November 12, 2019

SFRC Democrats Warn Trump Administration against Punishing State Department Officials Testifying in Impeachment Inquiry

WASHINGTON – With three senior State Department officials scheduled to testify during the first week of public hearings on the Trump-Ukraine scandal, Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today called on two top ranking officials in the Department to step up during the current leadership crisis at the agency, make statements of support for the personnel, and commit to no retaliation against the career public servants risking their careers and reputations due to the Trump-Ukraine scandal.

“We call on you to emphatically and unequivocally support and protect these employees to your fullest abilities, including by issuing statements of support and ensuring they are not subject to any act of reprisal,” wrote the Senators in their letter to Deputy Secretary John Sullivan and Undersecretary Brian Bulatao. “We are writing you, and not Secretary Pompeo, because his silence to date speaks volumes. He has failed to stand up for his Department’s own people, despite their steadfast service to our country, despite their dedication to public service without regard to party, president, or politics.” 

Led by Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Senate Foreign Relations Committee members Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), also requested they be provided an update within three business days of the steps being taken in support of Department personnel during the Trump-Ukraine scandal.  

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives is scheduled to hear public testimony from William Taylor, Chargé d’affaires at U.S. Embassy Kyiv, and George Kent, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, is scheduled to testify publicly on Friday. 

“The Department has focused on preventing and dissuading its personnel from providing information and testimony to Congress. Many have decided, boldly, courageously, to stand up and testify nonetheless—at great personal, financial, and reputational expense. Each of the officials scheduled to testify are individuals who have served the nation with distinction,” added the Senators. “They are putting their careers on the line, paying for their own attorneys, and being subjected to attacks—all to testify publicly on behalf of their country.” 

A copy of the Senators’ letter can be found HERE and below.

 

November 12, 2019

 

Deputy Secretary Sullivan:

Undersecretary Bulatao: 

This week, at least three State Department officials are expected to provide testimony to Congress in response to the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry. Since the launch of a congressional inquiry into President Trump’s Ukraine scandal, we have become increasingly alarmed by the Department’s lack of support and utter silence for veteran diplomats and career public servants who are putting their careers and reputations on the line to stand up for their country. 

We call on you to emphatically and unequivocally support and protect these employees to your fullest abilities, including by issuing statements of support and ensuring they are not subject to any act of reprisal.  

We are writing you, and not Secretary Pompeo, because his silence to date speaks volumes. He has failed to stand up for the Department’s own people, despite their steadfast service to our country, despite their dedication to public service without regard to party, president, or politics.

Instead, the Department has focused on preventing and dissuading its personnel from providing information and testimony to Congress. Many have decided, boldly, courageously, to stand up and testify nonetheless—at great personal, financial, and reputational expense. 

Each of the officials scheduled to testify are individuals who have served the nation with distinction. They represent our nation’s finest: a distinguished career servant who dedicated 33 years of her life as a Foreign Service Officer, a diplomat who started his fifty-year public service as a West Point cadet and served in every Administration since 1985, and a foreign service officer with multiple postings throughout the Department since 1992.  They are putting their careers on the line, paying for their own attorneys, and being subjected to attacks—all to testify publicly on behalf of their country. 

Given Secretary Pompeo’s dereliction of duty in protecting Department personnel from these attacks, we call on you to take all necessary steps to protect them, and other officials who come before Congress, including addressing any threats to their safety and ensuring they do not suffer any retaliation or reprisals.

Your efforts will send a strong message to employees across the Department and the world who have watched as a respected U.S. Ambassador fell victim to an unfounded smear campaign. A strong statement of support from senior Department officials will also provide a needed boost to public servants who have watched colleague after colleague depart or resign from the Department in a spiral of plummeting morale. According to Ambassador Pickering, a seven time Ambassador under six different presidencies, “the prevailing mood is low and getting lower, if it can.”[1]

We request that you do your part to show employees that the Department stands with them, and remains supportive of their sacrifices in the name of our national security.

We also request that you provide an update within three business days of the steps you are taking in support of Department personnel. 

Sincerely,

 

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