President Donald Trump wanted Ukraine’s president to stand at a microphone and say three words: investigations, Biden and Clinton, a top State Department official testified.
Democrats looking into whether Trump should be impeached released a transcript of last month’s testimony by deputy assistant secretary of state George Kent.
Kent said the words Trump wanted to hear from Volodomyr Zelenskiy were relayed to Kent by others in the administration who dealt directly with Trump.
“That was the message — Zelenskiy needed to go to a microphone and basically there needed to be three words in the message, and that was the shorthand,” Kent was quoted as saying.
Why was military aid withheld
Democrats want to know if Trump withheld $400 million in military aid to Ukraine unless Zelenskiy publicly committed himself to investigating 2020 Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden for corruption. Trump also insists Ukraine meddled in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Democrats and their candidate, Hillary Clinton.
Kent said he was concerned about “an effort to initiate politically motivated prosecutions that were injurious to the rule of law, both in Ukraine and the U.S.”
Kent also testified that Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, carried out a “campaign of lies” against U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch before Trump fired her.
“His assertions and allegations against former Ambassador Yovanovitch were without basis, untrue. Period,” Kent testified. “Mr. Giuliani … had been carrying on a campaign for several months full of lies and incorrect information.”
Kent said he was also a target of Giuliani’s attacks and was told to “keep his head down” when it came to Ukraine.
“Giuliani was not consulting with the State Department about what he was doing in the first half of 2019. And to the best of my knowledge, he’s never suggested that he was promoting U.S. policy.”
Democrats and others in the administration have accused Giuliani of a “shadow foreign policy” behind the backs of the State Department by pressuring the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden, his son, Hunter, and Democrats.
No evidence of corruption against the Bidens has surfaced. Accusations that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election are based on unfounded conspiracy theories.
Kent, Yovanovitch and current U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor are scheduled to testify in public next week.
Pence adviser testifies
On Thursday, the impeachment inquiry heard testimony from Jennifer Williams, a special adviser to Vice President Mike Pence.
Williams reportedly testified that the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy, in which Trump urged him to investigate the Bidens, was unusual because she said the gist was political, not diplomatic.
She reportedly said she never heard Pence mention anything about investigating the Bidens or Democrats.
Trump has described his telephone call with Zelenskiy as “perfect” and is accusing Democrats of conducting a witch hunt, calling the entire impeachment inquiry a hoax.
He fiercely denies any quid pro quo with Ukraine.
While some of Trump’s Republican supporters are finding it hard to defend his actions, they say they do not believe his request for an investigation into the Bidens is an impeachable offense that could lead to his removal from office.