Feb 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Marie Yovanovitch: The State Department is in trouble

 Former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch speaks during a ceremony awarding her the Trainor Award at Georgetown University on February 12, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch speaks during a ceremony awarding her the Trainor Award for excellence in the conduct of diplomacy at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Marie Yovanovitch, the retired former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, used an award acceptance speech at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Wednesday to criticize the Trump administration.

"Right now, the State Department is in trouble. Senior leaders lack policy vision, moral clarity, leadership. The policy process has been replaced by decisions emanating from the top with little discussion, vacancies go unfilled, and our officers are increasingly wondering whether it is safe to express concerns about policies even behind closed doors."

Why it matters: Yovanovitch's remarks at Georgetown’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy as she picked up a Trainor Award for "excellence in the conduct of diplomacy" mark her first public since leaving the diplomatic service.

What they're saying: In her speech, she said of the Trump administration's foreign policy, "To be blunt, an amoral, keep 'em guessing foreign policy that substitutes threats, fear and confusion for trust, cannot work over the long haul."

  • She also said the State Department is being "hollowed out" and that the "truth matters." "We need to re-empower our diplomats to do their job," she added. "We can't be afraid to share our expertise or challenge false assumptions."
  • Axios has contacted the State Department for comment. The president said during his Twitter criticisms of Yovanovitch that the "U.S. now has a very strong and powerful foreign policy, much different than proceeding administrations."

The big picture: Yovanovitch's speech comes after she said in a Washington Post op-ed last Thursday, a day after the Senate voted to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial, that his administration has "undermined our democratic institutions."

Go deeper: Highlights from Marie Yovanovitch's testimony at Trump impeachment hearing

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