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Impeachment: Diplomat accuses Giuliani of 'campaign of lies' against ex-ambassador

By
Nicholas Sakelaris & Danielle Haynes
Rudy Giuliani allegedly launched a campaign of lies against former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, diplomat George Kent testified. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Rudy Giuliani allegedly launched a "campaign of lies" against former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, diplomat George Kent testified. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 7 (UPI) -- George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary at the State Department, told House Democrats last month that Rudy Giuliani launched a "campaign of lies" against the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, a transcript of his deposition released Thursday indicates.

Kent spoke to House impeachment investigators Oct. 15 in a closed-door deposition regarding President Donald Trump's attempts to press Ukraine for an investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

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He also answered questions about what led to the recall of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. He blamed Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, for pushing for her return to the United States in May, accusing her of working against the president. Her ouster drew condemnation from some career diplomats.

"Mr. Giuliani , at that point, had been carrying on a campaign for several months full of lies and incorrect information about Ambassador Yovanovitch, so this was a continuation of his campaign of lies," Kent said.

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Giuliani's "assertions and allegations against former Ambassador Yovanovitch were without basis, untrue, period."

Kent also accused Giuliani of cutting him out of decision making regarding Ukraine. His testimony aligned with that given by William Taylor, the United States' top diplomat to Ukraine. House officials released a transcript of his closed-door deposition Wednesday.

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Taylor described an "irregular, informal" policymaking channel between the United States and Ukraine involving Giuliani, former special envoy Kurt Volker, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

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The release of Kent's testimony transcript came as the first member of Vice President Mike Pence's staff, Jennifer Williams, gave her own closed-door deposition. Former national security adviser John Bolton also was supposed to appear before the congressional committees conducting the impeachment investigation, but he skipped his hearing.

Jennifer Williams, special advisor for Europe and Russia, Office of the Vice President, leaves after a closed-door deposition on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI

"Jennifer is a longtime dedicated State Department employee," Williams' attorney Justin Shur told NPR. "If required to appear, she will answer the committees' questions. We expect her testimony will largely reflect what is already in the public record."

Williams was party to the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that spawned a whistle-blower report and the House investigation. She also traveled with Pence to Poland in September to meet with Zelensky and discuss military aid.

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Taylor said in his testimony Zelensky asked at the meeting about hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military aid that Trump had withheld.

Investigators are trying to determine if Trump threatened to revoke the aid in a bid to pressure Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

"The vice president did not respond substantively but said he would talk to President Trump that night," Taylor told investigators, according to a transcript of his deposition. "[Pence] did say that President Trump wanted the Europeans to do more to support Ukraine and that he wanted Ukrainians to do more to fight corruption."

Trump eventually released the aid and has insisted he withheld the money out of fear it could be used for corrupt purposes.

"It's all a hoax. It's a scam," Trump told supporters Wednesday night at a campaign rally in Louisiana.

Pence has said he didn't discuss the Bidens with Zelensky, but noted they did talk about corruption and "the upcoming decision the president will make" about the military aid earmarked for Ukraine.

Despite Trump's repeated denials, testimony released this week shows that Sondland indicated to Zelensky's aides at the Poland meeting the military aid was contingent on Zelensky's government announcing investigations into the Bidens.

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Bolton did not appear for his scheduled deposition. Investigators scheduled a 30-minute session Thursday for Bolton, perhaps an indication they expected him to skip it, as the Trump administration has blocked a number of witnesses from cooperating.

Investigators announced Wednesday they will hold the first public impeachment hearings next week. Taylor is scheduled to appear again on Wednesday.

House Democrats said they plan to focus on three specific questions during the public hearings:

-- Did the president request that a foreign leader and government initiate investigations to benefit the president's personal political interests in the United States, including an investigation related to the president's political rival and potential opponent in the 2020 U.S. presidential election?

-- Did the president -- directly or through agents -- seek to use the power of the office of the president and other instruments of the federal government in other ways to apply pressure on the head of state and government of Ukraine to advance the president's personal political interests, including by leveraging an Oval Office meeting desired by the president of Ukraine or by withholding U.S. military assistance to Ukraine?

-- Did the president and his administration seek to obstruct, suppress or cover up information to conceal from the Congress and the American people evidence about the president's actions and conduct?

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