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tv   After Words Marie Yovanovitch Lessons from the Edge  CSPAN  April 2, 2022 1:00pm-2:01pm EDT

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well, i'm susan glasser.
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i'm joined today by ambassador maria vonovich and the book of course is lessons from the edge and you know, it's that must be something to see not only your life story here between two covers but also this big beautiful picture of you staring out and it's you know in many ways. that's a good place to start. i think ambassador yvonovich because you're clearly in a town full of self promoters and you know people who want to slap their name and their picture on everything. you're clearly a very reluctant public figure and that comes through in this memoir that it's the story of a public servant and not a public figure and so let's start with that. you know, this is a book conversation. writing a memoir about essentially not wanting to write a memoir and put yourself in the center of the story. was that like yeah.
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well, thank you for for having me here today. it's a pleasure to talk with you. it was a challenge to write the book quite frankly. i am an introvert by nature don't like being the center of attention. and so i fought long and hard about whether i really wanted to write a book, but i received many many letters of support as did others who testify during the first impeachment inquiry and people asked me about my life and about the challenges that i had faced and they wanted to know more and so i thought that maybe through a memoir i could share with people the importance of diplomacy why why diplomacy is so important to our national security interests as a tool to promote them? well, it's you know, it's really interesting that you say this about diplomacy because to me, that's one of the more interesting aspects of your book is that it is it is a case for
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diplomacy, but it's also a portrait of what what it means to exist. as an american official in the world today in this complicated messy world after the collapse of the soviet union you sort of saw the unraveling in real time. and now with the consequences that we see in terms of war with ukraine in terms of the resurgence of a new era of corrupt autocracies, you know, reshaping the world order. this is not been, you know, front and center in the washington conversation or in the american political conversation for for so long and you know having having just written a biography of a secretary of state jim baker. there's very little writing, you know about american diplomacy or what it means or how it's conducted, you know in the modern era so you know, how do we look at the moment that we're in though and and see this most people fear that we're in a
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moment of failure of american diplomacy not success. yeah. well, i think you know one thing to understand about diplomacy is everybody thinks they can do it, right because right like politics because you know, i can talk to you and you can talk to me and we can figure this out together. but as with most professions, it's it's more complicated than that. it's important to understand, you know, the culture and the language and so many different factors and how you get to yes, and yes that is adorable over over time and i would say that right now actually we are witnessing the importance of diplomacy on steroids with president biden secretary blinkins efforts to keep this coalition together. i mean, i think it's remarkable and i think it's one of the reasons i think it's one of the things that vladimir putin estimated he thought that the west was kind of done, you know, we're corrupt kind of a set of
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democracies that are just the same as autocracies and that we wouldn't have the will or the skill to come together as a group and push back on russia and we have and so i think that shows you right there the importance of diplomacy. all right, so let's talk about putin. let's talk about his view that we were, you know, no better than a corrupt country who would essentially let him establish his fear of influence in his part of the world in where you served and ukraine we wouldn't be having this conversation today if you had not figured right in the middle of a scandal that probably help to shape putin's attitudes towards america, you know, and i think a lot of people are wrestling right now with this question of the trump administration and how much that did or didn't influence the events that we're seeing unfold right now with the war in ukraine, you know and the one hand you have the former
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president who is an admirer of vladimir putin of longstanding has not only called him a strong leader great leader literally praised his plans to take over part of ukraine as genius as the troops were rolling. but at the same time you also have defenders of the former president. well vladimir putin didn't bomb keith, you know when trump was in office, so you have some unique perspective to share with us. let's start to walk through because your book tells the story, of course the story of what was the actual no bs trump policy toward ukraine, you know, i've often said that there was a kind of a trump administration policy and then a president trump policy. is that how it looked to you? it's probably as good a description as any and it's kind of confusing because the trump administration policy the president's official policy was
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actually pretty strong. it was a continuation of the obama policy. i thought that was a very good policy in terms of supporting ukraine and helping ukraine move forward to become the kind of partner. that would be best for the united states. that's what they wanted, you know to fight corruption develop their economy improve their democracy and and their security, of course, so we had a strong and a robust relationship with ukraine particularly after 2014 and the revolution of dignity and the russian actions in return when they grabbed crimea illegally and attack the dome boss area in in the east so trump the trump administration continued that strong policy and in one way, he actually even strengthened it which is that there had been some discussion under the obama administration that share, you know transferring javelins the
