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Top official to blame political considerations for lack of Ukraine ambassador’s defense: report

A top State Department official is expected to testify that political considerations were to blame for the department’s lack of a defense for former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.

David Hale, the third-ranking official in the department, reportedly intends to tell the House impeachment investigators on Wednesday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other leading department officials decided that defending Yovanovitch would damage the U.S.’s ability to provide military aid to Ukraine.

The highest-ranking career diplomat in the foreign service will say department leaders also took into account concerns that protecting the ambassador would provoke President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who advocated for her recall, the AP reported.

Unidentified sources told the news service that Hale would take efforts to remove himself from the debate over defending Yovanovitch by pulling out of email exchanges, including one in which a senior Pompeo adviser tried to persuade the secretary to stick up for Yovanovitch after the partial transcript of the phone call between Trump and Ukraine’s president was released.

One source told the AP that Hale had “tried to take himself out of the loop on Ukraine,” while another said the official would back Pompeo’s decision to not defend the ambassador as “politically smart” for the department.

State Department counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl was also subpoenaed to testify on Wednesday in front of the House panels, but got on a plane with Pompeo heading to Germany in the morning, according to the news service.

Yovanovitch was removed from her position in May and told House impeachment investigators that Giuliani and others attempted to push her out, adding that she felt threatened. The transcript of her private testimony on Oct. 11 was released Monday.

The House’s impeachment inquiry began after reports circulated that the president asked the Ukrainian president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son days after withholding military aid to Kiev. The White House released a partial transcript of the July 25 phone call between the two leaders after it came under scrutiny.

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