KYIV — In the summer of 2018, an American evangelical pastor and dozens of Ukrainian Christian groups prayed for Marie Yovanovitch to be fired from her job as the US ambassador to Kyiv. With their prayers still unanswered a few months later, they put their faith in fellow evangelical Christian Mike Pompeo instead, sending a letter to the US secretary of state via a trusted Republican political appointee at the State Department.
A copy of the letter was provided to TheNewstip by the pastor, Dale Armstrong, following an interview in Kyiv last Thursday, coincidentally just hours before Pompeo arrived in the Ukrainian capital to meet President Volodymyr Zelensky — the most senior Trump administration official to do so since the process to impeach the US president began.
In the letter, Armstrong and 39 conservative Christian groups demanded that Yovanovitch be fired for supporting LGBTQ rights and undermining President Donald Trump's “conservative policy for the USA and its foreign policy.”
“We, the public and religious organizations of Ukraine, demand the Congress and the U.S. authorities to recall the U.S. Ambassador and give the appropriate assessment of her actions that openly discredit President Trump,” the letter said.
Armstrong said he was later relayed a message from Pompeo that said Yovanovitch would be “retiring” next year. The State Department didn't respond to a request for comment from Pompeo.
The back-channel Ukraine campaign of Rudy Giuliani — a lawyer working for Trump — and Giulianis's associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman has been a focus of House Democrats leading the impeachment drive that looks set to end with Trump's acquittal in the Senate on Wednesday. It was cited by top US State Department officials, including Yovanovitch herself, in public testimonies last fall as the main driver for her recall.
But the parallel Ukraine campaign by Armstrong has not previously been reported. In an interview with TheNewstip in Kyiv, Armstrong said he “rejoiced” when Yovanovitch was eventually recalled from her post in May 2019, even though he thought his efforts had “zero” impact on the decision to sack her. That's somewhat contradictory to the suggestion he made in a July blog post, in which he wrote:
I presented a document to our Secretary of State, Mr. Pompeo, signed by more than 20 Christian NGOs in Ukraine, who filed a petition to remove the Obama appointed Ambassador to Ukraine, objecting to the Ambassador's flagrant emphasis on LGBT issues, and trampling at every opportunity on the rights of the family. The Ambassador was removed earlier than expected much to the shock of the Democratic Party. There was quite a bit of controversy about that in the newspapers, as well.
Armstrong deleted the blog post after journalists began digging into him, but an archived version was accessed by TheNewstip.