The House impeachment committees released their transcripts of the several depositions this week, including William Taylor, the senior US diplomat in Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, the former US ambassador to Ukraine, and Michael McKinsley, the former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
A primary insight uncovered in Taylor’s testimony is the extent to which Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, was driving US foreign policy. Taylor also affirmed in his testimony that aid to Ukraine was withheld by Trump to try and convince the country to investigate the activities of Joe Biden and his family. Taylor stated that “security assistance money would not come until the President [of Ukraine] committed to pursue the investigation.” Taylor’s testimony was delivered near the end of October.
The depositions for Yovanovitch and McKinsley were conducted in mid-October around the time that the impeachment inquiry was formalized.
Yovanovitch was interviewed regarding regular warnings she received about targeting by the White House and ill-feelings from Trump. After learning of Giuliani’s interest in Ukraine, Yovanovitch testified that she became aware that Giuliani and Yuriy Lutsenko, the prosecutor general of Ukraine, were looking to “hurt her in the US.” As Yovanovitch pressed Lutsenko for reforms at his office, Lutsenko began a disinformation campaign about her.
Earlier this year, Ukrainian Minister of the Interior Arsen Avakov warned Yovanovitch of his concerns regarding the safety being involved in US politics. She testified that Avakov expressed further worries over Giuliani’s targeting of her and warned her to “watch her back.” While she expressed to higher state officials in the US her own concerns with Giuliani’s interest in Ukrainian involvement with US politics, nothing was done. She further testified that in March The Hill published multiple false articles about her as well.
Yovanovitch testified that State Department officials did not want to release a public statement supporting her for fear that Trump would undermine their statement, and another senior official working for the EU recommended to her that she publicly praise or support Trump. In April, Director General of the Foreign Service Carol Perez told Yovanovitch that people were concerned in her office and at the White House about her, and recommended that she board the “next plane home to Washington” for her “security.” Her testimonies encompassed her expressions of feeling threatened and targeted by the White House and President Trump specifically, as well as the concerns of others. Finally, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan told her that she needed to “depart her post” because Trump had lost confidence in her.
McKinsley testified regarding his reasons for resigning, stating that:
our missions to procure negative political information for domestic purposes, combined with the failure I saw in the building to provide support for our professional cadre in a particularly trying time, I think the combination was a pretty good reason to decide enough, that I had — I had no longer a useful role to play.
Although McKinsley testified that he suggested releasing a statement supporting Yovanovitch, the statement was never released. Both Yovanovitch and McKinsley discussed Trump’s phone call about Yovanovitch in which he said: “The former Ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news. And the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news.”
McKinsley stated multiple times that he felt a public statement was appropriate, as well as his concerns with what he felt was a lack of support by higher officials. Finding that the situation was “unacceptable,” McKinsley resigned.
The first public hearings in the impeachment inquiry are scheduled to begin next week with William Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine.