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State Department official told to lie low after raising complaints about Giuliani

Andrew Harkin/AP

State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent told lawmakers on Tuesday that he had been told by a supervisor to lie low after he raised complaints about Rudy Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine undermining US foreign policy, according to Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly, a senior member of the House Oversight Committee.

Connolly, a Virginia lawmaker, said Kent described Giuliani’s campaign to oust the US ambassador to Ukraine outside of the State Department channels as having “undermined 28 years of US efforts to try to promote the rule of law in Ukraine.”

Kent testified behind closed doors on Tuesday before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump and Ukraine.

Kent’s testimony described how he believed Giuliani’s efforts to oust the Ukrainian ambassador and conduct a parallel foreign policy was “wrong” and how Ukraine policy-making in the Trump administration had been consolidated into the hands of a few officials, according to Connolly.

Kent told lawmakers in his role as deputy assistant secretary in the European and Eurasian Bureau, he was responsible for six countries, including Ukraine.

Connolly said that Kent testified when he was given a warning to lie low, he took time off he had already scheduled to attend his daughter’s wedding and then go hiking in Maine.

When he returned, he said, he focused on the other countries.

“He took that as a warning that you are outspoken and you’re being critical of the plan,” Connolly said. Kent was among the career officials who sought to shield US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie 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.

Connolly said Kent testified that Trump removed Yovanovitch after he heard the false narrative being echoed by Giuliani and his associates that was critical of the ambassador.

The White House’s former top Russia adviser Fiona Hill had told the committees on Monday that she had also raised concerns about Giuliani and that former national security adviser John Bolton warned that the President’s personal lawyer was like a “hand grenade.”

The testimony from Hill and Kent is part of the Democratic impeachment investigation into Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky — in which Trump urged Zelensky to investigate Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden — as well as the freezing of foreign aid to Ukraine and the efforts led by Giuliani to push the Ukrainians to open an investigation.

Kent testified that at a May meeting at the White House organized by acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, officials were told that three people would be in charge of Ukraine policy: then-Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Connolly said.

After the meeting, Connolly said the three officials conveyed to the Ukrainian President that they were handling Ukraine policy.

Connolly told reporters that Volker called Sondland, Perry and Volker the “three amigos.”

Volker has testified before the congressional committees earlier this month and provided text messages showing how the Ukrainians’ desire for a meeting between the two presidents was linked to the Ukrainians opening an investigation.

Sondland, who has been subpoenaed, is expected to testify Thursday.

Republicans once again accused Democrats of running an impeachment investigation that was unfair to the US President, charging they were selectively leaking information to fit their narrative and should release transcripts of the interviews.

Rep. Lee Zeldin, a New York Republican, specifically criticized Connolly for speaking to reporters about Kent’s interview.

“He was barely there, and he walks out and he starts telling the public of what substantively happened behind closed doors,” Zeldin said. “This is a disgusting strategy that has been on display.”

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, who is leading the impeachment investigation, told reporters Tuesday that they have made “dramatic progress in answering some of the questions” surrounding the call. But the California President also criticized the State Department, charging that witnesses had provided documents to State that were not being turned over to Congress.

“We know from the additional witnesses who have come forward that there are additional documents that they have provided the State Department but have not been given to Congress,” Schiff said. “And so the evidence of obstruction of Congress continues to mount.”

This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.

Article Topic Follows: Politics

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