Ex-ambassador to Ukraine testifies at impeaching hearings

Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch recalled the hardships of serving as a U.S. diplomat in foreign countries whose governments are often faltering.
20:48 | 11/15/19

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Transcript for Ex-ambassador to Ukraine testifies at impeaching hearings
Mr. chairman. Ranking member knee yes and other members of the committee the Bastille need to speak very close to the microphone. Thank you for the opportunity to start with this statements to reintroduce myself to the committee. And 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. Loved. Like my colleagues. I entered the foreign service understanding. That my job ways to implement reform policy interest 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 to foreign policy goals. My service is an expression of gratitude. For all that this country has given to me and to my family. My late parents did not have the good fortune to come of age and 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. As she grew up state list in Nazi Germany before it also eventually making her way to the United States. Their personal history is 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 path and it was my great honor to be appointed to serve as an ambassador three times twice by George W. Bush. And one spy Barack Obama. There is a perception that diplomats leave a comfortable life throwing dinner parties and fancy homes. Let me tell you about some of my reality. It has not always been easy I have moved thirteen times and served in seven different countries. Five of them hardship posts. My first tour was Mogadishu Somalia. And increasingly dangerous place as that country's civil war kept grinding on. And the government was weakening. The military take over policing functions in a particularly brutal way. And basic service 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 sprayed the embassy building with gunfire. I later served in Moscow. In 1993. During the attempted coup in Moscow and 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 because the ambassador asked us to come. And we went because it was argued. From August 2016. Until May 2019. I served as a US ambassador to Ukraine. During my tenure in Ukraine I went to the front line approximately ten times during a hot war. To show the American flag to share 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 US 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. Secure democratic and free Ukraine serves not just the Ukrainian people at the American people as well. That's why was our policy. Continues to be our policy to help the trailer to achieve their objectives they match our accept it at detectives. The US is the most powerful country in the history of the world. In large part because of our values. And our values have made possible ten network. Alliances and partnerships. That buttresses our own strength. Ukraine would an enormous land mass and a large population. Has the potential to be a significant. Commercial and political partner for the United States as well as a force multiplier on the security side. We see the potential and Ukraine and Russia seized. By contrast sees the risk. History is not written yet the Ukraine could move out of freshens orbit. And now Ukraine is a battleground for great power competition. What a hot or for the control of territory and a hybrid war to control Ukraine's leadership. The US has provided significant security system since the onset of the war against Russia and 2014. And the Trent administration strengthens our policy by approving the provision to Ukraine. Of anti tank missiles known as chaplains. Supporting Ukraine is the right thing to do it's also the Smart thing to do if Russia prevails. In Ukraine falls to Russian dominion. We can expect to see other attempts by Russia to expand its territory and its influence. As critical. As the war against Russia is Ukraine's struggling democracy has an equally important challenge. Battling the Soviet legacy of corruption which is pervaded Ukraine's government. Corruption makes Ukraine's leaders ever vulnerable to Russia and the Ukrainian people understand them. That's why they launched a revolution of dignity 2014. Demanding to be a part of Europe demanding the transformation of the system. Demanding to live under the rule of law. Ukrainians one of the law to apply equally to all people. Where did the individual in question is the president. Or any other citizen it was a question of fairness and dignity. Here again there is a coincidence of interests. Corrupt leaders are inherently less trustworthy while an honest and accountable Ukrainian leadership. Makes a US Ukrainian partnership more reliable and more valuable to the United States. A level playing field in this strategically located country bordering for NATO allies. Creates an environment. In which US business can more easily trade. Invest in process. 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 transformed. Into a country where the rule of lot governance and corruption is held in check. It was and remains a talking rest priority to help Ukraine fight corruption. And significant progress has been made since a 2014 revolution and dignity. And fortunately. As a past couple of months have underlined not all ukrainians. Embraced her anti corruption work. That's perhaps it was not surprising that when our anti corruption efforts got in the way of a desire for profit or power. Ukrainians who prefer to play by the old corrupt rules sought to remove him. 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 the US ambassador. How could our system failing yes how is it that foreign corrupt interest can manipulate our government. Which country's interests are served when the very corrupt behavior we've been criticizing. Is allowed to prevail. Such conduct. Undermines the US. Exposes our friends. And widens the playing field for Democrats like president couldn't. Our leadership depends. On the power at our example and the consistency. Of our purpose. Both have now been opened to question. Without background in mind. I'd like to briefly address some of the factual issues I expect to link that you may want to ask me about. Starting with my timeline in Ukraine. And the events about which I do and do not have firsthand knowledge. I arrived in Ukraine on August 22 to 2016. And left Ukraine permanently on May twentieth between nineteen. There are a number of events you are investigating two which I cannot bring any firsthand knowledge he events that predated my Ukraine service include. The release of the so called black sweatshirt and mr. Mann of port subsequent resignation from president Trump's campaign. And the departure from office of former prosecutor general Victor show him. Several other events occurred after I returned from Ukraine these included. President trumps July 25 turning nineteen call with president's landscape. The discussions