Top State Department official arrives for testimony in impeachment probe

A top State Department official arrived at the Capitol Tuesday morning to testify on President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says his advice to impeachment defense team is 'just be honest' Trump expands tariffs on steel and aluminum imports CNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group MORE's dealings with Ukraine, the latest witness in Democrats' fast-moving impeachment inquiry into allegations of presidential wrongdoing.

George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, oversees administrative policy in a bloc of Eastern European countries, including Ukraine, which has emerged as the focal point of the growing investigation.

ADVERTISEMENT

Trump and members of his inner circle have come under increased scrutiny following allegations that the administration recalled the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, over her concerns that leading figures — including Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiParnas says he has turned over tape of Trump calling for diplomat's firing Pompeo explodes at NPR reporter, asks if she could find Ukraine on a map ABC: Recording apparently captures Trump discussing Yovanovitch ouster with Parnas, Fruman MORE, Trump's personal lawyer — were pressing Ukrainian leaders to deliver political favors to the president.

Kent had tried to protect Yovanovitch from the internal smear campaign building against her, according to documents delivered to Congress earlier this month by the State Department's inspector general.

He is being deposed by three separate House committees leading the Democrats' impeachment inquiry: Intelligence, Oversight and Reform and Foreign Affairs.

Heading into the secure room in the Capitol basement where the depositions are taking place, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump says his advice to impeachment defense team is 'just be honest' Schiff says Justice Roberts should rule on witnesses Schiff sparks blowback with head on a 'pike' line MORE (D-Calif.) declined to comment on the coming witness.

Kent is the fourth witness in the impeachment investigation. Earlier in the month, lawmakers heard from Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerSekulow vows Bidens, Ukraine will be part of Trump impeachment defense GOP-Biden feud looms over impeachment trial GOP rejects effort to compel documents on delayed Ukraine aid MORE, the administration's former special envoy to Ukraine; Yovanovitch testified on Friday, defying the administration's effort to block her appearance; and the committees on Monday heard lengthy testimony from Fiona Hill, Trump's former top Russia analyst on the National Security Council. Hill stepped down voluntarily in July before Trump's phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Separately, the Intelligence Committee has also interviewed Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the U.S. intelligence community.

The details surrounding the closed-door depositions have largely been kept under wraps. Democrats have released certain details of the various testimonies — including a string of text messages, delivered by Volker, between top diplomats discussing the Ukraine affair — which they say verify the allegations against the president.

"The arrows continue to point in just one direction, which is that a crime was committed — extortion, bribery, soliciting campaign help," Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellMartha McSally fundraises off 'liberal hack' remark to CNN reporter Enes Kanter sees political stardom — after NBA and WWE Swalwell pens op-ed comparing Trump impeachment to XYZ Affair MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the Intelligence Committee, said Monday. "It was confessed to by the president. And there's an active cover-up going on right now."

Yet Democrats have refused Republican entreaties to release the full transcripts of the interviews and make the hearings public, drawing sharp criticism from GOP leaders arguing that the transparency would lead to Trump's exoneration.

"The tragedy here — the crime here — is that the American people don't get to see what's going on in these sessions," Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanJordan says he thinks trial will be over by next week Cheney's decision not to run for Senate sparks Speaker chatter The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clash over rules MORE (Ohio), senior Republican on the Oversight and Reform Committee, said Monday, ahead of Hill's testimony.