The committees leading the House impeachment probe released on Tuesday the transcript of their interview with Philip Reeker, a top State Department official.
Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, described for House investigators the smear campaign against Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
Here are the big takeaways from his deposition:
The smear campaign prompted tweets that implied “violence”
Reeker described a particularly ugly period in March, when the smear campaign, which was being fueled on Fox News, was leading to tweets implying “violence” and “lynching.”
The press office of the embassy Kyiv compiled for the State Department the worst of the tweets.
Reeker described the message saying there would be no statement of support for Yovnovitch.
Reeker described getting a recommendation from David Hale, undersecretary of state for political affairs, on March 23 that Yovanovitch “should deny on the record saying anything disrespectful and reaffirm her loyalty as an ambassador and [foreign service officer] to POTUS and Constitution.” Reeker said he could not think of another instance where an ambassador, who was under a false attack, was asked to make a statement of support for the President.
Reeker also described the message that was sent out on March 25 indicating there’d be no statement of support for Yovanovicth, beyond the narrow denial that had already been issued in response to one of the false reports.
Hale told investigators that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the decision not to issue the statement after speaking to Rudy Giuliani.
Reeker asked Yovanovitch if she’d be interested in succeeding him in his role
Yovanovitch was so well-regarded in the foreign service community that Reeker asked her if she would consider succeeding him in his role overseeing all of Europe.
The question came after the particularly frenzied March period in the smear campaign, but before the negative sentiments came from the White House in April prompting her recall. Yovanovitch didn’t think the role was a right for her, according to Reeker.
There was “unhappiness” from the White House that Yovanovitch remained ambassador.
Reeker recalled phone calls with State Department counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl and others on April 24, where Reeker heard that there was “unhappiness” from the White House that Yovanovitch was still in her role. The comments were not very explicit, because the phone calls were happening on open lines, Reeker said, but he recalled Brechbuhl saying specifically that things “changed for the worse.”
Days after the July 25 call, someone in the think tank world had heard of U.S. push for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
Reeker read aloud an email he received from Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent days after the July 25, in which Kent described hearing from someone he knew in the think tank world that the U.S. was pushing Kyiv to investigate the Bidens. Later on, Reeker clarified that this think tank person was a former ambassador to Ukraine and questioning from Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) revealed that the person was at the Atlantic Council.
Sondland told Reeker he had a “script” for Ukraine to follow.
Reeker testified that he was unaware over the summer of the push by two U.S. diplomats — working with Rudy Giuliani — to get Ukraine to open investigations into Trump’s political rivals. But he did recall one of those diplomats, U.S. ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland described having a “script” for Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to follow.
Read Reeker’s deposition below:
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