State Dept. official told to 'lay low' after voicing concerns about Giuliani: Dem lawmaker

Source: The Hill | October 15, 2019 | Olivia Beavers and Mike Lillis

A top State Department official told House investigators behind closed doors Tuesday that he had raised concerns about Rudy Giuliani’s contacts with Ukraine as early as March of this year, which prompted a supervisor to warn him to “lay low,” according to one Democrat present during the deposition.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent testified for roughly 10 hours about efforts by President Trump and Giuliani, his personal lawyer, to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open a corruption investigation into one of his top political opponents, 2020 Democratic candidate Joe Biden.

“What I can say is he was clearly bothered by the role Mr. Giuliani was playing and the disinformation he was spreading,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, told reporters after leaving the gathering.

Connolly said Kent expressed concerns with what he described as an informal — and dangerous — alliance between three figures wrapped up in the Ukraine affair: Giuliani; Yuriy Lutsenko, Ukraine’s former chief prosecutor; and John Solomon, a former opinion contributor at The Hill, who wrote a series of columns critical of the Bidens.

The three worked in concert, Kent testified, according to Connolly, on a mission to oust Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was removed in May, and press Ukrainian leaders to investigate the Bidens for the purpose of boosting Trump’s reelection chances next year.

“There was this sort of … unhealthy triad of Giuliani, Solomon and Lutsenko repeating and echoing each other, all based on disinformation,” Connolly said, relaying Kent’s message.

“Lutsenko had his own vendettas — one of which apparently was to get at our ambassador, to get her out of the way. And he persuaded Giuliani that she was a problem for him too. And then Giuliani then persuaded the president,” he added.

“And it’s sort of this unholy alliance — or unholy triad — that somehow managed to seize control of U.S. foreign policy with respect to Ukraine,” Connolly continued. “And as [Kent] said, the consequence would [be to] undermine 28 years of our efforts to promote the rule of law by actually doing something corrupt ourselves.”

A source familiar with the matter also said Kent testified that while the State Department viewed former prosecutor general Viktor Shokin as corrupt, Lutsenko was considered to be just as bad.

The Virginia Democrat also underpinned growing scrutiny of individuals who circumvented the proper channels for carrying out Ukraine policy, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, and former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker.

Kent described a May 23 meeting, organized by Mulvaney, where “it was determined that … responsibility for U.S.-Ukraine policy was to be transferred to three individuals: Volker, Sondland and [Energy Secretary] Rick Perry,” Connolly said.

The group dubbed themselves “the three amigos,” Connolly continued, citing Kent.

“They revealed that decision at a meeting with Zelensky in Kiev, I believe on June 2,” Connolly said. “And for some Americans from the embassy, that was news to them.”

Connolly was by far the most talkative participant in Tuesday’s deposition. Other Democrats left the gathering saying broadly that Kent’s testimony validates the whistleblower complaint but without providing details.

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