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The Journal Gazette

  • Kent

Friday, November 08, 2019 1:00 am

'Investigations, Biden, Clinton'

Official told panel Trump wanted to hear those words

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – There were three words President Donald Trump wanted to hear from the Ukraine president: Investigations, Biden, Clinton.

That's according to the transcript, released Thursday, of an impeachment inquiry interview with career State Department official George Kent.

“POTUS wanted nothing less than President Zelenskiy to go to the microphone and say investigations, Biden and Clinton,” Kent testified.

“Basically there needed to be three words in the message, and that was the shorthand.”

Kent told investigators that that was his understanding of what Trump wanted Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to say in order to unlock U.S. military aid, as relayed to the official by others, including those in direct contact with the president.

Numerous current and former Trump officials have testified that the president was conditioning U.S. aid on Ukraine publicly investigating Democrats including his potential 2020 political foe Joe Biden and Biden's son.

Clinton, he explained, was “shorthand” for the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. It was a reference to Trump's view, pushed by his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani but outside of mainstream U.S. intelligence, that Ukraine played a role interfering in the election.

Kent also raised concerns about Giuliani's “campaign of lies” against Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and the Trump administration's firing of the veteran diplomat.

House investigators are releasing key transcripts from days of closed-door interviews in the impeachment inquiry as they prepare for public sessions with witnesses next week. A whistleblower's complaint about Trump's July 25 telephone call with Zelenskiy was the spark that ignited the investigation.

Meanwhile, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence appeared under subpoena Thursday to speak with impeachment investigators and was deposed for more than four hours.

Jennifer Williams, a career foreign service officer detailed to Pence's office from the State Department, is one of several White House aides who were listening in on the Zelenskiy phone call, according to an administration official who requested anonymity to discuss the conversation.

Lawmakers leaving the deposition said that Williams' testimony had lined up with the accounts of others.

“It just never ceases to amaze me how all of these people in every material aspect corroborate one another,” said Washington Rep. Denny Heck, a member of the House intelligence panel, as he left the interview.