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State Department Ukraine experts next up in impeachment inquiry

Two State Department experts on Ukraine are slated to become the latest diplomats thrust into the spotlight as part of the House impeachment inquiry.

Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson are scheduled to testify in separate closed-door hearings before the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees on Wednesday.

The foreign service officers, described as “two stars of the midlevel ranks” by a former State Department colleague, each worked as deputy to then-Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker. That colleague told CNN that the State Department always picked its “best people” to take Ukraine jobs due to the challenging nature of the work.

“They’re both patriots and professionals who are going to seek to give the committee a full picture of what their relevant knowledge and experiences were,” former State Department official Molly Montgomery told CNN.

Croft took over the role from Anderson in the summer of 2019. She had previously served at the National Security Council, focusing on Ukraine issues, and on the State Department’s Ukraine desk. Anderson is now taking language courses at the Foreign Service Institute ahead of his next overseas posting. He served at the US Embassy in Kiev. Both have long memories of established US-Ukraine policy — another former State Department official who worked with them said they were “steeped in the policy issues.” According to their prepared opening statements, both Anderson and Croft will testify to this wealth of experience.

Sources familiar with Croft and Anderson told CNN that they had been expected to be called to testify for weeks.

Volker, who resigned from his role as special envoy in late September, was the first witness to appear in the impeachment probe in early October. In addition to testifying about his role connecting President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, with Ukrainian leadership, Volker turned over a series of damning text messages between himself, US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and Bill Taylor, the chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Kiev. The latter two diplomats have also appeared before the committees.

The first former State Department colleague told CNN that they believe the committees will get “good information” from Croft’s and Anderson’s testimony. As Volker’s deputy, Anderson “would have known the schedule, who (Volker) was getting calls from,” they said.

“I think he’ll know the tick tock,” they said, but added that “he may not be able to offer first-person corroboration.”

The second former State Department official noted that Croft and Anderson were part of the “pretty small circle” of officials who worked on Ukraine issues — many of whom have testified in the impeachment inquiry. That official told CNN they believed the testimony “will largely serve to buttress the accounts that we’ve heard so far.”

Both diplomats are expected to lay out clear timelines of their involvement in matters related to the impeachment inquiry and their interactions with many of the officials in that “pretty small circle,” according to their opening statements.

A source familiar with their testimony told CNN that there are expected to be blind spots in what Croft and Anderson knew. Anderson left the role in July, which is when Giuliani’s direct involvement intensified. When Croft took over the role, Giuliani’s influence was more pronounced. According to her prepared statement, “Ambassador Volker’s conversations with Giuliani were separate from my work, and I was generally unaware of when they spoke or what they spoke about.”

Croft might be able to speak about red flags that were raised about Ukraine from her time on the National Security Council, two sources said. One of the former State Department officials said Croft took a “very specific interest in the” political-military portfolio. Another of the sources noted that she was in meetings in which Ukraine assistance was questioned well before it was officially put on hold. In her statement, she noted that in her time at NSC, she “heard — directly and indirectly — President Trump describe Ukraine as a corrupt country.”

CNN