WASHINGTON — The State Department’s third-ranking official is expected to tell House impeachment investigators Wednesday that political considerations were behind the agency’s refusal to deliver a robust defense of the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
People familiar with the matter say the highest-ranking career diplomat in the foreign service, David Hale, plans to say that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other senior officials determined that defending Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch would hurt the effort to free up U.S. military assistance to Ukraine.
Hale, who arrived Wednesday morning to testify behind closed doors, will also say that the State Department worried about the reaction from President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, also one of the strongest advocates for removing the ambassador.
Meanwhile, State Department Counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, who was subpoenaed to appear before the impeachment panel, was on the plane with Pompeo, who departed early Wednesday morning for Germany. Two other witnesses who were scheduled for Wednesday — Russ Vought, the acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, and Rick Perry, the Energy secretary — are not expected to show up.
Yovanovitch, who was removed from her posting in May, has already appeared before investigators in the impeachment inquiry into Trump. She detailed efforts by Giuliani and other Trump allies to push her out of Ukraine, testifying that a senior Ukrainian official told her that “I really needed to watch my back.”