The top State Department official overseeing US policy in Europe and Eurasia is the latest witness in the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
Ambassador Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, is appearing Saturday before the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees. As has been the case for all the other State Department officials who have testified in the probe, Reeker was subpoenaed to appear, according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry.
Reeker’s Saturday testimony comes as the House works to move forward expeditiously with its closed-door depositions as part of the impeachment inquiry. Testimonies were canceled this week on Thursday and Friday in light of Rep. Elijah Cummings’ memorial and funeral.
Reeker is well-regarded among those who know him, with multiple officials pointing to his smarts.
“He is one of the more creative and independent-minded people you will find in the State Department,” a former State Department official who knows him told CNN. “He is a problem-solver.”
However, sources suggest he won’t be bringing any bombshells to his testimony.
“I have a feeling his testimony will simply be repeating what other people said,” the former State Department official said, noting Reeker’s status as an acting secretary.
“He is in a tenuous position. I do not think he is in a position to go to bat for the foreign service because if he puts up a stink I am not sure he will stick around for much longer,” a State Department official said. “They could reassign him at moment’s notice.”
Reeker has served in the role in an acting capacity since March following the departure of A. Wess Mitchell in February. He has known former US Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker, who was an early witness in the impeachment inquiry, for decades. According to the former State Department official, the two would check in with each other, and Volker wanted to keep Reeker in the loop on what was happening with US-Ukrainian relations. That official said they did discuss President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and that Volker had told Reeker about when he met with Giuliani. Reeker seemed to indicate he did not want to get involved with the matter, according to the official.
However, Reeker was among the State Department officials who sought to shield former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch from the campaign of false allegations against her in March, according to internal emails turned over to Congress by State Department Inspector General Steve Linick in early October. Yovanovitch was removed from her post in May.
Those emails show Reeker, along with George Kent, another diplomat who has testified in the impeachment probe, working to provide department counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl and Undersecretary for Political Affairs David Hale with facts to counter the conspiratorial narratives being pushed about the career diplomat.
On March 31, Reeker forwarded a list of “fake news driven smear out of Ukraine” and counter-examples to Brechbuhl, writing: “It’s a good summary of the story lines being peddled in the this, with a good balance of facts.”
“Reading through helps with context,” Reeker added. Not long after, he followed up with another email of US coverage on Ukraine to Brechbuhl, highlighting a particular paragraph as an example that “captures the basic fake narrative.”
“(The) assumption that (Yovanovitch) is some kind of ‘liberal outpost … leading a political struggle’ really is without merit or validation,” he wrote.