Kent arrived on Capitol Hill after the House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena for his testimony, according to a congressional aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly. The White House, in a letter to top Democrats last week, said it would not cooperate with the impeachment investigation, forcing Democrats to rely on subpoenas to compel witnesses to appear.
Giuliani accused Yovanovitch and Kent, formerly the No. 2 ranking diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, of trying to protect the Bidens from an investigation by Ukrainian prosecutors. Yovanovitch, who was recalled from Kiev in May, adamantly pushed back on those accusations during testimony before House investigators on Friday. Kent will also likely be asked about those assertions.
Internal documents turned over to Congress by the State Department inspector general in early October preview what Kent might tell lawmakers: The messages show that Kent suspected beginning in March that Yovanovitch had become the target of a “classic disinformation operation” — and that he raised concerns to his superiors in hopes they would defend their own.
Giuliani and a columnist for the news outlet the Hill had alleged earlier this year that Yovanovitch provided a “do not prosecute list” to Ukrainian officials to protect the Bidens and other allies. But Kent, according to the documents, told his colleagues that the list was phony, pointing to incorrect name spellings that longtime officials like Yovanovitch and himself would never have gotten wrong, he said.
“One key sign of it being fake is that most of the names are misspelled in English — we would never spell most that way,” said Kent, who is fluent in Russian and Ukrainian, in one email to colleagues.
Giuliani has maintained that his activities related to Ukraine were above board and that he’s done nothing wrong.
Kent, according to the documents, suggested that the department could counter the attack by “circling in red all the misspellings and grammar mistakes and reposting it,” as the U.S. Embassy in Moscow had done in similar counter-propaganda campaigns.
“If we wanted to push back hard(er), we could consider a similar approach,” he said.
Lawmakers are bound to ask Kent about whom he contacted with his concerns. According to the inspector general’s documents, he took them to Philip Reeker, a U.S. diplomat in Europe, and later forwarded them to the No. 3 official at the department, David Hale, and State Department counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, a close confidant of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Brechbuhl also has been summoned for testimony before House Democrats.
In an attempt to make sense of what he called the “fake list,” Kent suggested it could be an effort by a former Ukrainian prosecutor — Yuri Lutsenko, who was ousted for corruption — to try to pin the blame for his failures on the United States.
“This list appears to be an effort by Lutsenko to inoculate himself for why he did not pursue corrupt associates and political allies — to claim that the U.S. told him not to,” Kent said. “Complete poppycock.”
Lawmakers will most assuredly question Kent about that theory as well, given his vast knowledge of the region.
Kent, who joined the State Department in 1992, currently serves as deputy assistant secretary in the European and Eurasian Bureau, where he oversees policy on Ukraine as well as about half a dozen additional countries. From 2015 to 2018, he served as deputy chief of mission in Kiev. Previously he was senior anti-corruption coordinator in the State Department’s European Bureau.
Kent is one of more than a half-dozen State officials who have been summoned by Democrats as part of their probe into Trump’s bid to pressure Ukraine into digging up dirt on the Biden family — and sideline State officials who did not take well to that task. Democrats have also requested documents from the White House, Vice President Pence, the Pentagon, and the Office of Management and Budget, subpoena deadlines that will come due this week.
John Hudson contributed to this report.