WASHINGTON — Why Marie L. Yovanovitch, the ambassador to Ukraine, was recalled from her post two months early has become a central question in the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry into whether President Trump tried to pressure the country to investigate his political rivals. On Wednesday, David Hale, the State Department’s No. 3 official, will be pressed to provide answers.
Mr. Hale’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee will be another weighty entry in his nearly four-decade career as a diplomat. As the under secretary of state for political affairs, Mr. Hale was among the department officials who grappled with how to handle the smear campaign led by Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, to oust Ms. Yovanovitch.
Ms. Yovanovitch and Philip T. Reeker, the acting assistant secretary in charge of European and Eurasian Affairs, told investigators that they asked Mr. Hale to talk to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about issuing a statement in support of Ms. Yovanovitch. No such statement was ever made.
Mr. Hale testified behind closed doors this month that agency officials did not do so because they worried that it would “only fuel further negative reaction” and thought it would be better “to try to contain this and wait it out.”
He also testified that he believed Ms. Yovanovitch was doing a “very good job” in Ukraine and asked her to consider staying on longer, and that officials at the State Department, including Mr. Pompeo, did not find the allegations at the heart of the smear campaign to be credible.
Mr. Hale, who has taken on missions in Pakistan and Israel and to negotiate peace in the Middle East, is at the State Department at a time when career officials are accusing their leadership of abandoning veteran diplomats criticized by Mr. Trump and letting the president’s personal political agenda infect foreign policy.
In gripping testimony before the House Intelligence Committee last week, Ms. Yovanovitch offered a scathing indictment of the department’s leadership, calling top officials’ reluctance to push back against the attacks a failure “to push back as foreign and corrupt interests apparently hijacked our Ukraine policy.”
Appointed ambassador to Jordan by President George W. Bush, Mr. Hale also served as the ambassador to Lebanon and Pakistan and the special envoy for Middle East peace in the Obama administration. The Senate unanimously confirmed him to his current position in 2018.
As a child, he has said, he was inspired by his grandparents’ expansive travels to pursue a career as a diplomat, and while attending Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, he found a mentor and guide in Madeleine Albright, who taught Eastern European studies. When she became secretary of state under President Bill Clinton, Mr. Hale followed, working as her executive assistant.
“She taught me that while our strength is greatly enhanced through alliances and partnerships, there is no substitute for American leadership,” Mr. Hale testified at his confirmation hearing last year. “I am convinced American values are at the core of our nation’s success and influence and must remain there for our success to continue.”
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