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READ: Marie Yovanovitch's opening remarks at public impeachment hearing

Posted November 15, 2019 9:51 a.m. EST

— 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.

My Background

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

Obama.

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

hardship posts.

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

disappeared.

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

gunfire.

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

Dignity.

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.

Ambassador.

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

include:

the release of the so-called "Black Ledger" and Mr.

Manafort's subsequent resignation from President Trump's

campaign; and

the departure from office of former Prosecutor General

Viktor Shokin.

Several other events occurred after I returned from Ukraine.

These include:

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

an Ambassador.

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

Officer.

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

Teheran.

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.

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