• First witnesses raised red flags about Giuliani work in Ukraine for Trump

    By: Jamie Dupree

    Updated:

    The first day of impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump will feature two State Department witnesses who raised questions about actions in Ukraine by the President's personal lawyer, with one alarmed by Rudy Giuliani's efforts to undermine the former U.S. Ambassador in Ukraine, and another who saw Giuliani leading an effort to press for investigations desired by Mr. Trump.

    "Mr. Giuliani was almost unmissable starting in mid-March," Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent testified, saying Giuliani conducted a 'campaign of slander' against former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

    "I worried about what I had heard concerning the role of Rudolph Giuliani," said William Taylor, now the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, who said he was worried about entering a 'snake pit' involving Giuliani.

    Here is some of what we might expect from these two witnesses in the first day of impeachment hearings.

    DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE GEORGE KENT -

    After working at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, Kent returned to the State Department in the second half of 2018, taking on a post where he was responsible for Ukraine and five other eastern European nations often targeted by Russia.

    It was in that position where Kent said he witnessed the media attack which unfolded, spurred by Giuliani and conservative news media organs.

    In his impeachment deposition, Kent said an article by conservative journalist John Solomon spurred a sudden attack on Ambassador Yovanovitch and the U.S. embassy in Ukraine in general, which was then amplified by Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham.

    Kent said much of what was alleged, that Yovanovitch was bad mouthing President Trump, that she was working against Ukraine prosecutors, was simply false.

    "It was, if not entirely made up in full cloth," Kent testified, "it was primarily non-truths and non-sequiturs."

    Kent described how U.S. diplomats were blindsided by what was clearly a concerted campaign against the U.S. Ambassador and the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, spread over four days in March of 2019.

    It started first with arrows aimed at Ambassador Yovanovitch, but then spread to accusations against former Vice President Biden and his son Hunter, along with other charges mentioning conservative bogeyman George Soros - all of it given a push by President Trump, his son, conservative websites, and Fox News.

    The attacks on Yovanovitch came two weeks after she had been asked by the State Department to stay on in Ukraine until 2020 - but her extension would not survive the conservative media attacks against her.

    "I was then abruptly told in late April to come back to Washington from Ukraine 'on the next plane,'" Yovanovitch told Congressional investigators.

    She will testify on Friday.

    + WILLIAM TAYLOR, U.S. Chargé d'Affaires IN UKRAINE.

    With the recall of Ambassador Yovanovitch, Taylor is the top-ranking U.S. diplomat in Ukraine - basically the acting Ambassador.

    Several months after Yovanovitch had been ousted, Taylor described how the work of Giuliani had seemingly led to a situation where U.S. military aid for Ukraine was being withheld - in an effort to gain a quid pro quo - where the government of Ukraine would launch investigations sought by President Trump.

    "By mid-Ju1y, it was becoming clear to me that the meeting President Zelensky wanted was conditioned on investigations of Burisma and alleged Ukrainian influence in the 2016 elections," Taylor said, referring to a focus on the Bidens, and the debunked theory that Ukraine - and not Russia - was behind the hacks of Democrats in 2016.

    Taylor said the impetus for the situation was obvious.

    "It was also clear that this condition was driven by the irregular policy channel I had come to understand was guided by Mr. Giuliani," Taylor said in his closed door deposition.

    Mr. Taylor said he had determined that link in 'mid-July' - it was on July 25 that President Trump spoke with the leader of Ukraine, and spelled out the need for Ukraine to launch investigations into the Bidens, and the Ukraine-2016 elections theory, which included the evidence-free allegation that the hacked computer server from the Democratic National Committee was being hidden in Ukraine.

    Some Republicans have mocked the choice of Taylor as an opening witness, saying he has no firsthand knowledge of why the President would want investigations conducted related to the Bidens or the 2016 elections.

    "No, I've never talked to the President," Taylor said in his deposition.

    Look for Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) to bring this up during the first day of questioning with Taylor.

    Three hearings have also been set for next Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, with eight different witnesses.

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