WASHINGTON (CN) – House Democrats on Thursday released the transcript of a State Department official who says he had concerns about U.S.-Ukraine diplomatic policy but was rebuffed.
Behind closed doors last month, George Kent told impeachment inquiry investigators he was instructed to “lay low” after raising concerns about the role President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani had in diplomatic matters.
Kent is the deputy assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. Last month, during his testimony before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees, he relayed a litany of concerns he had regarding apparent attempts by Giuliani to “throw mud” at State Department officials like former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.
Representative Mike Quigley, D-Illinois, pressed Kent about why be believed Yovanovitch was recalled and when he first became aware of Giuliani’s “activities in Ukraine.”
“What was your understanding while this was happening of what his role was?” Quigley said. “A personal attorney working somehow for the government working as a campaign person's attorney?”
Kent said that, to the best of his knowledge, Giuliani had no contact with anyone at the State Department during the first phase of his talks with Ukrainians and his “efforts to orchestrate a media campaign.”
“When I say the first phase, that is essentially the phase involving Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko through the election of President Zelensky which occurred on April 21,” Kent said.
Kent also described Giuliani’s role in orchestrating connections with information Lutsenko as a classic “you-scratch-my-back, I-scratch-yours issue,” he said.
It was at some point in July, Kent said, when Kurt Volker, the special envoy to Ukraine at the time, disclosed that he would be reaching out to Giuliani.
Kent believed Lutsenko wanted revenge because he was “bitter and angry” for the U.S. Embassy’s position on anti-corruption in Ukraine. That prompted him to spin a negative narrative about Yovanovitch to Giuliani — one that Kent said Lutsenko expected would lead to her removal.
It would become a “campaign full of lies and incorrect information” about Yovanovitch run by the president’s personal attorney, Kent testified.
Kent also noted that the campaign against Yovanovitch was aided by Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two Ukrainian-born business contacts of Giuliani.
Parnas and Fruman were indicted in New York last month. As described in that case, the pair continued to prod Giuliani to lean on Ukraine for an investigation federal prosecutors while also arranging a meeting with then-Congressman Pete Sessions.
Offering the Texas Republican $20,000, Parnas and Fruman sought to enlist Sessions’ assistance “in causing the U.S. government to remove or recall the then U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.”