Government watchdog Judicial Watch has been looking into claims that former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch – one of the Democrats’ star impeachment witnesses against President Trump – set up a program to spy on Americans.
Among the alleged targets were Rudy Giuliani; Donald Trump Jr.; Michael McFaul, Obama’s ambassador to Russia; and media figures Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Jack Posobiec, Dan Bongino, Ryan Saavedra, Sebastian Gorka, John Solomon, Lou Dobbs and Pamella Geller.
“Was the Ukraine Embassy illegally monitoring American critics of Ambassador Yovanovitch?” asked Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
“It is disturbing that the State Department stonewalled Judicial Watch’s requests for information on this controversy until after the impeachment of President Trump.”
Judicial Watch has filed two Freedom of Information lawsuits against the State Department to obtain documents tied to the alleged monitoring of Trump’s family, lawyer and journalists under order of Yovanovitch.
Yovanovitch was removed from her post last year. Giuliani, a personal attorney for Trump, told Laura Ingraham on “The Ingraham Angle” that he helped force out Yovanovitch because she was corrupt and obstructing the investigation into Ukraine and the Bidens.
A Fox New report about the same time said Yovanovitch “communicated via her personal email account with a Democratic congressional staffer concerning a ‘quite delicate’ and ‘time-sensitive’ matter – just two days after the whistleblower complaint that kickstarted the inquiry was filed, and a month before the complaint became public.”
The communication appeared to conflict with statements she made to U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., about an email she received Aug. 14 from a staffer, Laura Carey. Yovanovitch said under oath she never responded to the email.
Judicial Watch said it started investigating the alleged monitoring last October.
“Yovanovitch reportedly ordered monitoring keyed to the following search terms: ‘Biden,’ ‘Giuliani,’ ‘Soros’ and ‘Yovanovitch,'” the watchdog said.
“Prior to being recalled as ambassador to Ukraine in the spring Yovanovitch reportedly created a list of individuals who were to be monitored via social media and other means,” Judicial Watch said. “Ukraine embassy staff made 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,” according to a senior State Department official. If the illicit operation occurred, it seems to indicate a clear political bias against the president and his supporters. Yovanovitch, a career diplomat who has also led American embassies in Kyrgyzstan and Armenia, was appointed ambassador to Ukraine by Obama in 2016. She was recalled by the State Department in May and remains a State Department employee in Washington D.C.
The lawsuits came after the government did not respond to requests for documentation filed last October.
Judicial Watch explained: “On October 10, 2019, Congressman Devin Nunes told Sean Hannity on his program that, ‘What I’ve heard is that there were strange requests, irregular requests to monitor not just one journalist, but multiple journalists…’ Hannity followed this statement by adding, multiple sources also told him that they, ‘believe there is evidence that government resources were used to monitor communications’ of U.S. journalists and that Yovanovitch may have been involved. Yovanovitch was questioned on the issue during the impeachment proceeding in the House and seemed to deny any illegal monitoring took place.”