State Department Foreign Service officers usually express their views in formal diplomatic cables, but these days they are using closed Facebook groups and encrypted apps to convey their pride in Marie L. Yovanovitch, the ousted ambassador to Ukraine, whose House testimony opened the floodgates on the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
#GoMasha is their rallying cry.
In private conversations, they trade admiring notes about career State Department officials like William B. Taylor Jr. and George P. Kent, who delivered damning testimony about a shadow Ukraine policy infected by partisan politics and presidential conspiracy theories, and William V. Roebuck, a senior diplomat in Syria who wrote a searing memo on how Mr. Trump abandoned the Kurds and upended American influence.
And they are opening their wallets to help raise money — including nearly $10,000 last Monday alone — to offset the legal bills of department officials called to testify before Congress.
Rarely has the State Department, often seen as a staid pillar of the establishment, been the center of a revolt against a president and his top appointees. But as a parade of department officials has recounted to lawmakers how policy was hijacked by partisan politics, many career diplomats say they have been inspired by their colleagues’ willingness to stand up to far more powerful voices after nearly three years of being ignored or disparaged by Mr. Trump and those he has chosen to lead the department.
In fact, when open impeachment hearings begin next week, the first to testify will be diplomats, appearing despite directives from the White House for administration officials to defy Congress on such requests. They will include Ms. Yovanovitch, whose abrupt recall in May under suspicious circumstances was a galvanizing moment for her colleagues.
“What we’ve seen is a dawning recognition that Foreign Service officers are just as deeply patriotic as their colleagues in the military,” said Molly Montgomery, who spent 14 years in the Foreign Service before leaving government last year after a stint in the office of Vice President Mike Pence. “There’s a feeling of immense pride that the public is seeing Foreign Service officers for who they are.”
But the uprising has come at a cost, deepening the divide between career diplomats and an administration that took office determined to cut their budget and diminish their influence. And in interviews over recent days, department officials acknowledged that this moment of team spirit would probably prove fleeting, and that the State Department would return to what current and former diplomats described as a crisis of morale.
A growing number of Foreign Service officers have opted to leave, many earlier than planned; one recent retirement class was by far the largest ever, according to the American Foreign Service Association.
Some of those who remain are shying away from plum policy jobs that in any other time would be considered a career boost. Instead, they are choosing to “hide out” in language training and other low-profile postings, hoping to avoid being tainted by the politics of the Trump administration — or even being noticed by officials watchful for dissenters.
“There’s outrage over the mistreatment of career officers and failure to stand up for them,” said William J. Burns, who served as an ambassador under four presidents and, during the Obama administration, became only the second career diplomat to ascend to deputy secretary of state. “There’s pride in the dignity of those officers in these undignified times, and in how vividly their plain-spoken courage and professionalism brings to life the wider value of public service.” [Continue reading…]