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anti-tank missiles to to ukraine and the obama administration decline to do that. but trump at the end of 2017 his first year in the presidency, he did agree to do that then of course famously he held them hostage in the infamous perfect phone call where he asked for a favor in exchange a personal and political favor. well, that's right. so let's back up a little bit because in 2017, you're already the ambassador. your ordering cave you see the situation there and there was a big fight actually inside the obama administration and the final year of that and you must have been aware of that and you know the back and forth and it really was obama personally who against the council of his defense secretary and even ultimately i think the secretary of state john kerry didn't want to send the web he viewed that as escalatory with with putin but he also clearly had putin's
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number at this at this point in time. so the ukrainians are looking very anxiously though at trump. it's not that they thought well, the trump administration is going to have good policy right? like they were kind of panicked when trump came into office the president at the time is petro poroshenko in ukraine, right and they're looking at a president united states. you says he wants to have a good relationship. with russia who says putin is a strongly or a better leader, even than our own american leaders, and there's a lot of conversation when trump first comes into office that he's even going to lift the sanctions on ukraine. sorry on the sanctions on russia because of its illegal annexation of crimea. so how real of a threat was that at the beginning and and tell us about how anxious the ukrainians were when trump came into office. well, the ukrainians were rather nervous given. everything that you've just outlined and some of the comments that he had made as a candidate with regard to crimea
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that crimea was really russian, etc, etc. and they were they were worried about where the policy was going to go. but you know in the beginning of every administration, i mean, you're a long time washington hand. it's chaos. no matter how well prepared an incoming administration is you know, you're drinking from the firehose. everything's coming at you at once you don't you often don't have key people in place to help move things forward and this was true, you know on steroids for the trump administration where it was largely a group of people who had not been in government or had not been in government recently or perhaps we're not the most skilled in government. so there was a lot of chaos, but there was a lot of drift for for a while. so that's the prelude to you, actually the one time you actually had a meeting with donald trump. i find this to be a fascinating. story because a i didn't really know about it until i read your
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book and and be i think it's this it could be the prologue unfortunately right to this to this moment. we're having with the war because what did you hear directly from the mouth of the president of the united states in that meeting? so donald trump turned to his national security advisor and the nature mcmaster at the time. yes. there was a gender there was a discussion about the dom boss and petra portionco requested a javelin's and you know other military assistance security assistance and president trump in response looks at hr mcmaster the national security advisor and says we've got troops there. i mean troops in the east and so mcmaster, you know, absolutely dead pan. everybody was absolutely deadpan. nobody was like expressing surprise. said well, we've got troops in the far west on the polish border where we are training. ukrainian soldiers and for me this was you know, like one of
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those moments and because i thought well, how is it that the president of the united states doesn't know where his i mean? he's our commander in chief is it how is it that he doesn't know where his troops are or does he not know that the adversary on the other side is russia and he thinks we're in a shooting war with russia. so it was it was really remarkable because this is the man that is making decisions. not only on ukraine policy and other other issues, but but on the most important insensitive issues that face the united states. yeah. no, it must have been just absolutely mind-blowing for you especially because you're living day and night in this reality and you're here with the president of a country who is literally finding the russians. yeah, and you know, i i it reminds me of that anecdote about the leaders of the three baltic countries who go in. it's actually a little bit after that meeting of yours and they go in to president trump and president trump confuses the baltics and the balkans and they realize that when he starts talking about the beginning of
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world war one, but so you're in this meeting and the other thing he says that is this real echo of the scandal that would later erupt, right? because he he talks about his view of the entire country of ukraine in front of ukraine to president, right? he says something like it's a corrupt country. yeah most. i think he's actually said the most corrupt country in the world the most corrupt country, i believe so and he and petra poroshenko. i mean he kind of pushed back and the source of you know for for the president's. allegation was he had heard that from a friend of his. at mar-a-lago the source of all information. that's right. and you know a pet proportionco did a pretty good job of pushing back and one of the things that i find to be, you know, kind of unfair is that the reason we talk about ukraine and corruption is that in 2014 when the ukrainians were angry that their pro 2013 and then 2014
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that they're pro-russia president. yana kovich had turned his back on a closer association with europe which ukrainians wanted. they wanted the economic benefits of that and so they were angry and for students went out on the street and then hundreds of thousands went out on the street and they eventually pushed yanakovich out of the country, but you know, i mean the name of the revolution was called the revolution of dignity and what that means is rule of law. i want to be treated with dignity. i want to be treated the same way as the president is treated under the law. you know whether i'm a president on the popper whether i'm an oligarch or just a small business owner. the law should be equal for everybody and we want to stop paying bribes in order to be treated well, and that was the essence of that, you know people's revolt really and so the incoming administration of petra poroshenko in the beginning, you know, they they
