‘A marketing campaign of slander’: Takeaways from impeachment witness

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior State Department official supplied a few of the most pointed testimony to this point within the ongoing impeachment inquiry, alleging that President Donald Trump’s private legal professional Rudy Giuliani led a “campaign of slander” towards the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, in response to an interview transcript launched by House investigators Thursday.

George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary for European and Euroasian affairs, stated he was largely sidelined on Ukraine coverage by Trump’s interior circle as Giuliani spearheaded a marketing campaign to strain Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to analyze former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s dealings within the Eastern European nation.

Kent, a 27-year veteran of the overseas service, detailed his issues to the House panel about how he felt Giuliani usurped the State Department on Ukraine coverage and turned to a questionable former Ukraine politician to make the case for an investigation of the Bidens.

Here are a couple of of the important thing takeaways from his testimony:

TRUMP WANTED CLEAR CALL FOR INVESTIGATIONS

Kent stated that he was informed by William Taylor, the highest official in Ukraine, that he had been informed that Trump “wanted nothing less than President Zelenskiy to go to (the) microphone and say investigations, Biden, and Clinton.”

He stated Taylor had been informed that by White House aide Tim Morrison, who had talked to Gordon Sondland, Trump’s European Union ambassador. Sondland had a direct line to Trump.

Kent stated that “Clinton” was a shorthand for investigating the 2016 election.

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CAMPAIGN OF LIES

By mid-March of 2019, Kent informed investigators Giuliani had turn out to be “almost unmissable” as he started a concerted push on Twitter and in media interviews to undermine the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

In a May interview, Giuliani had stated that the ambassador was recalled as a result of she wasn’t sufficiently loyal to the president.

Kent informed House investigators that Giuliani “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.”

“I believe that Mr. Giuliani, as a U.S. citizen, has First Amendment rights to say whatever he wants, but he’s a private citizen,” Kent stated. “His assertions and allegations against former Ambassador Yovanovitch were without basis, untrue, period.”

At one level, Kent recalled that Sondland steered that Yovanovitch do a video or tweet expressing help for the president’s overseas coverage, “essentially asking her to defend herself as opposed to having the State Department defend her.”

Yovanovitch informed impeachment investigators that Trump had ordered her elimination. She is about to testify publicly subsequent week.

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CONCERNS ABOUT HUNTER BIDEN

Kent stated he had voiced issues to Biden’s workplace about Hunter Biden being on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukraine power agency, after studying of his position in February 2015. The vp’s son was paid $50,000 monthly to serve on the board.

“The message that I recall hearing back (then) was that the Vice President’s son Beau was dying of cancer and that there was no further bandwidth to deal with family related issues at that time,” Kent stated.

He stated there have been different priorities for the embassy, resembling Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the burgeoning numbers of U.S. personnel, that took precedence. Asked whether or not there had been any dialogue of getting Hunter Biden off the board, or eradicating Ukraine from the vp’s portfolio, Kent stated there wasn’t.

Trump has claimed with out proof that Biden as vp pushed Ukraine’s president on the time, Petro Poroshenko, to fireside the nation’s chief prosecutor Viktor Shokin, as a result of he was investigating Burisma. Biden and different different European allies pressed for Shokin’s firing as a result of he was not doing sufficient to battle endemic corruption in Ukraine.

Kent testified that there was “a broad-based consensus” on the time that Shokin was losing U. S. taxpayer {dollars} and stopping reform.

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GIULIANI’S PUSH FOR A SHOKIN VISA

Kent stated that in January, Giuliani had pressed the State Department to assist Shokin acquire a visa, so he may journey to the U.S. “to share information suggesting that there was corruption at the U.S. embassy.”

“Knowing Mr. Shokin, I had full faith that it was bunch of hooey, and he was looking to basically engage in a con game out of revenge because he’d lost his job,” Kent testified.

When the State Department was unwilling to assist, Giuliani reached out the White House. Trump’s Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Blair known as to inquire concerning the visa scenario.

“We laid out enough frank detail about U.5. Government engagement and assessment of Mr. Shokin. And Mr. Blair said, thank you very much, I ‘ve heard enough,” Kent recalled. “He identified his role at that point to ground truth the situation and look out after the interest of the office of the President. And I took from his response to us that he’d heard what he needed.”

The visa to Shokin was not granted.

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Associated Press writers Matthew Daly, Eric Tucker and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

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