Another career diplomat caught in the tangles of the Ukraine scandal is the latest witness in the House Democrats’ growing impeachment inquiry.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent arrived on Capitol Hill Tuesday morning for a closed-door deposition before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees.
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, a strong critic of the House Democrats’ impeachment process, told reporters Tuesday morning that he believed Kent had been subpoenaed to appear. The committees had to subpoena former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch for her deposition last week.
An official working on the impeachment inquiry said that “in light of an attempt by the State Department, in coordination with the White House, to direct Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent not to appear for his scheduled deposition, and efforts by the State Department to also limit any testimony that does occur, the House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena to compel his testimony this morning.”
“As is required of him, DAS Kent is now complying with the subpoena and answering questions from both Democratic and Republican Members and staff,” the official said.
The State Department has not replied to repeated inquires, and the White House declined to say whether Kent had been subpoenaed.
Kent, who has been in the foreign service since 1992, currently oversees policy for a number of eastern European nations, including Ukraine. Before that, he was the deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Kiev.
Former State Department official Molly Montgomery said Kent “is professional and one of the the US government’s foremost experts on Ukraine.” She described him as someone who has “never been shy with his opinions.”
“I imagine that he will welcome the opportunity to tell his side of the story,” she said.
Kent was among the career officials who sought to shield Yovanovitch from the campaign of false allegations against her in March 2019, 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 Kent, along with Acting Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Phil Reeker, 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.
In an email from March 27, Kent flagged to his colleagues a “totally manufactured/fake list of untouchables.” Then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko had claimed Yovanovitch had given him such a “do not prosecute” list — a claim the State Department denied and he later walked back. It was nonetheless seized upon by some in conservative media and compounded Rudy Giuliani’s campaign against Yovanovtich.
In his email, Kent noted that “one key sign of it being fake is that most of the names are misspelled in English.”
“This list appears to be an effort by Lutsenko to inoculate himself for why he did not pursue corrupt Poroshenko associates and political allies — to claim that the US told him not to,” Kent wrote, referencing the former President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. “Complete poppycock.”
Kent suggested taking a similar approach to the US Embassy in Moscow “if (they) wanted to push back hard(er),” writing, “I know US Embassy Moscow has in the past derided fake letters by circling in red all the misspellings and grammar mistakes and reposting it.”
Kent’s time as the deputy chief of mission in Kiev overlapped partially with Lutsenko’s tenure and fully with that of his predecessor in the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office, Viktor Shokin.
Both of the former prosecutors have been in communication with Giuliani, according to documents given to Congress by the State Department inspector general.
Shokin has claimed he was ousted from the job in 2016 because he was investigating Burisma, the company whose board Hunter Biden joined in 2014.
That claim has been echoed by President Donald Trump, who said that former Vice President Joe Biden wanted Shokin “off the case.” There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.
There was broad international support for Shokin’s removal due to his inaction to combat Ukrainian corruption — demands for his removal came from the Obama administration, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union.
This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.