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were quite quite good on fighting corruption because they had no other choice and so it was a very open discussion. there were many initiatives that were taking place the us other countries the international financial institutions were all helping the ukrainians in this goal because you know, we thought that that was good for them. but also good for us because there would be a better partner in ukraine. and yeah, so that's why we talk about ukrainian corruption because the ukrainian people wanted to put an end to corruption right and yet amazingly enough you had trump who's campaign chairman had been paul manafort who was literally the political in presario behind victor. yanakovich the pro russian leader who'd been forced out in that revolution and that must have given you as well a lot of pause, you know, it seemed almost incredible. i imagine as the ambassador. yeah. well i actually arrived after
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manafort had to resign and so fortunately i didn't have to, you know confront that issue directly while i was ambassador. yeah, but it's the context for then what happens next. so, okay. so let's flash forward. the reason we're here your memoir is not what happened in that almost prologue meeting, you know in the spring of 2017, but it's the event that began unbeknownst to you unfolding the following summer in the summer of 2018 and then explode in your world in the spring of 2019. and that's a story that you recount here. although it has to go backwards because there's this impeachment that brings it all to the public view. own view you learn a lot in in the fall of 2019 and it really causes you, you know as with many things, you know crises clarify scandals clarify wars as we now see they clarify and so for you, i feel like you you
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write this story as a series of revelatory shocking but also clarifying moments. so tell us what some of those moments were, you know as as they unfolded for you. what was that the time that you realized? this isn't just some crazy rumor, you know that they're out for me. yeah, so, i mean there were a number of of moments and you know, people are always surprised when i tell them will you know, nobody sat me down and said this is what is happening because everybody had a little little piece of it and of course rudy giuliani wasn't sharing with me what he was doing. so it was it was very almost cafe-esque. you know that there were these things out there people were coming to me and saying hey, did you know that rudy giuliani has established this relationship with this corrupt prosecutor who did not like me. let's zenco. did you know this did you know that and i would go back to washington and i'd say hey fyi,
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this is going this is what i heard today and people would say don't worry because of course. i was calling my part of washington. i was calling the state department official washington, and this was all happening, you know around president trump and but not by, you know civil servants foreign service officers people like fiona hill. i mean when he called the deep state, yeah exactly, but you know, they had a deeper condition i would say and so they were i think the planning how to get dirt basically on joe biden and i think there was a sense that maybe i would not be helpful in that in that effort if i saw things that were going going wrong, but you didn't you knew about some of these issues but by the time it becomes public here in washington, and you have sean hannity talking
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about you laura ingraham the president's son don junior. that's when i really realized wow. there's some crazy thing happening. yeah, you know it it's a small community here in washington that pays attention to russia and and ukraine and you know, i like you have known these folks, you know here for many years since we served in in moscow and you know, it didn't really break through but it was one of these like, you know, there's these parallel universes now in washington, right? and so the the kind of conspiracy theory du jour that's on fox doesn't necessarily break through to a broader audience, but this is your name all of a sudden. yeah. what was that like for you sitting in the embassy? it was crazy. so, you know, i thought that my problem was in ukraine. yeah, but once the articles came out in the hill and then rapidly right after that all over fox news. the president of the united states himself actually retweeted one of the stories later on donald trump jr.
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tweeted, you know, let's get rid of clowns like yvonovich or something that affect so once it hit the hill i realized i started realizing that the that my problem was in washington and so i cast about you know looking for for people to help they're actually happened to be a congressional delegation in town and they were great. you know, they stood up for me with all of the ukrainians, but that was not where my problem was. my problem was in washington and they wouldn't stick up with you for you here. yeah, and that by the way is very interesting and again relevant to this current moment of crisis with ukraine because americans might be a little confused. well there seems to be this kind of bipartisan support for ukraine, but i feel like this this partisanship that exists just below the surface of that is likely to resurface so well, i hope not because i mean we have had a long-running bipartisan consensus on ukraine ever since independence in 1991. yeah, and we're releasing it flower right now and i hope it
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does continue because this is an important moment certainly for ukraine. yeah, and but it's also an important moment for us. we need to pass this test in terms of our resolve because the vladimir putin does have an obsession about ukraine, but he also i think is trying to undermine the international order that we have all benefited from over. you know the last 705 plus years since world war two you talk about the bipartisan consensus on ukraine, but the big thing that we learn from the impeachment and we can walk through it but you know to get to the end of the story first, i suppose out of order every single republican member of congress except for mitt romney every single one including many who have subsequently become very strong critics of former president trump every single one of them did not vote to find anything wrong with president trump holding military eid for ukraine hostage, so there's a
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lot of partisanship beneath the yes, you are. absolutely right, but i i guess i like to think about that as less about you know, showing support or not for ukraine and more about protecting. you know, your party's president, right? the team sports aspect of of this moment, which is also worism. very worrisome. that's right. so, okay. didn't mean to interact in the story here, but it's really amazing. so this is about this is march of 2019 and you know you realize you have this washington problem and you go to one of trump's ambassadors one of his political appointees a guy who gave a million bucks a hotel owner from portland, oregon because that's the weird system. we have that some ambassadors are foreign service officers like you and then some are just fat cat donors who don't have any experience and gordon sondland is obviously later emerges as a public figure, but you went to him and he gave you this very interesting piece of advice that you also heard from some of your superiors. what did he tell you to do? well, he basically said, you
