made that
allegation, has acknowledged that the list never existed.
I did not tell Mr. Lutsenko or other Ukrainian officials who
they should or should not prosecute. Instead, I advocated the
U.S. position that rule of law should prevail and Ukrainian
law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges should stop
wielding their power selectively, as a political weapon
against their adversaries, and start dealing with all
consistently and according to the law.
Also untrue are unsourced allegations that I told unidentified
Embassy employees or Ukrainian officials that President
Trump's orders should be ignored because "he was going to
be impeached"—or for any other reason. I did not and would
not say such a thing. Such statements would be inconsistent
with my training as a Foreign Service Officer and my role as
The Obama administration did not ask me to help the Clinton
campaign or harm the Trump campaign, nor would I have
taken any such steps if they had. Partisanship of this type is
not compatible with the role of a career Foreign Service
I have never met Hunter Biden, nor have I had any direct or
indirect conversations with him. And although I have met
former Vice President Biden several times over the course
of our many years in government, neither he nor the previous
Administration ever raised the issue of either Burisma or
Hunter Biden with me.
With respect to Mayor Giuliani, I have had only minimal
contacts with him—a total of three. None related to the
events at issue. I do not understand Mr. Giuliani's motives
for attacking me, nor can I offer an opinion on whether he
believed the allegations he spread about me. Clearly, no one
at the State Department did. What I can say is that Mr.
Giuliani should have known those claims were suspect,
coming as they reportedly did from individuals with
questionable motives and with reason to believe that their
political and financial ambitions would be stymied by our
anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.
My Departure from Ukraine
After being asked by the Under Secretary of State for
Political Affairs in early March 2019 to extend my tour until
2020, the smear campaign against me entered a new public phase
in the United States. In the wake of the negative press, State
Department officials suggested an earlier departure, and we
agreed upon July 2019. I was then abruptly told just weeks later,
in late April, to come back to Washington from Ukraine "on the
next plane." At the time I departed, Ukraine had just concluded
game-changing presidential elections. It was a sensitive period
with much at stake for the U.S. and called for all the experience
and expertise we could muster.
When I returned to the United States, Deputy Secretary of
State Sullivan told me there had been a concerted campaign
against me, that the President no longer wished me to serve as
Ambassador to Ukraine, and that in fact, the President had been
pushing for my removal since the prior summer. As Mr. Sullivan
recently recounted during his Senate confirmation hearing,
neither he nor anyone else ever explained or sought to justify the
President's concerns about me, nor did anyone in the Department
justify my early departure by suggesting I had done something
wrong. I appreciate that Mr. Sullivan publicly affirmed at his
hearing that I had served "capably and admirably."
Although, then and now, I have always understood that I
served at the pleasure of the President, I still find it difficult to
comprehend that foreign and private interests were able to
undermine U.S. interests in this way. Individuals, who apparently
felt stymied by our efforts to promote stated U.S. policy against
corruption—that is, to do the mission—were able to successfully
conduct a campaign of disinformation against a sitting
Ambassador, using unofficial back channels. As various
witnesses have recounted, they shared baseless allegations with
the President and convinced him to remove his Ambassador,
despite the fact that the State Department fully understood that
the allegations were false and the sources highly suspect.
These events should concern everyone in this room.
Ambassadors are the symbol of the United States abroad, the
personal representatives of the President. They should always act
and speak with full authority to advocate for U.S. policies. If our
chief representative is kneecapped, it limits our effectiveness to
safeguard the vital national security interests of the United States.
This is especially important now, when the international
landscape is more complicated and more competitive than it has
been since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Our Ukraine policy has been thrown into disarray, and shady
interests the world over have learned how little it takes to remove
an American Ambassador who does not give them what they
want. After these events, what foreign official, corrupt or not,
could be blamed for wondering whether the Ambassador
represents the President's views? And what U.S. Ambassador
could be blamed for harboring the fear that they cannot count on
our government to support them as they implement stated U.S.
policy and defend U.S. interests?
I would like to comment on one other matter before taking
your questions. At the closed deposition, I expressed grave
concerns about the degradation of the Foreign Service over the
past few years and the failure of State Department leadership to
push back as foreign and corrupt interests apparently hijacked our
Ukraine policy. I remain disappointed that the Department's
leadership and others have declined to acknowledge that the
attacks against me and others are dangerously wrong.
This is about far more than me or a couple of individuals. As
Foreign Service professionals are being denigrated and
undermined, the institution is also being degraded. This will soon cause real harm, if it hasn't already. The State Department as a
tool of foreign policy often doesn't get the same attention and
respect as the military might of the Pentagon does, but we are—
as they say—"the pointy end of the spear." If we lose our edge,
the U.S. will inevitably have to use other tools, even more often
than it does today. And those other tools are blunter, more
expensive, and not universally effective.
Moreover, the attacks are leading to a crisis in the State
Department as the policy process is visibly unravelling,
leadership vacancies go unfilled, and senior and midlevel officers
ponder an uncertain future and head for the doors. The crisis has
moved from the impact on individuals to an impact on the
institution. The State Department is being hollowed out from
within at a competitive and complex time on the world stage. This
is not a time to undercut our diplomats.
It is the responsibility of the Department's leaders to stand
up for the institution and the individuals who make that institution
the most effective diplomatic force in the world. And Congress
has a responsibility to reinvest in our diplomacy. That's an
investment in our national security, an investment in our future.
As I close, let me be clear on who we are and how we serve
this country. We are professionals, public servants who by
vocation and training pursue the policies of the President,
regardless of who holds that office or what party they affiliate
with. We handle American Citizen Services, facilitate trade and
commerce, work security issues, represent the U.S., and report to
and advise Washington, to mention just a few of our functions. And we make a difference every day.
We are people who repeatedly uproot our lives, who risk—
and sometimes give—our lives for this country.
We are the fifty-two Americans who forty years ago this
month began 444 days of deprivation, torture and captivity in
We are the dozens of Americans stationed at our embassy in
Cuba and consulates in China, who mysteriously and
dangerously—and in some cases perhaps permanently—were
injured in attacks from unknown sources several years ago.
And we are Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Patrick Smith,
Ty Woods, and Glen Doherty—people rightly called heroes for
their ultimate sacrifice to this nation's foreign policy interests in
Libya, eight years ago.
We honor these individuals. They represent each one of you
here—and every American. These courageous individuals were
attacked because they symbolized America.
What you need to know, what the American people need to
know, is that while, thankfully, most of us answer the call to duty
in less dramatic ways, every Foreign Service Officer runs these
same risks. And, very often, so do our families. They serve too.
As individuals, as a community, we answer the call to duty to
advance and protect the interests of the United States.
We take our oath of office seriously, the same oath that each
one of you take, "to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" and to
"bear true faith and allegiance to the same."
I count myself lucky to be a Foreign Service Officer, fortunate to serve with the best America has to offer, blessed to serve the American people for the last 33 years.
Thank you for your attention. I welcome your questions.