November 15, 2019

As Trump Attacks Ambassador Yovanovitch, Menendez stands up for State Department Officials in Statement for the Senate Record

WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced a statement for the Senate record offering his support for the career State Department officials testifying before the House of Representatives about the Trump-Ukraine scandal. Menendez praised the selflessness and professionalism of Ambassador Yovanovitch, Ambassador Bill Taylor, and Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent, who have faced smears and innuendo from the President and his allies—and who have received no words of support from their own boss, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The Senator’s statement came before President Trump once again attacked Ambassador Yovanovitch via tweets during her testimony.

“These diplomats, these professionals, these proud public servants are putting the country before themselves. If only this President could do the same. If only he – just once – could put the interests of others ahead of his own. But frankly, I am not the one who should be standing up on behalf of our diplomatic corps. Nor should it be only the Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee,” said the Senator. 

Earlier this week, Senator Menendez led his fellow Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in sending a letter to the State Department, warning top officials there not to retaliate against the impeachment witnesses. Acknowledging Secretary Pompeo’s silence on the issue, the Senators felt compelled to send the letter to his deputies instead.

“There is a job post that actually entails standing up for the men and women of our State Department each and every day. The job is called Secretary of State. It’s a job held by Secretary Mike Pompeo. Yet under Secretary Pompeo’s watch, the dedicated Americans who serve in the State Department have been thrown to the wolves,” added Menendez.

Senator Menendez’s complete statement for the record can be found below:

“M. President, I rise to speak up for those who serve our country all around the world, courageously, selflessly, with great sacrifice. I rise on behalf of our diplomatic corps, our Foreign Service officers, civil servants, and State Department personnel. I rise on behalf of patriotic Americans serving our country on the front lines of war zones and devastating conflicts, in countries with oppressive governments and societies hostile to our own.

Our national security is stronger because of them. American people are safer because of them. Our children’s futures will be more secure, more prosperous, because of them. And because of them, and their hard work and sacrifice, our grandchildren may know a world with less pain, less strife, less conflict. And yet, they have come under attack—simply for serving their country.

This week, three State Department witnesses are testifying during the House of Representatives’ its impeachment hearings on the Trump-Ukraine scandal. These individuals have in many cases spent their entire careers serving our nation with distinction, on behalf of both Republican and Democratic administrations. Some have even worn the uniform of the U.S. armed forces.

M. President, these men and women are not partisans. They are patriots. Patriots who put our country first. And for putting country first, for being willing to tell the truth, they have come under attack. Not by a foreign regime bristling at their efforts to promote democracy. Not by oligarchs and criminals who fear their effectiveness—though that has happened as well.

No, M. President. They have come under attack in our own country. By our own President. By the head of our government that they so bravely and selflessly serve.

It pains me, M. President. And so I am standing before you today to speak up on their behalf.

On behalf of each voice that has come forward in this time of need and tumult for our country. This is a time when we need truth. Truth above party, truth above political loyalties and expediency. Truth above self-interest.

These diplomats, these professionals, these proud public servants are putting the country before themselves. If only this President could do the same. If only he – just once – could put the interests of others ahead of his own. But frankly, I am not the one who should be standing up on behalf of our diplomatic corps. Nor should it be only the Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee. 

There is a job post that actually entails standing up for the men and women of our State Department each and every day. The job is called Secretary of State. It’s a job held by Secretary Mike Pompeo. Yet under Secretary Pompeo’s watch, the dedicated Americans who serve in the State Department have been thrown to the wolves.

Our Secretary of State should be the number one defender of our diplomatic corps. He should come forward tell the American people what he saw, what he heard, and what he did about it.

He should defend the officials who serve in his own department.

And he could start by uttering just one word of support for Ambassador Taylor, Deputy Assistant Secretary Kent, and Ambassador Yovanovitch.  

But he has had plenty of time for that. We’ve seen very clearly where he stands. So instead, I, along with my Democratic colleagues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, are calling on other senior officials at the State Department to step up and do the right thing. This week we sent a letter the Deputy Secretary of State, John Sullivan, and the Undersecretary for Management, Brian Bulatao, calling on them to do what Pompeo has not: to publicly support the brave officials who are putting their careers, their reputations, and terribly, even their personal finances on the line — all to serve their country.

I hope that they do – even in the face of vicious and unfounded attacks unleashed by the President, his allies, and those who refuse to stand up for the truth. Some have been called “disloyal,” “unpatriotic,” and “Never Trumpers.” In fact, yesterday morning, as State officials were about to begin testifying, the President tweeted, in all caps, “NEVER TRUMPERS!”

M. President, these false attacks misunderstand the entire premise of public service. To be a career public servant means to work every day on behalf of the public, our government, our country, our Constitution. To check politics at the door.

To argue otherwise demonstrates this President’s warped view of how our government works.

Our career federal employees do not serve him. They serve our country. They serve the American people. The only “loyalty” they pledge is loyalty to the oath they take to uphold our Constitution.

In coming forward, in speaking the truth, in raising concerns about events that trouble them as guardians of our national security, they are carrying out an act of selfless of patriotism and love of country that that this president is incapable of understanding, let alone doing himself.

So M. President, I hope that some of our other senior officials will step forward and show just a sliver of the backbone that these individuals have shown. I hope they will do the right thing. I hope they will issue statements of public support for officials courageously coming before Congress, and commit to protecting them from retribution or reprisal.

Our State Department employees deserve commendation, not retaliation. They deserve our thanks, not our scorn. And above all else they deserve leaders who will defend them, not desert them when it matters most.”

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