State Dept. official testifies of shadow Ukraine policy by White House
WASHINGTON — Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent testified to House impeachment investigators on Tuesday about a shadow foreign policy approach by the White House with respect to Ukraine.
The most senior-ranking Trump administration official to testify to date detailed how the White House attempted to redirect Ukraine policy out of traditional channels to political appointees.
Mr Kent told House investigators that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney instructed him to defer on Ukraine matters to three officials who called themselves the “three amigos”.
He identified the officials put in charge by Mr Mulvaney as Energy Secretary Rick Perry, US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, and US special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker.
Mr Kent said the decision, and instruction for him to “lay low”, was communicated to him during a May 23 meeting convened by Mr Mulvaney, Rep. Gerald Connelly told reporters.
The meeting came just days after the administration recalled Marie Yovanovitch form her post as US Ambassador to Ukraine, a move she said was organised by the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Mr Kent recalled the episode during a closed-door hearing with the House Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs panels, which are involved in the impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump.
The details from his testimony suggest the decision to hand Ukraine policy from career diplomats to political appointees came several weeks before Mr Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president.
House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry after it emerged Mr Trump had pressured Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate presidential candidate and political rival Joe Biden.
Mr Kent appeared before lawmakers on Capitol Hill in defiance of orders from the State Department and the White House after the House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena for his testimony.
Damming details have continued to surface in the inquiry even amid attempts by the White House to stem the flow, though vice president Mike Pence on Tuesday refused to provide any cooperation.
The account came after a bruising day for the president when former top White House advisor Fiona Hill said she and National Security Advisor John Bolton objected to the shift in Ukraine policy.
Ms Hill in her testimony quoted Mr Bolton as warning he would not be part of any “drug deal” between other White House appointees and Ukraine, calling Mr Giuliani a hand grenade.