The three House of Representatives committees leading the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump released the transcript of the deposition by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent on Thursday.
The House of Representatives is currently investigating Trump for allegedly attempting to induce the government of Ukraine into publicly launching an investigation into former Vice President and potential Democratic Party presidential candidate Joe Biden in an effort to discredit Biden. As part of the formalized public impeachment proceedings adopted by the House at the end of October, the House committees are releasing transcripts of the depositions previously conducted in closed depositions with administration officials. Kent testified before the House committees on October 15 despite objections by the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers that the impeachment inquiry was unlawful and witnesses were not required to appear when subpoenaed.
Although Kent’s role in the European and Eurasian bureau of the Department of State is to oversee government policy towards Ukraine, he said that he had been nearly cut out of decision making in the region by the Trump administration. Kent said in his testimony that Trump and his staff had muscled aside the career diplomats and regional experts on Eastern Europe employed at the State Department in favor of running communications through his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. According to Kent, he was instructed to “keep [his] head down” and let Giuliani handle Ukraine policy by Under Secretary of State for Diplomatic Affairs David Hale. Giuliani has been repeatedly implicated as the person who led the effort to extort the Ukrainian government by a number of the other witnesses called in the impeachment inquiry.
In addition, Kent testified that former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was targeted by the Trump administration and subjected to a “smear campaign” for refusing to go along with the scheme to pressure the Ukrainian government. He described the situation as a “campaign of lies” that eventually led to her recall. Kent said that he attempted to have the State Department issue a statement to publically support Yovanovitch but was repeatedly rebuffed by Department leaders. Yovanovitch was recalled from her post as ambassador to Ukraine in April, shortly before Giuliani met with leaders of the country.
The release of Kent’s deposition transcript comes just days after the House impeachment committees released transcripts from testimony by Yovanovitch, William Taylor, the senior US diplomat in Ukraine, and Michael McKinsley, a former advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.