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know the president and if you don't know the president, which i've certainly did not feel i didn't know the president after you know, just that one meeting, you know what he's like and what he likes so you need to tweet out that you know, you love the president and you need to you know, really make it strong my advice is to go big or go home. and you know, i thought about that as a foreign service officer and we are nonpartisan. i mean that doesn't mean that you don't get to have your own private and personal beliefs, but we we work for the government we do work for the president, but we are not partisans for the president as somebody who might be a political appointee from you know, a president's party would be a partisan for the president and that's really important for the continuity of government. that we are democracy and the people elect the president and the president needs to feel
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confident that once a policy is set after all of the debate and you know, the great stuff that goes into making that policy after all that happens that his team, you know from the state department from every other agency in washington will go out and implement that policy that's really important now clearly trump did not feel that way you mentioned the deep state, you know that we were sort of fifth columnist or something trying to undermine him and so forth, but that's actually very far from the truth about certainly about the state department and i i felt that if i you know kind of an unprovoked, i mean sort of put out a tweet like that people would really wonder whether i'd lost it and it would just it would just feel wrong. yeah, right. you're not there as a personal agent of the president you're there as an agent of the national interest and and you heard that even in writing from one of your colleagues, i think who probably surprised you and you talk about crises as a
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learning experience david hale the number three at the state department of that time was a career officer and yet he seemed to be embracing this notion that you should personally flattered the president and speak of your loyalty to him and not to the system. yeah. yeah. that was that's how i understood it as sort of a loyalty pledge. i'm sure that's not what he was thinking in his mind when he when he recommended that i had asked. david and others at the state department whether the state department could release a statement in in support of me because i could see that if the department preferably pompeo himself didn't come to my defense robustly. yeah that i mean i would have to i would have to leave because you know once you have the president and the president's family sort of putting stuff out like that. you know, the ukrainians would be be understandable if they wondered whether i was really
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representing the president and his policies but that was a saturday and they would talk to pompeo about it on monday and in the end there was no statement of support that night. i did tape something but i i just i just couldn't do what what i think they wanted and and again it was a question of why why is she doing that? and so what i did because presidential elections in ukraine were coming up within a week. i talked about the importance of democracy the importance of our institutions and and so forth rather than that, and i said, you know, i'm working to implement the president's policies or something. you never heard from mike pompeo throughout this whole ordeal. yeah. he never called you. he never wrote to you. yeah, and you and other many people appeal to him to speak out and he never did and in fact, i listened to the very good interview you did with my my friend mary louise kelly from
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npr. she played the snippet from her famous interview with mike pompeo and witchy basically rips her head off for reminding him that he did not defend you. yeah. yeah, and this is all at a time when he is is bringing his ethos statement to the department. and telling us how we should behave and you know, there's the final ethos statement, you know, there's there's absolutely nothing wrong with it. i mean, i would probably embrace every single one of the principles of dealing, you know with integrity with your colleagues and things like that, but he managed to violate every single one of them. yeah, and that's again this sort of clarifying thing that i think is an interesting and important part of the story that you tell in the book this institution that you served for 33 years in places like mogadishu somalia and in you know, kyrgyzstan and russia and ukraine this institution that you serve for 33 years is basically sort of under assault repeated fainted
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and you very unwittingly become a test. not just one that ultimately explodes your own career, but the institution itself it reveals, you know, the fishers and and weak points in this institution and you know, i'm curious there are later accounts john bolton and others and the testimony and the impeachment. shows it in that spring. pompeo was probably holding off donald trump for quite some time in terms of firing you but in the end both bolton and pompeo cave when ordered to directly by the president of the united states. so that's interesting question. are they in the end as far as you're concerned his enablers or is it just a story about in our system? the president has enormous power and you can only resist for so long. is it is it better to be there and to be sort of somewhat complicit but resisting or not
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you know, i'm i just this is the big question. i know but i'd love to know your answer because it was your life. it was your grade. well, i i think that's a good question. and i think it's a question that everybody who works in government has to ask themselves at some point because you're not gonna love every policy of an administration. and so how how are you going to deal with that? so for example, the second war in iraq? i i thought that was wrong and i not that anybody was pushing. i'm not a middle eastern hand, but not that anybody was pushing for me to go to iraq, but i tried to stay out of the mainstream of that. i think everybody has to find their own path to that with regard to pompeo and bolton. i think it's both. i think they were his enablers, but i think that probably they did do some good things as well, you know.
