Ousted U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch may have violated laws and government regulations by ordering subordinates to monitor prominent conservative figures, journalists and persons with ties to President Donald Trump, conservative watchdog Judicial Watch reported on Monday.
.@JudicialWatch investigates allegations U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, at direction of Obama holdover Amb. Yovanovitch, monitored, contrary to law, social and other media statements on "Biden" and "Soros," among other terms, by @RealDonaldTrump family/allies. https://t.co/IxfQdOs1YN
— Tom Fitton (@TomFitton) October 14, 2019
Judicial Watch has obtained information indicating that Yovanovitch, an Obama appointee, ordered embassy staffers in Ukraine to target certain U.S. persons online using the following search terms: “Biden, Giuliani, Soros and Yovanovitch.”
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) first raised the possibility that conservative journalists were being monitored last Wednesday on Fox News, telling host Sean Hannity that Yovanovitch had made a number of “strange” and “irregular” requests to monitor their communications.
He said that a number of Ukrainians and officials in the State Department had raised concerns about the ambassador which is why Trump ordered her removal.
According to Judicial Watch, she had created a list of individuals who were to be monitored via social media and other means, and Ukraine embassy staff submitted the request to the Washington D.C. headquarters office of the department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.
After several days, Yovanovitch’s staff was informed that the request was illegal and the monitoring either ceased or was concealed via the State Department Global Engagement Center, which has looser restrictions on collecting information.
“This is not an obscure rule, everyone in public diplomacy or public affairs knows they can’t make lists and monitor U.S. citizens unless there is a major national security reason,” a senior State Department official told Judicial Watch.
If true, Yovanovitch’s brazen behavior suggests that in the past, a less scrupulous administration allowed or even encouraged such improper snooping.
The conservative figures allegedly unlawfully monitored by the State Department in Ukraine at the request of Yovanovitch include:
Donald Trump Jr.
Michael McFaul (Obama’s ambassador to Russia)
“No wonder both @realDonaldTrump and President Zelensky of Ukraine agreed Ambassador Yonacovitch was a real problem,” President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani wrote on Twitter. “I wonder if Shiftless asked her about this? Will there be an investigation or is she another “Protected Person” like Biden & Hillary.”
No wonder both @realDonaldTrump and President Zelensky of Ukraine agreed Ambassador Yonacovitch was a real problem. I wonder if Shiftless asked her about this? Will there be an investigation or is she another “Protected Person” like Biden & Hillary. https://t.co/qpQDJbc29I
— Rudy Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) October 14, 2019
By “Shiftless,” Giuliani was, of course, referring to House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA).
Yovanovitch on Friday testified behind closed doors to the House impeachment inquiry against Trump, and someone leaked her “secret” testimony to the New York Times while the hearing was ongoing.
The former ambassador claimed in her opening statement that she was removed from office because of unfounded and “false claims by people with questionable motives,” according to the Times. And she reportedly blamed Giuliani for her removal.
Yovanovitch was recalled by the State Department in May and remains a State Department employee in Washington D.C.