Yovanovitch: Standing up to our government should not be 'dangerous act'

Yovanovitch: Standing up to our government should not be 'dangerous act'
© Greg Nash

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie YovanovitchMarie YovanovitchAmerica's diplomats deserve our respect House panel says key witness isn't cooperating in probe into Yovanovitch surveillance President Trump's assault on checks and balances: Five acts in four weeks MORE, a central figure in the House impeachment of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump orders US troops back to active duty for coronavirus response Trump asserts power to decide info inspector general for stimulus gives Congress Fighting a virus with the wrong tools MORE, on Thursday warned the public against allowing the U.S. to become a country that silences those who stand up to the government. 

In an op-ed published in The Washington Post, Yovanovitch recalled how she and other civil servants spoke out last year when they believed the Trump administration was committing wrongdoing in its dealings with Ukraine.

She added that they also testified before Congress because they believed that speaking up about impropriety is the "American way."

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"I have seen dictatorships around the world, where blind obedience is the norm and truth-tellers are threatened with punishment or death," Yovanovitch wrote. "We must not allow the United States to become a country where standing up to our government is a dangerous act. "

After nearly 34 years working in the State Department, Yovanovitch retired last month. Her departure came months after she was recalled from her role as the ambassador to Ukraine following a targeted campaign from President Trump and his lawyer, Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiCuomo steps into national spotlight with coronavirus fight Hannity offers to help Cuomo in coronavirus response with radio, television shows The Hill's Campaign Report: Officials in spotlight over coronavirus response MORE.

She testified before lawmakers in November that Giuliani and his associates had orchestrated an effort to push her out of her position, alleging that they were behind unfounded attacks against her.

Yovanovitch said that it has been "shocking" to see the "criticism, lies and malicious conspiracies that have preceded and followed my public testimony." But she asserted that she had no "regrets" about testifying before Congress, noting that "I did — we did — what our conscience called us to do."

"We did what the gift of U.S. citizenship requires us to do," she said. 

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She denounced the current administration as one that "has undermined our democratic institutions" and left public servants without the support necessary to sufficiently complete their jobs and advance U.S. interests. 

"The next generation of diplomats is counting on something better," she wrote, adding later that while the events of the past year were "deeply disturbing," she's optimistic that the U.S. will "prevail."

Yovanovitch became the fourth figure to depart from the State Department after being tied to the House impeachment inquiry, which focused on Trump's alleged push to coax Ukraine into announcing probes of his political rivals. 

Trump and Giuliani have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, though Giuliani has acknowledged telling Trump that Yovanovitch was blocking requests for investigations into 2020 presidential hopeful and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFighting a virus with the wrong tools Trump bucks business on Defense Production Act Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — US coronavirus cases hit 100,000 | Trump signs T stimulus package | Trump employs defense powers to force GM to make ventilators | New concerns over virus testing MORE.

New evidence released in January has also raised concerns that Yovanovitch may have possibly been surveilled as Giuliani's associates pushed for her ouster. The State Department has since announced an investigation into those allegations. 

The Senate on Wednesday voted to acquit Trump of impeachment articles stemming from the House's probe into the president's dealings with Ukraine.