The ambassador had been evacuated in fear of a tweet from the president

Yovanovitch was in terrible danger in Ukraine – danger from Trump’s Twitter.

On 24 April this year, she received a call from Carol Perez, the director general of the foreign service, speaking to her in cryptic tones as if Yovanovitch’s life was in danger if she remained at her ambassadorial post in Kyiv. She spoke as if there was a threat too awful to describe clearly on a phone line.

“She said that there was a lot of concern for me, that I needed to be on the next plane home to Washington,” Yovanovitch recalled in her testimony to the congressional committees conducting impeachment hearings. Taken aback, the ambassador to Ukraine wanted to know what the sudden panic was about. Perez just told her: “I don’t know, but this is about your security. You need to come home immediately.”

So she did, and found a State Department she didn’t recognize.

When Yovanovitch went to see the deputy secretary of state, John Sullivan, he confirmed that she had lost the confidence of the president, again without explaining how or why. His explanation of the urgent call in the middle of the night was equally bizarre.

“They were worried that if I wasn’t physically out of Ukraine, that there would be, some sort of public either tweet or something else from the White House,” Yovanovitch testified. “And so this was to make sure that I would be treated with as much respect as possible.”

The ambassador had been evacuated not because of some outside threat, but in fear of a tweet from the president. The terrible capricious power of Trump’s Twitter outbursts, and their paralysing effect on the administration, is a striking theme of the Yovanovitch transcript.

This toy that other people use for jokes and stories and conversation (or, in truth, for bullying and shaming and dogpiling) Trump uses to destroy and inflame and disrupt.

She had grown accustomed to a whispering campaign against her from Ukrainian politicians and businessmen for whom she had made life difficult, but when an article appeared on The Hill news site, recycling Ukrainian smears against her, she asked for a show of support from her secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. Such support for an ambassador in a critical post should have been a given, but Pompeo remained silent.

“What I was told is that there was concern that the rug would be pulled out from underneath the state department if they put out something publicly,” Yovanovitch said. “You know, that perhaps there would be a tweet of disagreement or something else” from the president.

The best Pompeo did for his ambassador in Ukraine, according to her testimony, was to contact Fox television’s Sean Hannity, to ask if there was any truth to the smears against Yovanovitch, which Hannity was helping to push. That a secretary of state had to go to a talk show host to find out what was going on in Ukraine neatly encapsulates the nature of the Trump presidency.

Not all that neatly. There’s still always more to say than there is space or time to say it.

Now, in Ukraine and elsewhere, a shadow foreign policy has emerged, whose true goals are known to the president, his family and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Through that channel, a discredited Ukrainian prosecutor and two obscure Florida businessmen who had become Giuliani’s sidekicks, wielded more influence than the entire state department. They fought to get Yovanovitch removed and they succeeded.

For experienced diplomatic veterans like Yovanovitch, this kind of corruption and dysfunction was all too familiar. They see it every day in the world’s autocracies.

“This is the sort of stuff we report on, how the president’s family and its hangers-on run everything. Now foreign diplomats are saying the same things about us,” one US foreign service officer observed recently.

The shame of it is scorching.

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