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we'll see. i think there are still many more books including your own that that are going to come out about the trump administration and i think we're going to continue to find out a lot of a lot that's been happening. yeah, i mean it's certainly. you know we can talk about impeachment now. it's very interesting because it has taken on i think a different light now that we see this incredible war that has broken out between russia and ukraine a war that tragically american. diplomacy and assistance to ukraine was not only not able to prevent but there's an interesting set of questions about you know, what things like trump's ukraine scandal had to do with with enabling the war in the first place. and so let's talk about that fall. this is an incredible trauma. you've already had of, you know being withdrawn as ambassador middle of the night phone call.
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i'm sure people remember this part of your story and your your summoned back to washington the leadership never even has the courage to look you in the eye and tell you you never hear from mike pompeo and it's carol perez the the head of the foreign service, right who basically gives you the hook and you know, they tell you what you did nothing wrong. but sorry and so deputy secretary of sullivan when i actually got on the next playing right washington deputy secretary sullivan called me in right and now our ambassador to moscow interestingly. yeah. under very tough conditions. yeah, so he was the one who got handed that that assignment of firing me officially which which he did and but he also told you that you didn't do anything wrong. yes. he did and i was so angry i was so angry and you know sometimes when i'm angry it's expressed
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through, you know, just all these tears and was sort of i think it was probably a pretty unpleasant conversation for him. it's certainly was for me in terms of you know, how can you be doing this if i haven't done anything wrong? how can you be doing this and they didn't give you a good answer? well, they what they said is they wanted to protect me they but what they wanted to protect me from was being fired by tweet. yeah, and actually my own view even at that moment was that they were protecting themselves and they were protecting the president because even though you know ambassadors have this exalted title. i mean you and i both know we are not actually very senior in an administration and if donald trump had fired me by tweet. i mean everybody would have wondered what was going on. that's right. everybody would have i mean it was diplomatic malpractice anyway, but that would have, you know, kind of sealed the deal right it would actually would have been a public scandal
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earlier. yeah, and it would have called attention to what giuliani was doing in a different way. so it was self-protective, but i was struck in reading your account of that meeting and and in general the ordeals that that followed on from that. you know, you describe yourself as a rule follower it was. it seems to me like, you know that there is a sort of gendered element to this that you really like it took you a while to fight your way back to righteous anger. and if anybody was entitled to righteous anger it was you but that you you know this mix of like have identity wrong. are they going to ruin me? fear fear? and i i think explaining to people a little bit about the the fear that you felt in that moment when powerful people and forces that you don't understand including the president are out to get you. a part that seemed like you and i might understand it in the former soviet union or in russia. but that's been so kind of
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revelatory to me to understand that that trump used fear to take over the republican party in a large swath of washington. yeah. yeah, well, you know just speaking about myself. i mean you described it really? well. i didn't know what was going to happen next because in my world if you pull an ambassador out of post and there was all this talk that i was corrupt and everything else by people very close to the president. consequences follow you know in a normal world there would be an investigation, you know, perhaps charges would be brought. i wondered whether you know as an additional because we we know the president can can be quite petty. sometimes i wondered whether they would try to take away my pension because of course at that point. i was thinking that retiring i wondered whether i would be able to get a job anywhere because there was this little cloud over me and on the one hand. i knew i had done nothing wrong, but on the other hand, i'm like thinking could i have done
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something? i mean, you know that self-doubt of oh my god, you know, maybe i mean maybe i'm like not understanding this this all properly and so that was you know, sort of in the spring of 2019 and then fast forward to the perfect call right? it's released in september released in september and that's when i heard. or when i saw the transcript where the president of the united states says she's going to go through something. that's and i thought what more could there be he's already pulled me out and around that time. i'm forgetting the sequence now, but the inspector general of the state department marching up to the committees that were starting this impeachment inquiry with the rudy giuliani file, which was you know. all about me in the bidens and this that and the other thing and it was an apa research file on you that he had sent to the secretary of state himself. yeah, and everybody had sort of discounted it but then all of a sudden when you know, we're getting to the boiling point in
