On Thursday, the House impeachment inquiry released the deposition of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent. Ukraine was one of the countries that fell under Kent’s jurisdiction, and his questioning covered a broad range of topics including: the effort to remove Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, Trump’s attempts to extract political favors in exchange for military assistance, the effect of lies and misstatements about Ukraine on U.S. foreign policy, and the apparently limitless jackassery of Rudy Giuliani.
There was Giuliani’s attempt to get a visa for disgraced former prosecutor Viktor Shokin, who Giuliani claimed had important information to share.
Staff: And did you understand what he was referring to?
Kent: Knowing Mr. Shokin, I had full faith that it was a bunch of hooey, and he was looking to basically engage in a con game out of revenge because he’d lost his job.
Then there was Giuliani’s role in helping to remove Ambassador Yovanovitch because she had genuinely been fighting corruption and pushing for prosecution of criminal activity.
Staff: In your belief, in your understanding, in your experience, why was the Ambassador recalled?
Kent: 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.
Much of Kent’s testimony shows the extent to which Rudy Giuliani was a tool of anyone who claimed to have information that would help Trump. And also how Giuliani is simply a tool.
And he’s not the only one.
By March 2019, Kent testified that Giulani was an “unmissable” presence in Ukraine as he conducted a “campaign of slander” against Ambassador Yovanovitch and others. Not only was Giuliani getting air time in both the U.S. and Ukraine to make statements slamming the ambassador and others in the State Department, but by the time the Ukrainian election rolled around, there were more attacks being directed at Ambassador Yovanovitch than against Russia or opposing political candidates.
Like many others inside the State Department, Kent pressed for a “clear statement of support” for Yovanovitch. And like all those others, he didn’t get it. What he got instead was the opposite of support.
Staff: And so is it fair to say this was a big league crisis for the Ambassador?
Kent: This particularly after there were Tweets by members of the Presidential family. It was clearly a crisis for Ambassador Yovanovitch and a crisis that was threatening to consume the relationship. So our recommendation to our superiors was that there should be a clear statement of support for Ambassador Yovanovitch.
By “members of the presidential family,” Kent means of course that Donald Trump Jr. engaged in promoting the smear against Yovanovitch. But there was one suggestion on how this could be resolved.
Kent:: There was a suggestion made … that Ambassador Yovanovitch should issue a statement, or do a video or tweet declaring full support for the foreign policy of President Trump, essentially asking her to defend herself as opposed to having the State Department defend her.
Kent testified that Giuliani directed a “campaign of lies” toward Yovanovitch that “were without basis and untrue. Period.” But it wasn’t just the former ambassador who came in for attack by Giuliani and his genuinely corrupt friends. New Ambassador William Taylor was also told to “keep his head down” after an attack by Giuliani. So was Kent.
And on the subject of the pressure applied to Ukraine, Kent made it clear that special envoy Kurt Volker played a very special role.
Kent: … prior to the meeting, Ambassador Volker told me that he would need to have a private meeting separately with the President, that he would pull him aside. And he explained to me that the purpose of that private conversation was to underscore the importance of the messaging that Zelensky needed to provide to President Trump about his willingness to be cooperative.
Kent testified that this meeting happened with Kent still standing just 10 feet away as Volker “provided details” about the messaging that Zelensky needed to provide to please Trump.
Everyone, both on the U.S. team and the Ukrainian team, knew what Trump wanted out of Zelensky. And Kent also made clear that everyone was aware of the stakes.
Kent: … [an OMB spokesperson] just stated to the rest of the those participants, either in person or video screens, that the head of the Office of Management and Budget who was the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, at the direction of the President had put a hold on all security assistance to the Ukraine.
Staff: Mulvaney had put a hold at the direction of the President. Is that what you heard?
Kent: That is what the representative of the Office of Management and Budget stated in the sub-PCC on July 18th, yes.
All on its own, Kent’s testimony is enough to support the case for indictment. But then … so are several other testimonies.