State Dept anxious about defending former USA ambassador to Ukraine

Secretary of State Pompeo's role examined in impeachment inquiry

On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that David Hale will say under oath and that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other high ranking diplomats determined that defending former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch would hurt the chances of unfreezing US military aid to the country.

David Hale, the third-highest ranking USA diplomat, is expected to testify before House impeachment investigators on Wednesday, two people with knowledge of the matter told The Washington Post. Yovanovitch was the target of a smear campaign, with Rudy Giuliani and others circulating unfounded conspiracy theories about her in order to get the ambassador removed from her post.

Yovanovitch denied those allegations in a sworn deposition and said she had been told by Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan that she was being recalled because the president lost faith in her, even though Sullivan said he was not aware of her doing anything wrong.

Former senior advisor Michael McKinley, left, sits behind Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, Aug. 1, 2019.

Ms Yovanovitch was recalled from Kiev before the July 25 phone call between Mr Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky that is at the centre of the impeachment inquiry against the U.S. president.

"When the transcript was released and, frankly, the information that just poured out every day from the media ... it became clear to me that State Department officials, if not the State Department itself, were being drawn again into the domestic political arena in some way", he said.

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At a news conference in Germany, Pompeo denied discussing the issue with McKinley in May, after Marie Yovanovitch had been recalled from her posting in Kyiv, but appeared to evade the fact that McKinley's testimony referenced conversations between he and Pompeo in September.

On seeing the transcript of the call, Ms Yovanovitch said she was "surprised and dismayed" to hear that Mr Trump had described her as "bad news".

In testimony also released on Monday, Yovanovitch told investigators that the campaign against her, which included an article that was retweeted by Donald Trump Jr., undermined her ability to serve as a "credible" ambassador and she wanted Pompeo to issue a statement defending her.

"I was shocked", she said, to see "that the president would speak about me or any ambassador in that way to a foreign counterpart". "Not once, George, did Ambassador McKinley say something to me during that entire time period". "In May, when that took place, he didn't say a thing to me".

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, right, address a joint press conference in Leipzig, eastern Germany, on November 7, 2019.

Last month, Pompeo told ABC News that McKinley never said a "single thing" about Yovanovitch to him.

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