WASHINGTON -- Ukrainian officials seeking "revenge" against the U.S. ambassador in Kyiv used Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, to orchestrate a disinformation campaign that led to her ouster, a State Department official told the House impeachment inquiry.
The transcript of George Kent's Oct. 15 closed-door deposition also shows his concern about Giuliani's role guiding White House priorities, which included pushing for an investigation of a Ukraine company connected to the son of a potential 2020 presidential rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Kent, the deputy assistant secretary in the State Department's European and Eurasian Bureau, said the Trump administration had two points of leverage for that demand: an Oval Office meeting for the newly elected Ukrainian president and military aid authorized by Congress.
Kent said he wrote a memo in August noting "concerns that there was an effort to initiate politically motivated prosecutions that were injurious to the rule of law, both Ukraine and the U.S."
Part of that included Giuliani engaging in a campaign "full of lies and incorrect information" about then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was removed in May.
Kent has emerged as a top witness for House Democrats in their impeachment inquiry against Trump. He is already scheduled to be one of the two witnesses in the first open impeachment hearing held by the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.
Kent described an orchestrated campaign against Yovanovitch that included two of Giuliani's business associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who subsequently were charged in the U.S. with illegally funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to U.S. officials and a political action committee that backed Trump.
Parnas and Fruman "started reaching out actively to undermine Ambassador Yovanovitch, starting in 2018 with a meeting with former Congressman Pete Sessions on May 9th, 2018," Kent said, according to the transcript.
Also involved in the effort was the then-prosecutor general of Ukraine, Yuriy Lutsenko, who was under pressure from the U.S. State Department for "essentially colluding with a corrupt official to undermine the investigation" into a ring that was selling fake Ukrainian passports, according to Kent.
Lutsenko "vowed revenge, and provided information" to Giuliani "in hopes that he would spread it and lead to her removal," Kent said, referring to Yovanovitch. He said Ukraine Interior Minister Arsen Avakov told him that Lutsenko had made a private trip to New York to meet with Giuliani "to throw mud" at Yovanovitch and others in the State Department.