January 30, 2020

As Impeachment Focuses on Yovanovitch’s Ouster, 22 Democrats Demand Pompeo Explain Steps to Protect U.S. Diplomats

On Alleged Surveillance of Amb. Yovanovitch: “These allegations also follow a disturbing and cavalier lack of seriousness regarding the protection of our diplomats at the Department under your leadership.”

 

WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led 21 of his Senate colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanding a full accounting of the steps the State Department is taking to investigate the alleged surveillance of U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. The senators also voiced concern for Pompeo’s refusal to express any support for Ambassador Yovanovitch or other State Department employees, who were criticized for honoring their oath to the Constitution by testifying before Congress during the impeachment inquiry.

“Your repeated silence in the face of threats and disinformation aimed at Ambassador Yovanovitch, and other career officials, is inexplicable. As the nation’s chief diplomat, you are charged with ensuring the protection of American citizens, property, and interests in foreign countries—and in particular, the safety and security of those you lead: our nation’s diplomats and officials overseas,” wrote the senators. “The revelation that Ambassador Yovanovitch may have been under close surveillance, including potentially by a U.S. individual, demands immediate action.”

Joining Menendez in sending the letter were Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

The 22 Democratic senators demanded Pompeo provide a full accounting of the Department’s actions and respond to a series of specific questions about the veracity of the surveillance allegations, including what steps the Department is taking to ensure the safety and security of its diplomats in Ukraine.

A copy of the letter can be found here and below:

Secretary Pompeo:

We write with grave concern regarding recent allegations that the security of a sitting U.S. Ambassador may have been at risk. Text messages provided to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence reveal that Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch may have been under surveillance by hostile agents, possibly by the direction of U.S. persons while she served at her post in Kyiv. If true, this raises serious questions for the Embassy’s overall security posture and the Department’s efforts to monitor and respond to threats against U.S. diplomats and other personnel. These allegations also follow a disturbing and cavalier lack of seriousness regarding the protection of our diplomats at the Department under your leadership. 

According to these text messages, a U.S. person, Robert Hyde, was allegedly tracking or being kept apprised of Ambassador Yovanovitch’s movements, and apparently had knowledge about her security detail and use of electronic communications. Mr. Hyde kept Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani, informed of these alleged efforts. Around the same time, Mr. Giuliani was in direct communication with you, and provided the Department with a file that included false and misleading information about Ambassador Yovanovitch.

Notably, this is not the first time concerns about Ambassador Yovanovitch’s safety have been raised. As Ambassador Yovanovitch herself testified before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, on April 24, 2019, she received a call from Carol Perez, the Director General of the Foreign Service telling her to return promptly to Washington. During the call Director Perez told the Ambassador that she was being recalled because “we’re worried about your security.”[1]

Moreover, these revelations come on the heels of your steadfast refusal, over several months, to issue any statement of support for Ambassador Yovanovitch, or any of the career professionals working for the Department, even as they face attacks. Ambassador Yovanovitch has dedicated more than three decades of her life in service to our nation. A three-time Ambassador, she has demonstrated stellar leadership throughout her entire career advancing U.S. policy goals, and the American people have benefited from her many years of selfless service. Your repeated silence in the face of threats and disinformation aimed at Ambassador Yovanovitch, and other career officials, is inexplicable.

As the nation’s chief diplomat, you are charged with ensuring the protection of American citizens, property, and interests in foreign countries—and in particular, the safety and security of those you lead: our nation’s diplomats and officials overseas. The revelation that Ambassador Yovanovitch may have been under close surveillance, including potentially by a U.S. individual, demands immediate action. We therefore request details about what steps the Department is taking to investigate and determine the veracity of these allegations, particularly as Ukrainian officials have opened up their own investigation into these allegations. To that end, we request an immediate and complete accounting of these troubling allegations, including:

1. Whether the Department has verified the veracity of the texts indicating that Ambassador Yovanovitch’s movements and electronic communications were being monitored; 

2. Whether at any point, the Ambassador’s security was compromised, and what steps the U.S. Government took in response;

3. A full assessment of any vulnerabilities at Embassy Kyiv;

4. A full accounting by you and all relevant officials about what you, Diplomatic Security, the Department, and the U.S. Government knew about the security concerns and surveillance of Ambassador Yovanovitch, including when you first learned of these concerns;

5. Whether security concerns played any role in the Ambassador’s premature departure from post, and if so, the nature of those concerns;

6. Whether the Embassy’s Regional Security Office or other responsible offices received reports from Ukrainian security or intelligence services about threats to Ambassador Yovanovitch’s security, and what steps were taken in response;

7. The intelligence behind and basis for Director Perez’s statement to Ambassador Yovanovitch that there were concerns about her “security”;

8. Whether you are cooperating with Ukrainian authorities in their investigation; and

9. Separate and distinct from the Hyde allegations, whether you are aware of any other threats to the security of Ambassador Yovanovitch during her time in Kyiv or since.

Sincerely,

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[1] Testimony of Ambassador Yovanovitch before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Nov. 15, 2019.

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