The revenge of the State Department thumbnail

The revenge of the State Department

In their testimonies, the diplomats have described being sidelined on Ukraine policy as Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and political appointees — apparently at the president’s direction — pursued a “shadow” foreign policy that included withholding some $400 million in military aid to Kyiv. Their boss, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has attacked the House process as “ troubling” and defended the legitimacy of Giuliani’s efforts.
Overall, the diplomats’ testimonies have bolstered allegations that Trump tried to improperly pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a political rival. But some also used the platform to air long-held grievances about Trump and his aides’ treatment of the State Department’s career staffers, several of whom were demoted or sidelined after attacks by the conservative media.
The defiance has risks: It could deepen the rift between Trump and the State Department while fueling more global confusion over U.S. foreign policy positions. Many of Trump’s top aides view Foggy Bottom as a den of Democratic intrigue — a long- and widely held suspicion on the right with roots in the Cold War.
For now, though, it feels pretty good to hit back.
“People are fed up,” said Laura Kennedy, a former U.S. ambassador who remains in touch with officials in the State Department. “There’s a deep well of resentment that’s just bubbled toward the top.”
There’s also anxiety. Serving diplomats say the impeachment inquiry has become a constant source of questions from their foreign counterparts and overseas media and that it’s a challenging issue to explain, especially given the State Department’s role.
Former officials say they’re fielding calls from still-serving diplomats worried about their futures. The possibility that the impeachment inquiry could rope in junior diplomats or grow beyond Ukraine and Europe isn’t far from people’s minds. A private Facebook group for foreign service officers considering quitting their jobs has seen a significant jump in membership.
“Lower-level people are still terrified they’ll be wrapped up in this,” a former State official said. “They’re glad to see Masha, Mike and George wave the flag for the foreign service but still not convinced people won’t get screwed.”
“Masha” is a reference to Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who gave a deposition to lawmakers on Oct. 11 under subpoena from the investigating House committees and despite State Department objections. In her opening statement, she decried Trump’s machinations on Ukraine while calling for more support for the foreign service.
Yovanovitch was recalled from Ukraine in May, a few months before her tenure was up, after Trump allies spread rumors that she was biased against the president. In a July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s leader that’s at the heart of the impeachment inquiry, Trump called her “bad news” and said she was “going to go through some things.”
Yovanovitch told lawmakers that, in her 30-plus years as a diplomat, she always stuck to the required ethos of nonpartisanship. She said she was “incredulous” at being recalled over “false claims.” She warned that the State Department is being “attacked and hollowed out from within” and stressed that the repercussions go beyond Foggy Bottom.
The harm will also “come when those diplomats who soldier on and do their best to represent our nation face partners abroad who question whether the ambassador truly speaks for the president and can be counted upon as a reliable partner,” she said in her opening statement.
Yovanovitch was followed on Capitol Hill by two ot
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