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 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 The policy process has been replaced by decisions emanating from the top with little discussion, vacancies go unfilled, and our officers are increasingly wondering whether it is safe to express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

Go deeper

Yovanovitch: Trump administration has "undermined our democratic institutions"

Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch said Thursday that the Trump administration has "undermined our democratic institutions" in a Washington Post op-ed.

The state of play: Yovanovitch's piece comes one day after the Senate voted to acquit President Trump in his impeachment trial and after her official retirement from the State Department. Her ouster played a key part in the articles of impeachment against the president — and led Trump to attack her in real-time as she testified before the House Intelligence Committee last year.

Reports: Marie Yovanovitch has retired from the State Department

Former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch has retired from the State Department, NPR first reported. The career diplomat remained on payroll since she was ousted from the department last year, per NPR.

Why it matters: During her closed-door deposition before House impeachment committees, Yovanovitch testified that President Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani led the smear campaign that led to her firing. Her ouster and testimony were key events leading to Trump's impeachment in the House.

State Department officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Go deeper: First casualty of impeachment war

Former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch signs book deal

Marie Yovanovitch. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch has signed a book deal with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the publisher told AP on Friday.

Details: The untitled memoir will detail the experiences of the career diplomat from Somalia to Kyiv before she returned to Washington, D.C.