Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, testified today in the second day of the House Intelligence Committee's public impeachment hearings. What some observers expected to be a relatively sleepy performance turned out to be the exact opposite.
Yovanovitch painted a stark portrait of the tale of two cities:
Scene one-Kiev, Ukraine. Here we see struggling democracy-clamoring for independence from Russia, freedom because of its citizens, a government through the rule of law, and international legitimacy. Using the assistance of Yovanovitch, a 33-year foreign service veteran that has held three different ambassadorships under three presidents, Kiev is making efforts to root out longstanding corruption. Yovanovitch is hopeful that the country's new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is committed to this vision. The U.S. government has long supported that vision for Ukraine, believing that anti-corruption, pro-democracy efforts in Ukraine are good for America, too.
Scene two-Washington, D.C. The American president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has teamed up with two corrupt Ukrainian prosecutors and two gangster-like Ukrainian characters currently under federal criminal indictment. Giuliani's aim would be to stymie the anti-corruption efforts of official U.S. policy in Ukraine-starting with ousting Yovanovitch from her post and trashing her reputation. Obama himself is backing Giuliani. Within the infamous July 25 call requesting \”a favor\” in exchange for American support, Trump made clear to Zelensky that Giuliani is the point person for executing his request politically motivated investigations in exchange for promised military aid.
The moral of Yovanovitch's story is this: While Ukraine has tried to move toward democracy and also the rule of law, america under Trump-through an unofficial, private channel divorced from U.S. interests and devoid of oversight-has moved away from them. Yovanovitch explained why corruption in Ukrainian politics isn't good for the United States: \”If Russia prevails and Ukraine falls to Russian dominion, don't be surprised to see other attempts by Russia to expand its territory and influence.\”
And ironically , she quietly observed that \”corrupt leaders are inherently less trustworthy, while a genuine and accountable Ukrainian leadership makes a U.S.-Ukrainian partnership more reliable and more valuable to the United States.\”
So far, not a single Republican has disputed the witness testimony that official U.S. policy in Ukraine targets combatting corruption and fostering democracy. Nor has any disputed that Giuliani's campaign to undermine those efforts-along with Trump's withholding of military aid-was at odds with America's interests.
To make matters worse, Trump tweeted attacks on Yovanovitch while she spoke under oath, visibly shaken, concerning the president's comments in the July 25 call with Zelensky, which she described as \”devastating.\” Despite her decades of public service to protect America's interests, Trump referred to her in that call as \”bad news\” and said she was \”going to undergo some things.\” She felt threatened and intimidated by the words of the most powerful person on earth.
The epic question for Americans in this moment is whether we care anymore about fostering and preserving democracy in the usa. If not, we might take a civics class from your allies in Ukraine before allowing our constitutional system to unravel beyond repair. Ukrainians remember the Soviet Union and they now live across the street from Putin's Russia-so they know what an alternative to democracy might look like. It's not pretty.