Probe un­cov­ers high-level un­ease over Trump, Gi­u­liani moves

The Saline Courier - - NEWS - As­so­ci­ated Press

WASH­ING­TON — The House im­peach­ment in­quiry is ex­pos­ing new de­tails about un­ease in the State De­part­ment and White House about Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ac­tions to­ward Ukraine and those of his per­sonal lawyer Rudy Gi­u­liani.

One wit­ness said it ap­peared “three ami­gos” tied to the White House had taken over for­eign pol­icy. An­other quoted na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser John Bolton as call­ing Gi­u­liani a “hand grenade” for his back-chan­nel ef­forts to get Ukraine to in­ves­ti­gate Trump’s Demo­cratic ri­val Joe Bi­den and Bi­den’s son Hunter. On Wednesday, a for­mer aide to Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo ar­rived to speak to the House im­peach­ment pan­els be­hind closed doors. Michael Mckin­ley, who re­signed last week, is a ca­reer for­eign ser­vice of­fi­cer and was Pom­peo’s de facto chief of staff.

He is ex­pected to dis­cuss con­cerns held by ca­reer State De­part­ment of­fi­cials about the treat­ment of the U.S. am­bas­sador to Ukraine, Marie Yo­vanovitch, and oth­ers who worked on the Ukraine port­fo­lio, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with his tes­ti­mony. A Latin Amer­ica spe­cial­ist, Mckin­ley wasn’t di­rectly in­volved in Ukraine pol­icy, but as a se­nior ad­viser to Pom­peo was gen­er­ally aware of the sit­u­a­tion, the per­son said. Mckin­ley ex­pects to talk about de­mor­al­iza­tion in the ranks of ca­reer for­eign ser­vice of­fi­cers and what many have lamented as the politi­ciza­tion of the once-apo­lit­i­cal bu­reau­cracy, ac­cord­ing to the per­son, who was granted anonymity to speak about his re­marks.

The 37-year vet­eran of the diplo­matic corps was known to be un­happy with the state of af­fairs al­though his farewell note to col­leagues men­tioned noth­ing about the rea­son for his de­par­ture other than it was a “per­sonal de­ci­sion.”

An­other key fig­ure in the im­peach­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion, spe­cial en­voy Kurt Volker, re­turned to Capi­tol Hill on Wednesday. He and his lawyer were to re­view the tran­script of his Oct. 3 tes­ti­mony to in­ves­ti­ga­tors, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with his ap­pear­ance who was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss it. Re­pub­li­cans say all the tran­scripts from the in­ves­ti­ga­tion should be re­leased to the pub­lic.

Volker pro­vided text mes­sages to law­mak­ers that re­vealed an ef­fort at the State De­part­ment to push Ukraine’s leader into open­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the gas com­pany Burisma, con­nected to Joe Bi­den’s son, in re­turn for a visit with Trump.

That ef­fort soon es­ca­lated into what one di­plo­mat feared was a quid pro quo for U.S. mil­i­tary aid. Trump has de­nied that, say­ing as­sis­tance to Ukraine was de­layed to pres­sure the coun­try into ad­dress­ing cor­rup­tion.

The tes­ti­mony so far from the wit­nesses, mainly of­fi­cials from the State De­part­ment and other for­eign pol­icy posts, is largely cor­rob­o­rat­ing the ac­count of the gov­ern­ment whistle­blower whose com­plaint first sparked the im­peach­ment in­quiry, ac­cord­ing to law­mak­ers at­tend­ing the closed-door in­ter­views.

Trump’s July 25 phone call in which he pressed Ukraine’s pres­i­dent to in­ves­ti­gate the Bi­dens is at the cen­ter of the Democrats’ in­quiry.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, de­spite in­ten­si­fy­ing calls from Trump and Re­pub­li­cans to hold a for­mal vote to au­tho­rize the im­peach­ment in­quiry, showed no indi­ca­tion she would do so. She said Congress will con­tinue its in­ves­ti­ga­tion as part of the Con­sti­tu­tion’s sys­tem of checks and bal­ances of the ex­ec­u­tive.