surrounding that phone call at any discussions surrounding the delay of security assistance to Ukraine in the summer of 2019. As for advanced during my tenure in Ukraine. I want to reiterate to reiterate first that the allegations that I disseminated. A do not prosecute list was a fabrication. Mr. lip sync and the former Ukrainian prosecutor general who made that allegation. Has acknowledged that the list never existed. I did not tell mr. Lukashenko or other Ukrainian officials could they showed we're should not prosecute. Instead. I advocated the US 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 him. And according to the law. Also lunch room. Our un sourced allegations that I told unidentified embassy employees or Ukrainian officials that president's trumps borders should be ignored. Because he was going to be impeach or for any other reason. I did not and I would not say such a thing. Such statements will be inconsistent with my training as a foreign service officer in my role as an ambassador. The Obama administration did not ask me to help that the Clinton Campaign or harm the truck campaign. Nor what I've 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 match 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 for many years in government service. Neither he nor the previous administration ever raise the issue a fighter free smoke or Hunter Biden with me. With respect to mayor Giuliani. I have had only minimal contact with him a total of three. None related to the events at issue. I do not understand mister Giuliani's motives for attacking me nor can offer an opinion on whether he believed the allegations he spread about them. Clearly no one at the State Department. What I can say. Is that mr. Giuliani should have known those claims were suspect. Coming as they've reportedly dead from individuals with questionable motives and with reason to believe that their political and financial ambitions will be Stein. By Eric anti corruption policy in Ukraine. After being asked. By the undersecretary of state for political affairs in early march 2019. To extend my tour until 20/20. 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 prime. At the time I departed Ukraine had just concluded game changing presidential elections. It was a sensitive period with much at stake for the United States. And called for all the experience and expertise we can Muster. When I returned to the United States deputy secretary of state Sullivan told me there had been a concerted campaign against him. But 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 are counted. During his senate confirmation hearing neither he nor anyone else ever explained are 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 served capability and our rumbling. 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 US interests in this way. Individuals. Who apparently felt stymied by our prayer our efforts to promote stated US policy against corruption that has to do our mission. We're able to successfully conduct a campaign of disinformation. Against a sitting ambassador using an official back channels. As various witnesses have accounted Fisher baseless allegations with the president. And condensed interim at its 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 they are the personal representative. Of the president. They should always act and speak with full authority. To advocate for US policies. If our chief representative is knee capped 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 has been since the dissolution. Of the Soviet Union. Our Ukrainian policy has been thrown into disarray. And shady interests the war over but 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 mission official corrupt or not can be blamed for wondering whether the US ambassador represents the president's views. And what US ambassador could be blamed for harboring the fear that they can't count on our government to support them as they implement stated US policy. And protect and defend US interest. I'd like to comment. On one other matter before taking your questions. At the close 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 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 formed far far more then me or a couple of individuals. S foreign service professionals are being denigrated and undermine the institution is also being integrated. This'll soon cause real harm that hasn't already. The State Department as a tool of foreign policy often doesn't get the same kind of attention. Or either respect. As a military might of the Pentagon. But we are. As they sang the pointy end of the spear if we lose our edge the US will inevitably. Have to use other tools even more than it does today. And that's other tools are blunter. More expensive. And not universally effective. Moreover. Its attacks are leading to a crisis in the State Department as a policy process is visibly unraveling. Leadership vacancies go unfilled and senior and mid liberal officers ponder an uncertain future. The crisis has moved from the impact on individuals to impact on the institution itself. 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 in the individuals who made that institutions still today. 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. It's an investment. In our future and our children's future. As I close. Let me be clear on who we are and how we serve this country. We are professionals we are public servants who bi vocation. And training. Pursue the policies of the president regardless of who holds out offense or what party they affiliate Wear. We handle American citizen services. Facilitate trade and commerce. Work security issues. Represented the US and reports to and it buys Washington to mention just some of our functions. And we make a difference every day. We are people who repeatedly uproot our alliance who risk and sometimes give our lives for this country. We are the 52 Americans who forty years ago this month. Began 444. Days of deprivation. Torture. In captivity in Tehran. 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 even permanently. Were injured in attacks from unknown sources several years ago. And we are ambassador Chris Stevens Sean Patrick Smith. Tie woods and Glenn Dorgan. People rightly called heroes. For their ultimate sacrifice to this nation's foreign policy interest in Libya eight years ago. We monitor these individuals. They represented each one of you here and every American. He's courageous individuals were attacked because they symbolize America. What you need to know. What Americans need to know. Is that while thankfully most of us answer the call to duty in the far less dramatic ways. Every foreign service officer runs the same risks. And very often said or families. They serve to. 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 seriously. The same note 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.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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