07:04 GMT15 April 2021
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    The House Intelligence Committee, which is heading up the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump, released on Thursday the transcript of its October 15 interview with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent.

    “The testimony of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent strongly corroborates testimony from numerous other witnesses," the trio of committee chairs heading up the impeachment inquiry in the House said in a Thursday press release. "Mr. Kent affirms that he and his colleagues recognized the impropriety of pressuring Ukrainian officials to undertake politically-motivated investigations to help President Trump’s reelection prospects in 2020."

    “Mr. Kent not only affirms testimony released this week by the Committees, but he also describes his contemporaneous documentation of conversations and events.  Yet, the State Department and White House continue to withhold these key documents from the Committees in defiance of duly authorized subpoenas.  These actions demonstrate the President’s clear obstruction of Congress and support the inference that these documents further corroborate the testimony of presidential misconduct that we have received," the committee chairs continued. “We look forward to Mr. Kent’s public testimony.”

    The House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform committees are leading an investigation into the circumstances surrounding a July 25 phone call between Trump Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and whether or not Trump sought an illegal "quid pro quo" from Kiev by threatening to withhold military aid unless an investigation of former US Vice President Joe Biden was opened.

    In 2016, when Biden was still in office, he, too, pressured Kiev with the threat of withholding aid - this time in order to get then-Special Prosecutor Vyktor Shokin fired, ending an anti-corruption probe into the gas company Burisma, on the board of which Biden's son, Hunter, sat at the time.

    Much of Kent's testimony focuses on the increasingly antagonistic relationship that grew between the Trump administration and Trump associates like attorney Rudy Giuliani, as well as Ukrainian officials like then-Special Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, and himself and then-US Ambassador to Ukraine Masha Yovanovitch, Obama-era holdovers, on the other side. Kent describes him and Yovanovitch as being viewed as stonewalls to the opening of Trump's desired investigation of Biden, and Yovanovitch's transfer away from her Kiev post in May, just days after Zelenskyy's election victory, aroused particular ire.

    ​“I do not believe the US should ask other countries to engage in politically associated investigations and prosecutions. … As a general principle, I don’t think that as a matter of policy the US should do that period, because I have spent much of my career trying to improve the rule of law. And in countries like Ukraine and Georgia, both of which want to join NATO, both of which have enjoyed billions of dollars of assistance from Congress, there is an outstanding issue about people in office in those countries using selectively politically motivated prosecutions to go after their opponents. And that’s wrong for the rule of law regardless of what country that happens," Kent told the congressmen.

    Transcripts of other Trump officials, including William Taylor, the charge d'Affairs for the US embassy in Kiev, and US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. While the previous phase of the impeachment inquiry was conducted behind closed doors, new rules adopted last week established open hearings by the House, which lawmakers hope to begin before the week is out. Kent's public testimony is expected next Wednesday, November 13.


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