“This is not a game for us. This is deadly se­ri­ous. We’re on a path that is tak­ing us, a path to the truth,” Pelosi told re­porters af­ter a closed-door ses­sion with House Democrats.

Demo­cratic lead­ers had been gaug­ing sup­port for a vote to au­tho­rize the im­peach­ment in­quiry af­ter Trump and Re­pub­li­cans pushed them for a roll call. Hold­ing a vote would test politicall­y vul­ner­a­ble Democrats in ar­eas where the Repub­li­can pres­i­dent is pop­u­lar.

Trump calls the im­peach­ment in­quiry an “il­le­git­i­mate process” and is block­ing of­fi­cials from co­op­er­at­ing.

The in­quiry is mov­ing quickly as a steady stream of of­fi­cials ap­pears be­hind closed doors this week, some pro­vid­ing new rev­e­la­tions about the events sur­round­ing the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Ze­len­skiy. It is on that call that Trump urged Ze­len­skiy to in­ves­ti­gate a firm tied to po­lit­i­cal ri­val Joe Bi­den’s fam­ily and Ukraine’s own in­volve­ment in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Ca­reer State De­part­ment of­fi­cial Ge­orge Kent tes­ti­fied Tues­day he was told by ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials to “lay low” on Ukraine as “three ami­gos” tied to the White House took over U.S. for­eign pol­icy to­ward the East­ern Eu­ro­pean ally.

Kent was con­cerned about the “fake news smear” against Yo­vanovitch, whom Trump re­called in May, ac­cord­ing to emails ob­tained by The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Kent told the law­mak­ers that he “found him­self out­side a par­al­lel process” and had warned oth­ers about Gi­u­liani as far back as March. He felt the shadow diplomacy was un­der­min­ing decades of for­eign pol­icy and the rule of law in Ukraine and that was “wrong,” said Rep. Gerry Con­nolly, D-VA.

Con­nolly said Kent de­scribed a May 23 meet­ing at the

White House, or­ga­nized by Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mul­vaney, where three ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials — U.S. am­bas­sador Gor­don Sond­land, spe­cial en­voy Kurt Volker and En­ergy Sec­re­tary Rick Perry — de­clared them­selves the peo­ple now re­spon­si­ble for Ukraine pol­icy.

“They called them­selves the three ami­gos,” Con­nolly said Kent tes­ti­fied.

Kent also told them that Trump, through the Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get, which Mul­vaney pre­vi­ously led, was hold­ing up mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine while press­ing Ze­len­skiy to in­ves­ti­gate a com­pany linked to Bi­den’s son.

An­other wit­ness, for­mer White House aide Fiona Hill, tes­ti­fied Mon­day that Bolton, then na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, was so alarmed by Gi­u­liani’s back-chan­nel ac­tiv­i­ties in Ukraine that he de­scribed him as a “hand grenade who is go­ing to blow ev­ery­body up.”

In 10 hours of tes­ti­mony, Hill, the for­mer White House aide who was a top ad­viser on Rus­sia, re­called to in­ves­ti­ga­tors that Bolton had told her he was not part of “what­ever drug deal Sond­land and Mul­vaney are cook­ing up,” an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to talks over Ukraine.

She tes­ti­fied that Bolton asked her to take the con­cerns to Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil lawyer John Eisen­berg.

As White House lawyers now try to learn more about the han­dling of the Ukraine call, Eisen­berg is com­ing un­der par­tic­u­lar scru­tiny, said one White House of­fi­cial. He was both the of­fi­cial who or­dered that the mem­o­ran­dum of the call be moved to a highly-clas­si­fied sys­tem and the one who in­volved the Jus­tice De­part­ment in a com­plaint from the CIA gen­eral coun­sel. The lat­ter caught the at­ten­tion of the pres­i­dent, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.