The White House removed the core of its Ukraine policy team in the spring and replaced it with “three amigos” considered more reliable for the plan to pressure Kyiv, a senior U.S. diplomat was described as telling House investigators on Tuesday.
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney organized the May 23 meeting at which the personnel moves were decided, according to [ Rep. Gerry] Connolly’s [D-Va] description.
That conference yielded the crew described as the new “three amigos” assigned the Ukraine portfolio: Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union; Kurt Volker, then an envoy to Ukraine for its peace negotiations; and Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
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In other words, Mulvaney removed career specialists who the White House believed wouldn’t go along with a plan to lean on Ukraine’s leaders in an attempt to get them to launch investigations that might help Trump in the 2020 election, according to this account of [the deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s European and Eurasian Bureau George] Kent’s testimony.
Connolly, who described the deposition, called Kent’s account of events “very powerful” and “deeply disturbing, especially the role of Rudy Giuliani” — the personal attorney for Trump who drove much of the Ukraine plan on his own as well as in concert with the State Department.
Members of Congress already have heard from Volker; Sondland is expected to appear behind closed doors on Thursday. Perry has been subpoenaed in the House inquiry.
Connolly said Kent’s remarks also made him want to hear from former national security adviser John Bolton, whom other witnesses also are said to have described to investigators as concerned about Trump’s Ukraine pressure plan and the role Giuliani played in it.