State Dept. official told to lay low after voicing concerns about Giuliani: Dem lawmaker

A top State Department official told House investigators behind closed doors Tuesday that he had raised concerns about Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiCapitol insurrection hearing exposes Trumpworld delusions DOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's riot lawsuit Bob Dole: 'I'm a Trumper' but 'I'm sort of Trumped out' MORE’s contacts with Ukraine as early as March of this year, which prompted a supervisor to warn him to lay low, according to one Democrat present during the deposition.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent testified for roughly 10 hours about efforts by President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Gosar's siblings pen op-ed urging for his resignation: 'You are immune to shame' Sunday shows - Delta variant, infrastructure dominate MORE and Giuliani, his personal lawyer, to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open a corruption investigation into one of his top political opponents, 2020 Democratic candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenGOP report on COVID-19 origins homes in on lab leak theory READ: The .2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Senators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session MORE.

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“What I can say is he was clearly bothered by the role Mr. Giuliani was playing and the disinformation he was spreading,” Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyHouse bill targets US passport backlog Democrats weigh next steps on Jan. 6 probe Tlaib, Democrats slam GOP calls for border oversight to fight opioid crisis MORE (D-Va.), a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, told reporters after leaving the gathering.

Connolly said Kent expressed concerns with what he described as an informal — and dangerous — alliance between three figures wrapped up in the Ukraine affair: Giuliani; Yuriy Lutsenko, Ukraine's former chief prosecutor; and John Solomon, a former opinion contributor at The Hill, who wrote a series of columns critical of the Bidens.

The three worked in concert, Kent testified, according to Connolly, on a mission to oust Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was removed in May, and press Ukrainian leaders to investigate the Bidens for the purpose of boosting Trump's reelection chances next year.

"There was this sort of ... unhealthy triad of Giuliani, Solomon and Lutsenko repeating and echoing each other, all based on disinformation," Connolly said, relaying Kent's message.

"Lutsenko had his own vendettas — one of which apparently was to get at our ambassador, to get her out of the way. And he persuaded Giuliani that she was a problem for him too. And then Giuliani then persuaded the president," he added.

"And it's sort of this unholy alliance — or unholy triad — that somehow managed to seize control of U.S. foreign policy with respect to Ukraine," Connolly continued. "And as [Kent] said, the consequence would [be to] undermine 28 years of our efforts to promote the rule of law by actually doing something corrupt ourselves."

A source familiar with the matter also said Kent testified that while the State Department viewed former prosecutor general Viktor Shokin as corrupt, Lutsenko was considered to be just as bad.

The Virginia Democrat also underpinned growing scrutiny of individuals who circumvented the proper channels for carrying out Ukraine policy, including acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyHeadhunters having hard time finding jobs for former Trump officials: report Trump holdovers are denying Social Security benefits to the hardest working Americans Mulvaney calls Trump's comments on Capitol riot 'manifestly false' MORE, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, and former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerCNN obtains audio of 2019 Giuliani call linked to Ukraine meddling allegations GOP senators request details on Hunter Biden's travel for probe Yovanovitch retires from State Department: reports MORE.

Kent described a May 23 meeting, organized by Mulvaney, where “it was determined that ... responsibility for U.S.-Ukraine policy was to be transferred to three individuals: Volker, Sondland and [Energy Secretary] Rick PerryRick PerryCollege football move rocks Texas legislature Trump tries to spin failed Texas endorsement: 'This was a win' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Officers recount the horror of Jan. 6 MORE,” Connolly said.

The group dubbed themselves “the three amigos,” Connolly continued, citing Kent.

“They revealed that decision at a meeting with Zelensky in Kiev, I believe on June 2,” Connolly said. “And for some Americans from the embassy, that was news to them."

Connolly was by far the most talkative participant in Tuesday’s deposition. Other Democrats left the gathering saying broadly that Kent’s testimony validates the whistleblower complaint but without providing details.

Connolly’s detailed accounts, meanwhile, drew ire from House Republicans, who amplified their previous attacks that the Democrats’ close-door impeachment strategy is undemocratic, denying the public a window into everything that’s said — even as some Democrats leak select details.

“While we can’t tell you anything that just happened, we get copies handed to us of Twitter feeds and how reports on substance are being put out,” said GOP Rep. Lee ZeldinLee ZeldinSunday shows preview: Biden defends troop withdrawal in Afghanistan; COVID-19 impacting unvaccinated pockets Misled condemnation of the Lebanese Armed Forces will help Hezbollah New York GOP backs Zeldin for governor MORE (R-N.Y.). But “then [Connolly] walks out, and he starts telling the public of what substantively happened behind closed doors. This is a disgusting strategy that has been on display.”

Republicans have loudly complained about the process, saying Democrats are selectively leaking favorable interview tidbits from closed-door hearings while failing to promptly release full transcripts of witness interviews — all complaints that Democrats similarly lodged when the GOP had majority power in the House last year.

Kent is one of several current and former administration officials who have defied White House orders not to testify, following Yovanovitch, who testified last Friday, and Russia expert Fiona Hill, who was deposed on Monday.

Sondland, after the administration blocked his testimony last week, is scheduled to testify before the committees on Thursday.