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september the inspector general decides that he needs to share this with the committees and i thought what does this mean? i mean if if you actually look at the files, they are laughable, but i was not laughing because i wasn't sure what that meant. yeah, and there's also this moment where trump is speaking at the un general assembly in a press conference right after the phone calls released with the newly elected president zelensky and you know, it's in hindsight. you know now zelensky has become this world famous figure and you know, of courage and but he wasn't standing up to donald trump in that press conference. he looked so uncomfortable. i mean some people have described it as a hostage video, you know, it was obvious that he was being you know stuck up by the president and he's trying not to alienate. you know, the this giant superpower that that ukraine needs and it's it's fight and but he he goes along with trump
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too, though, you know, and he also is said i think he said she's a bad ambassador. whoa, what was that about and did you ever get any clarification from the ukrainians about that? all i got was somebody in the administration said we you know, this is in the last six months or so, we'd be happy to have you back. i think that what was going on. i think we need to remember that ukraine is a smaller country at war with russia because russia had stolen crimea and invaded the country's east and the dawn boss and that war even though it wasn't making headlines usually in the united states, but, you know every week a couple of russians ukrainian soldiers sometimes civilians would die. i mean it was a hot war in europe even before 2022 and so we are ukraine's most staunch
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partner across the board whether it comes to economic assistance and certainly security assistance. and so, you know his mission both in the phone call and in that september meeting was to kind of try to solidify that relationship and get these security assistance that donald trump was dangling. and so i mean that's the context for where's lensky is and the other part of the context is, you know a year ago. he'd been a comedian who hadn't even announced for president and now all of a sudden he's on the biggest stage in the world with the most powerful man in the world who's as you put it holding him up. and so when we look at what zelensky did in terms of kind of catering to trump, i think we also need to look at, you know, some of the western allies the presidents who did exactly the same thing and we need to look at, you know people in the united states who also cater to the president's ego. and so perhaps not so surprising
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that zelensky followed that same. yeah. no, not at all. but what you know, i mean this man's presidency, right literally begins people may not remember your book point out. you left your post, you know the day of his inauguration of zelensky's entire beginning of his presidency is overshadowed by this effort from donald trump to blackmail him and now his presidency is exploding several years later and you know the biggest land war in europe since world war two, it's really it's you know, i mean that biopic is gonna be something. i mean, it's just an extraordinary story. but so, okay, let's talk about what it's like to be a witness in the impeachment of the president of the united states and you are not a limelight seeking person. we started out our conversation with that here you are. in the limelight and it's all about you and it'll make history in a lot of ways, but it'll also make history as i believe the
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first time in history that the president united states live tweeted is own impeachment by attacking a witness or intimidating witness, depending on how you want to look at that tween in the middle. of the hearing. what was that like when adam schiff reads to you donald trump. he says murray evanovich is a disaster everywhere. she's been right. he talks about like that is if you personally running the motor pool at the us embassy in mogadishu had personally ruined somalia. what's it like when adam schiff is reading you that to me? yeah, well, so it was a complete surprise obviously to me. i had no idea what was coming and you know when first he announced that he was going to do this understandably. and so there's then there's the anticipation. i mean, what's he gonna say? what's he gonna what is he going to say? what could he say and then the actual tweet itself as you just recounted was ridiculous. it was absolutely ridiculous. and so, you know trying to
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compose my face, although when i looked back at the video that was played that night of me listening to adam schiff recounting this i mean all of my emotions were there for everybody to see including frankly a little bit of contempt because my eyes rolled i just i couldn't believe that the president of the united states would do something like this and even though he was attacking me. it really felt even in the moment that it was more about him. it revealed more about him it revealed that in fact the sorts of things i was saying about how i had been treated was absolutely true because it was continuing. and i think he really demeaned himself by doing that. i think the other thing is he really you know handicapped the republican party that was obviously trying to defend the president because again, i don't know what their strategy was for that day, but if they had wanted to attack me that became very
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hard at that at that point and so they sort of focused on. their questions were focused on making me irrelevant or or the entire procedure irrelevant and illegal or they i think maybe repeat a thousand times while not the same story multiple times the same stories, but also that the president of the united states has the right to you know name ambassadors, but also pull ambassadors for any reason at any time, which is absolutely true. but then why did he have to malign me? and so that's you know, that was the tell well and again, i found that moment to be i was just going back and reading, you know. accounts of that day and my own reaction to it and i was struck by a couple things one was as you said the republican strategy to just make this a side show devin nunez the republican ranking member of the committee who's now quit congress to work for donald trump. so that gives you a sense of where he was coming from.
