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 GiulianiImpeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Giuliani associate says he sought to pressure Ukraine to investigate Bidens 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 John TrumpThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Impeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Judd Gregg: The big, big and bigger problem 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 BidenImpeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Trump DACA fight hits Supreme Court Juan Williams: Honesty, homophobia and Mayor Pete 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 to hold public impeachment hearings next week House Democrats launch process to replace Cummings on Oversight panel The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Dems unveil impeachment measure; Vindman splits GOP 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 MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyImpeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Swalwell: Depositions provided evidence of an 'extortion scheme' Intelligence panel Republican: 'How we treat this whistleblower will impact whistleblowers in the future' MORE, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, and former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Rand Paul says Trump has 'every right' to withhold Ukraine aid over corruption Intelligence panel Democrat: 'I think we will end up calling' some witnesses on GOP list 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 PerryImpeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Key impeachment witnesses to know as public hearings begin Democrats aim to impeach Trump by Christmas 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 ZeldinTrump tears into impeachment probe, witnesses in early Twitter spree White House doubles down on 'no quid pro quo' Lobbying world 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.