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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 GiulianiMyPillow files countersuit against Dominion Voting Systems Guilfoyle named as national chair of Greitens' Senate campaign in Missouri Greitens Senate bid creates headache for GOP 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 TrumpSt. Louis lawyer who pointed gun at Black Lives Matter protesters considering Senate run Chauvin found guilty as nation exhales US says Iran negotiations are 'positive' 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 BidenBiden overruled Blinken, top officials on initial refugee cap decision: report Suicide bombing hits Afghan security forces Jim Jordan, Val Demings get in shouting match about police during hearing 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 ConnollyPelosi renews call for congressional commission to investigate Capitol riot Pelosi: Dropping 9/11-style Jan. 6 commission an 'option' amid opposition Lawmakers, whistleblower advocates push Biden to fill federal employment board 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 VolkerGOP senators request details on Hunter Biden's travel for probe Yovanovitch retires from State Department: reports Live coverage: Senators enter second day of questions in impeachment trial 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 PerryOvernight Energy: Michigan reps reintroduce measure for national 'forever chemicals' standard |  White House says gas tax won't be part of infrastructure bill Trump alumni launch America First Policy Institute Senators urge Energy chief to prioritize cybersecurity amid growing threats 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 ZeldinLawmakers launch bipartisan caucus on SALT deduction Biden funding decision inflames debate over textbooks for Palestinian refugees Rep. Lee Zeldin announces bid for New York 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.