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he said well, this is an irrelevant story. basically, i think there should be a subcommittee on human resources. that should talk about what happened to you. yeah, yeah, and so yet it seemed like. this was the key to unraveling the scandal though. i mean for many people like fiona hill. it was your firing that. provided the spark to try to understand that there was a problem that something not right was going on between trump and giuliani and you know, i think many people felt that actually you're you're firing was the moment at which the kind of iceberg, you know, burst into into view a of the story. you didn't know many of these other elements at that time though. no, it was happening around me. yeah, so the other thing and this conversation and your book i must say for for people because we are talking about a book lessons from the edge. yeah. see i can shamelessly flack for it. you know, you can be dignified, but i'm happy to it's really
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it's a very powerful read and one of the things in the book and in your testimony is you bring this. i think i called it uncynical outreach. you know about what happened to american democracy and to our system of government, you know that this isn't how things are supposed to work. it's actually shocking you know that the president united states would smear and fire an ambassador who did nothing wrong, you know, do you are you still able to be uncynical? i mean, you know the american system on paper. does it still look as strong to you after all of this? well, as we know this was only the first impeachment or the classic original cookie. yeah, exactly. so not not to make light of a very serious issue and the president was not held accountable. yeah and i think he was emboldened that he thought he
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could do whatever he wanted. and fast forward through 2020 and the election campaign and then the elections that he lost but that he refused to conceit. and i mean it looks to me with all the things that are coming out now that there really was a conspiracy in order to hold on to power and then there was the second impeachment inquiry and once again, the president was not held accountable and so that is there many other things as you well know including, you know, targeting journalists and minorities and various other things. i mean classic classic. actions in democracies that are starting to fail but i and just the divisions that we see in our
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society as well. so that was you know when we we saw the january 6th insurrection, i mean that is something that i never thought i would see in the united states and that was a i think a terrible moment for for many many people, but i think that what we need to take from that is not you know, i hate government i don't want to do you know, i don't want to know anything about this. i think what we need to do is citizens is work to to fix what needs reforming to strengthen our institutions to find people with integrity to run for office and to hold those high level positions and an administration and as we're finding out not just in the federal government, but at local and state levels as well, and i think i think that's what we need to be doing and i think we need to be purposeful about it and optimistic about it. optimism is a force multiplier.
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it's certainly made the job of an american ambassador or an american diplomat a lot harder, you know. can you imagine delivering a lecture today, you know about the integrity of elections and democracy when our own has been so challenged. well, i think that yeah, so the short answer is yes i can because when we work with other countries on you know issues like freedom of the press or freedom of assembly, it's not because we are perfect. it's because we know how important that is and we're working on it in our own country and you know, we hope you will too. i think the way when delivers a message is really important, you know, we need to be listening as much as we are. i like to think that you know, i wasn't lecturing but as much as we are sharing our official government point of view about, you know various issues and i
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will tell you after january 6th. so many people reached out to me and they were shocked, you know, all the same emotions that we had shocked and afraid and wondered what was happening in the united states, but also afraid for their own countries at least many of the people that i know overseas do still look to the united states as an example and as a leader, and so we need to get our own house in order so that we can continue to fully inhabit that role i was thinking of a moment in kurt volcker's testimony. he was the special envoy who was dealing with the ukraine conflict. obviously those negotiations didn't end up going anywhere and actually, you know, kurt who we both know well ended up, essentially trying and failing, you know being inserted into the middle of this back and forth
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with you know, giuliani and engages directly with him. despite many officials, you know, john bolton and fearon hill saying no, no, don't do that. that's not a good idea. he goes had because he thinks he can manage it right? he's trying to get a good outcome for for the ukrainian government and basically realizes in this breakfast he has with rudy giuliani. you know that actually they are holding up a meeting with a president of a foreign country in order to get investigations. and he has this testimony where he talks about having a conversation with a senior advisor to president zelenski in september and the he's telling him well, you can't go after your opponents in the election. you can't prosecute, you know, vindictively essentially and the ukrainian officials will wait a minute. you mean like you guys are telling us and you know what? just an undercutting, you know,
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like gut punch of a moment that must have been you know when you heard that because that is exactly what american officials are trying to do to encourage in other countries, and i remember that adam schiff seized on that, you know in one of his closing remarks in the impeachment trials just seems like this moment, you know. we're no better than those we seek to. know, correct. well, you know, we always have to perfect our democracy and the answer is not you know, we're going to give up because it's too hard. the answer is doubling down and working really really hard at it and it doesn't mean that you have to run for office. it could mean that you're you know in your pta working with the teachers and doing great things with the kids or that you're working on some garden plot to beautify the city, you know cleaning up the trash and stuff like that. i think that that kind of civic-mindedness is what built america and it also creates
