2019-10-17 11:45:521 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: George Kent (Image source: Public domain)
Just as we were learning Rudy Giuliani is far more involved in the Ukraine scandal than anyone could have imagined and that he is also ingrained in the happenings with Turkey, now we are also learning that acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is also deeply involved with Ukraine.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent testified before the House impeachment inquiry this week. He reported that Mulvaney organized a meeting this past spring. The goal was to take the Ukraine policy out of traditional channels and put Energy Secretary Rick Perry, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, and special U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker in charge.
Kent was instructed to "lay low" and focus on the other five countries he was watching over while deferring to Volker, Sondland, and Perry, who dubbed themselves the "three amigos," when it came to Ukraine, according to what Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA) told reporters.
He added that Kent took it as a sign, being that after having been critical of the plan, he was being pushed aside "because what he was saying was not welcome" at high levels of the government.
This all took place on May 23, just a few days after U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch had been relieved of her duties. She has already testified that she was pushed out of the administration by Giuliani and Trump.
Ukrainians were informed that officials would now be in charge rather than diplomats in June, according to people familiar with Kent's testimony. He added that "for some Americans from the embassy, that was news to them.
Perry has admitted that he "was involved in that [Ukraine policy] more than anybody," yet also insists he "never saw or heard anything that was untoward, not by the president, not by anybody."
Connolly took heat from top Republicans for speaking about the proceedings, as they were told not to discuss it.
"He was barely there, and he walks out and starts telling the public of what substantively happened behind closed doors," complained Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY). "This is a disgusting strategy that has been on display."
Giuliani has accused Yovanovicth and Kent of trying to protect former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. This had all been set in motion by Trump asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens.
Internal documents have been turned over to Congress that show in March Kent had begun to suspect that Yovanovitch had become the target of a "classic disinformation operation," and he raised those concerns with his superiors.
Connolly said Kent testified that Giuliani relied on former Ukrainian prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko for information that would damage Yovanovitch. This was also shared with former Hill columnist John Solomon. The prosecutor wanted Yovanovitch out of the picture and persuaded Giuliani with disinformation that she would be a problem. Giuliani, in turn, persuaded Trump.
"As he said, the consequence was to undermine 28 years of our efforts to promote the rule of law by actually doing something corrupt ourselves," Connolly said of Kent's testimony.
Giuliani and the Hill had earlier alleged that Yovanovitch gave Ukrainian officials a "do not prosecute list" to protect Biden and their supposed allies. But Kent told his colleagues the list was fake because of incorrect name spellings that he and Yovanovitch would have never written.
The inspector general's documents show that Kent took his concerns to a U.S. diplomat in Europe, Philip Reeker, and that he later forwarded them to David Hale, the No. 3 official at the department, and T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, a State Department counselor and close confidant of Pompeo.
Sondland is testifying on Thursday and is expected to testify that Trump was behind Giuliani pushing the Ukraine scheme.
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