Union Raises $500,000 to Pay Diplomats’ Impeachment Legal Costs

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(Bloomberg) -- The union that represents American foreign service officers has raised $500,000 to cover the costs of the career diplomats who appeared before the congressional impeachment inquiry, an amount it says should be enough to make sure they don’t pay out-of-pocket.

The money will be pooled with funds provided by the State Department, which agreed to compensate legal fees of up to $300 per hour for active duty diplomats, according to Eric Rubin, the president of the American Foreign Service Officers Association. Some lawyers offered their services for free.

Union Raises $500,000 to Pay Diplomats’ Impeachment Legal Costs

“It’s very important to show our colleagues, whether they’re in the foreign service or considering joining, that while we hope this doesn’t happen again, if it did, we have their backs,” Rubin said.

According to Rubin, legal costs incurred by those who testified -- a group that included current and retired foreign service officers -- was as high as $1,600 an hour. And some diplomats aren’t ruling out the possibility that they will be asked to testify again after House Democrats eventually send President Donald Trump’s impeachment to the Senate.

Among those to testify to the House impeachment inquiry were the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, and the acting assistant secretary for Europe, Phil Reeker. They appeared before the House Intelligence Committee even though Trump had told executive branch staff not to cooperate with the impeachment investigation, and their own boss, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, warned them against appearing.

“The position that our colleagues in the foreign service were initially put in was impossible,” Rubin said. “They were told by the president that they could not participate and then were given subpoenas. That was an agonizing situation and no one can recall anything like it.”

The AFSA legal fund was only for current and former career diplomats, and didn’t cover political appointees such as Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, or current and former National Security Council staff who testified.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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