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partnerships with people that maybe have different political views than you do, but you are building a basis and a friendship and trust that maybe can get us to the next step in terms of knitting the fabric of our society back together again, you know it just listening to you and this i think came through comes through in the book, you know, is it retaining this sort of? view of the power of american civic institutions and democracy despite the challenges, you know that you saw inside that literally, you know changed the trajectory of your own life. you know, i'm reminded that you were one of many of the witnesses in the impeachment case who you know how to background with immigrant families that we haven't talked that much about your own family story, but you know essentially having parents who, you know saw firsthand both the consequences of nazi and soviet. aggression you know, is that do you think that factored into it? i mean you had alex friedman fiona hill your own family
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story, you know in a way that these immigrants who are believing more in america than you know, those who've arguably benefited. from the system so much. yeah. um, maybe i mean i know for myself i became an american by choice at the age of 18. yeah, and you have to think about what that means and you know where you want to live and and the values of the united states and i wanted to identify myself with that and my parents they came here with nothing and they were always grateful to the united states that we had safe harbor they could bring up their children they could do well here and they told me, you know, i needed to give back just as they did. they were teachers and brought up generations of students. and so that was a huge influence on me. so you write about another part of the book that we haven't talked that much about but i think it goes to this question of what's happening to american democracy. and what about the democracies that you saw challenged or
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struggling to emerge you were in russia several a couple times in your career, but you were there in 1993 in boris yeltsin's not his standing on the tank noble staring down the coup boris yelton 1991, but you know what later generations of moscow correspondence like me would referred to as the sort of bad coup in 1993 and and boris shelton many people believe by turning his tanks on the white house. he he himself was dealing a blow to russia's. halting nation efforts to become a democracy and then you were there through the election of 1996 in russian, which there was basically a corrupt bargain. yes to purchase that election on yeltsin's behalf. justified by many people here in washington as a way to avoid a return the communists to power with that an original sin, you know of russian democracy was at
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the moment when something like putin became inevitable in your view. i don't know is the short is the short answer. i would just say that. the intelligence services had always wanted more power and obviously that's where he comes from and you know there there was a choice yeltsin had a choice in 1999 who he would sort of set up as his successor. and as you recall, there were a number of prime ministers that were tried out and failed for one reason or another and putin, you know case officer managed to to get that i would like to add one thing which is that, you know, there's plenty to criticize about what the us did or didn't do in the 1990s with regard to to russia. but the first thing i'd say is we manage our foreign policy
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based on the information. we have the choices that we think are in front of us. it's it's an imperfect process and we do the best we can and you know, sometimes it doesn't work out exactly the way you would have liked. but the second thing i would say is that the russians have agency russia as a country the leadership and the people and when we talk about these events in the united states understandably, of course we talk about it from an american centric point of view. we did this we did that, you know blah blah and it's like all these other countries have no agency, but actually they are the most important actors in their own story. so that's a great note to end on because let's talk about ukraine and the agency the incredible agency that we're seeing right now is just it's extraordinary. you know, you saw that there was a war while you were there as ambassador, but nothing like the war and and the hell really
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that's now been unleashed upon ukraine by russia. you've said in some of your interviews for this book that you do believe that somehow ultimately ukraine will prevail. how is that possible? because i think they will not you know, there may come a time when russia prevails militarily and there will have to be some sort of a peace deal made, but i'm not sure that the ukrainian people. in fact, i'm pretty sure the ukrainian people will not accept it maybe in the short term but not in the long term and i think there will be a gorilla war and i think there will be civil disobedience. i think there will be snipers that will go after the russian occupier. i think there will be you know, i would not want to be a russian soldier going into a ukrainian cafe because i'm not sure what they would be serving me and i would not want to be a russian getting into a vehicle that was just serviced by a ukrainian
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mechanic because i'm not sure what would happen when i turn the on the ignition. i think the ukrainians will find ways to make that occupation. so costly not only in terms of the diverted resources. is from russia's own development, which needs hearing? we're seeing the economy collapse which needs lots of resources, but in terms of frankly the body count of russian soldiers. well, you know, we'll leave it at that. it's it's an extraordinary bit of history that we're observing right now, and i want to thank you ambassador marie yavanovich for you know sharing your own history with us in this book. it's really it's it's a gripping read i think and it's also a kind of a unique testament to american institutions under challenge and you know that there are real people behind these stories. it's not just a game of tweets. you know, this was your life and i think everybody is grateful that you manage to to share your piece of this story with us, and i certainly am and i enjoyed the
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conversation and i'm sure i have lots more questions for you. but thank you for this great this great hour. well, thank you. it's been a pleasure. yeah. thank you.
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in the near future on book tv. good day. i'm very happy to be here. i'm amity slaves from the coolidge foundation. welcome to this live audience. welcome to our c-span viewers you know, here we are. pretty close to wall street in wall street and wall street and


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