George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, had a lot to say in closed-door testimony before House investigators last week.
For one thing, he told lawmakers that Rudy Giuliani lobbied the State department to grant Viktor Shokin a visa in January. Shokin was the corrupt prosecutor Joe Biden (acting on the advice of the Obama State department, Europe and the IMF) successfully had removed by threatening to withhold US aid.
Unfortunately, Hunter Biden was serving on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at the time, something Kent said he warned Biden staffers about in 2015, only to be ignored.
Kent’s closed-door testimony – details of which surfaced Friday afternoon – came amid a string of depositions from former and current officials including the president’s former top adviser on Russia and Ukraine Fiona Hill, EU ambassador Gordon Sondland, Mike Pompeo’s former top aide Michael McKinley and, of course, Marie Yovanovitch.
Well, as it turns out, Kent also told lawmakers that Donald Trump’s generalized disdain for Ukraine was amplified by (you’ll never guess) Vladimir Putin and Viktor Orban – you couldn’t find a nicer couple of guys, I know.
“Kent cited the influence of those leaders as a factor that helped sour Trump on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the months leading up to their July 25 phone call”, the Washington Post wrote on Monday evening. That would be the phone call that precipitated the whistle-blower complaint at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.
Current and former US officials who spoke to the Post emphasized that “neither of those foreign leaders specifically encouraged Trump to see Ukraine as a potential source of damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, nor did they describe Kyiv as complicit in an unsubstantiated 2016 election conspiracy”.
Of course, they didn’t have to. Giuliani had already spent months planting those conspiracy theories in Trump’s head, Inception-style, with the help of Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman (who were arrested earlier this month), Joe diGenova, his wife Victoria Toensing and, “naturally”, Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch with Russian mob connections charged in the US with conspiracy and racketeering, and currently fighting extradition from Vienna. (And yes, that’s all just as insane as it sounds.)
You can be absolutely sure that Putin was well aware of Giuliani’s efforts when he disparaged Ukraine to Trump. To think otherwise would be to underestimate the Kremlin’s penchant for making sure Putin knows all the angles at all times.
As for Orban, well, let’s just say Trump made a show of welcoming him to the White House in May, around the exact same time Gordon Sondland, Rick Perry and Kurt Volker (the “three amigos”) were allegedly working to bridge the gap between Giuliani’s international lobbying efforts and official US policy.
“Trump’s conversations with Putin, Orban and others reinforced his perception of Ukraine as a hopelessly corrupt country — one that Trump now also appears to believe sought to undermine him in the 2016 US election”, WaPo goes on to write, adding that “their disparaging depictions of Ukraine reinforced Trump’s perceptions of the country and fed a dysfunctional dynamic in which White House officials struggled to persuade Trump to support the fledgling government in Kyiv instead of exploiting it for political purposes”.
Consider this just the latest example of how every autocrat on the face of the planet (from Putin to Erdogan to el-Sisi to Kim Jong-Un) views Trump as a hapless buffoon ripe for exploitation.