It is a sign of the times – a very troubling one – that the revelations made on Wednesday by the State Department’s Inspector General were seen as anticlimactic and possibly a mere distraction. IG Steve Linick had requested an urgent meeting with representatives of several House committees and there were speculations that he was planning to provide them with evidence that Mike Pompeo had threatened State Department staff with retaliation if they decided to cooperate with Congress in the impeachment investigation. Instead, the Inspector General presented a packet of documents that Representative Jamie Raskin characterized as “propaganda and misinformation” which had apparently been produced by Team Trump and passed on to the State Department for dissemination.
One of the targets of the smear campaign the newly revealed materials were going to be used against is Marie Louise Yovanovitch, the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. Since most of the public focus in the current Ukraine scandal is on Rudy Giuliani’s attempts to dig up dirt on Joe Biden and his son, her story will most likely be lost. Nevertheless, it is a story that deserves attention because it is yet another illustration of how Donald Trump is violating norms and creating a highly disturbing “new normal”.
Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch is a career diplomat with a sterling reputation who has served under three presidents. She was sworn in as the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine in August 2016 and was unexpectedly recalled to Washington about two months before her tour would have normally ended. During her tenure in Ukraine, Ambassador Yovanovitch was strongly committed to U.S. foreign policy objectives which, above all, meant fighting the corruption that was and still is plaguing the country. On this mission, Yovanovitch apparently ran afoul of former Ukranian Prosecutor General Lutsenko who subsequently tried to smear her by claiming to Hill reporter John Solomon that the ambassador had submitted to his office “a list of people whom we should not prosecute”. Lutsenko’s claim was later debunked and the prosecutor had to walk it back publicly, but the accusation nevertheless was picked up and amplified by right wing media outlets. It also made its way into the package of dodgy documents presented this week by IG Linick, which means that it is still in circulation as a talking point to discredit Marie Yovanovitch who refused to play ball and assist Rudy Giuliani in his efforts to smear the Bidens for their activities in Ukraine.
Donald Trump tried to downplay his involvement in Yovanovitch’s ouster when talking to reporters on the White House lawn on Thursday, claiming that he didn’t remember whether he personally recalled the ambassador or someone else did. But the Wall Street Journal later revealed that Marie Yovanovitch’s tour in Ukraine was indeed cut short essentially because she refused to aid and abet the beleaguered president’s desperate attempts at rigging the 2020 election in his favor. Trump also called his own bluff during the Thursday morning interview when he repeated his claim that he had heard “bad things” about the ambassador. He had first made a similarly vague claim during his now infamous phone conversation with the newly elected Ukrainian president in which he told Zelensky: “The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news.” Trump then added ominously: “Well, she’s going to go through some things.”
Quite obviously, neither Trump nor Giuliani is done with trying to create phony scandals aimed at destroying the lives and careers of others. They will both go down screaming “conspiracy” and “treason” while simultaneously committing exactly those crimes in plain sight – but go down they eventually will.