A top US diplomat told congressional investigators that President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani waged a “campaign full of lies and incorrect information” against Marie Yovanovitch before she was recalled as ambassador to Ukraine, according to a transcript of his testimony released on Thursday.
“His assertions and allegations against former Ambassador Yovanovitch were without basis, untrue, period,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent told lawmakers during a closed-door session on Oct. 15 as part of their impeachment probe of Trump.
Kent, who had served as a top diplomat in Ukraine, also said he was subject to attacks by Giuliani and was told to “keep his head down” by a senior State Department official.
He said that a former crooked prosecutor general of Ukraine, Yuriy Lutsenko, along with Giuliani and two Soviet-born associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, had orchestrated a smear campaign against Yovanovitch, a career diplomat whom Trump recalled in May.
“Based on what I know, Yuriy Lutsenko, as prosecutor general, vowed revenge, and provided information to Rudy Giuliani in hopes that he would spread it and lead to her removal. I believe that was the rationale for Yuriy Lutsenko doing what he did,” he said, referring to Yovanovitch’s efforts to expose Lutsenko’s corruption.
“Separately, there are individuals that I mentioned before, including Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who started reaching out actively to undermine Ambassador Yovanovitch, starting in 2018 with a meeting with former Congressman Pete Sessions on May 9th, 2018, the same day he wrote a letter to Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo impugning Ambassador Yovanovitch’s loyalty and suggesting that she be removed.”
Kent also said there were three words Trump wanted to hear from the Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky: ”Investigations, Biden and Clinton.”
“Potus wanted nothing less than President Zelensky to go to the microphone and say investigations, Biden and Clinton,” Kent testified.
“That was the message. Zelensky needed to go to a microphone and basically there needed to be three words in the message, and that was the shorthand,” he said.
Kent told investigators that that was his understanding of what Trump wanted Zelensky to say in public, based on conversations relayed to him by others in the administration who were in contact with Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland.
Clinton, he clarified, was “shorthand” for the 2016 election.
It was a reference to Trump’s view, pushed by Giuliani but outside of mainstream US intelligence, that Ukraine and not Russia played a role interfering in the 2016 presidential election.
House investigators are releasing key transcripts from hours of closed-door interviews in the impeachment inquiry as they prepare for public sessions with witnesses next week.
Kent, a career official at the State Department, testified that he was told to “lay low” on Ukraine policy as the Trump administration and Giuliani were interacting with Ukraine outside of regular foreign policy channels.
The impeachment probe was sparked by a whistleblower’s complaint that Trump had pressed Zelensky for the probes during a July 25 phone call at the same time that he had ordered that nearly $400 million in military aid be withheld.
Trump denied wrongdoing, and the aid was released in September after a bipartisan uproar in Congress.
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