WASHINGTON -- Corrupt Ukrainian officials and private U.S. citizens had much to do with getting the former ambassador to Ukraine removed from her post, according to congressional testimony provided by George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state in charge of European and Eurasian affairs.
Based on a 355-page transcript the House of Representatives released on November 7 of Kent’s deposition a month earlier in an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, efforts to remove the former Ukraine envoy started in 2018.
Kent described the orchestrated efforts on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean as “snake pits.”
“My reference to the snake pits would have been in the context of having our ambassador just removed through actions by corrupt Ukrainians in Ukraine as well as private American citizens back here,” Kent said.
He posited that former Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko sought revenge on Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and reached out to Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to spread false information about her alleged disloyalty to the president.
Giuliani, he said, conducted a smear campaign “full of lies and incorrect information” against Yovanovitch before she was recalled in May.
Simultaneously, Soviet-born businessmen Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, both of whom have since been indicted on U.S. campaign finance violations, had undermined the former Ukraine ambassador in 2018. Both are U.S. citizens.
Kent, in particular, cited a meeting the two businessmen had with then-Congressman Pete Sessions on May 9, 2018, “the same day he wrote a letter to Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo impugning Ambassador Yovanovitch’s loyalty and suggesting she be removed.”
Kent said that Lutsenko had spread lies about him and Yovanovitch at a meeting with Giuliani in New York as relayed to him by Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, whom he met in Washington on February 11.
Kent said he pressed the State Department to issue a “clear statement of support” for Yovanovitch in light of the numerous attacks on her by the U.S. “presidential family,” who spread “falsehoods” through social media.
However, none was forthcoming, Kent said, while recollecting that U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland had suggested that Yovanovitch “should issue a statement, or do a video or tweet declaring full support for the foreign policy of President Trump, essentially asking her to defend herself as opposed to having the State Department defend her.”