The witnesses on day one of the first public presidential impeachment hearing in over two decades have reportedly been called to state a “simple abuse of power case.” But like any Trump scandal, the sheer number of names and variables don’t exactly cater to simplicity. To help keep track of who thinks it’s okay for Trump to demand personal favors from foreign leaders and who’s already copped to the quid pro quo in Ukraine, Intelligencer is providing a daily rundown of the hearings’ most important characters. Though day one starts slow with just two witnesses, the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry announced that eight more administration staffers will appear next week — testing Trump’s claim that Democrats are relying on “second and third hand” information as they attempt to prove his abuse of executive power.
The deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, Kent is a career State Department official who oversees U.S. policy on Ukraine. In October, he testified that the White House plan to pressure Ukraine to investigate “corruption” in the country was a code word for President Zelensky to look for compromising information on political opponents. “POTUS wanted nothing less than President Zelensky to go to the microphone and say, ‘investigation,’ ‘Biden,’ and ‘Clinton,’” Kent told the impeachment inquiry last month.
Level of Devotion to Trump
Pretty low. Kent described himself last month as “one of thousands of nonpolitical career professionals in the Foreign Service who embody that vow daily around the world, often in harsh and dangerous conditions.”
But Kent may be more useful to the Republicans’ defense than other witnesses: During the Obama administration, he flagged Hunter Biden’s status as a board member on the Ukrainian energy company Burisma as a potential “conflict of interest.” Ukrainian prosecutors later stated that he “did not violate anything,” a prognosis GOP representatives will most likely ignore.
His Bombshell Revelation
Kent will be an important part of Democrats’ plans to establish the influence of Rudy Giuliani over the ouster of former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who was moved to block Giuliani’s attempts to pressure the Ukrainian government into investigating Hunter Biden. In October, he told the impeachment inquiry that the conspiracy-driven rumor Giuliani stirred about Yovanovitch’s involvement in an anti-corruption scheme in Ukraine was a “campaign of lies.”
What Was the Takeaway From His Testimony?
Kent, a bow-tie guy, specifically named Giuliani in the administration’s effort to “run a campaign to smear Ambassador Yovanovitch and other officials at the U.S. embassy in Kiev.” Kent also stated that he “did not witness any effort by any U.S. official to shield Burisma from scrutiny,” downplaying his 2014 decision to flag Hunter Biden’s involvement with the Ukrainian energy company.