Read: Revenge of the intelligence nerds
Last week, however, McKinley resigned in protest of the department’s failure to stand up for Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine. Yovanovitch was apparently sacked after pressure from Rudy Giuliani, who spread unsubstantiated claims that she was disloyal to Trump. Yesterday, McKinley testified to House impeachment investigators, complaining about the politicization of the State Department, including the sidelining of career staff.
Yovanovitch herself also testified last week, delivering a scorching appraisal of the Trump administration’s actions in Ukraine and its approach to foreign policy more broadly. She, too, was intimately involved in some of the central events, though she had been recalled by the time of Trump’s July 25 call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. (Though removed from her post, she remains a State Department employee; the White House tried to block her testimony, but she honored the House subpoena.)
This week also saw testimony from Fiona Hill, who served as the top Russia expert on the National Security Council until August. Hill reportedly told House members about discussions involving Ukraine, and about how alarmed White House staff were about the way the Trump administration was handling Ukraine—especially with Giuliani appearing to run a shadow foreign policy there. “I am not part of whatever drug deal [Gordon] Sondland and [Mick] Mulvaney are cooking up,” then–National Security Adviser John Bolton told Hill, referring to the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and the acting White House chief of staff, according to The New York Times.
David A. Graham: The conspiracy of silence is cracking
On Tuesday, George Kent, a top State official handling Ukraine, told House members that he was cut out of policy discussion on that country after Mulvaney intervened. Tomorrow, a Defense Department official will talk. And the flood of testimony began when Kurt Volker, a career diplomat who was working as an envoy to Ukraine until he was forced out earlier this month, testified and handed over a damning series of messages between himself, Sondland, and William Taylor, who became the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine after Yovanovitch’s recall. He, too, has been called to testify.
Kent’s story seems emblematic: Despite his expertise on the subject and his long record of service, he alleges he was sidelined by the White House chief of staff, a political appointee and former congressman, in favor of people like Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer; Sondland, a wealthy hotelier and political ambassador; and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, a Republican politician.
Throughout his administration, Trump has routinely discarded the advice of experts. Of course, the president has the prerogative to make his own decisions. But Trump has not only opted to disregard their advice; he has decided he doesn’t need to hear it at all, making policy moves based on little information—a tendency recently demonstrated by his precipitous withdrawal from Syria.