A senior State Department official told House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that in May, he was directed during a meeting organized by acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to "lay low" when it came to Ukraine policy, as it was now being handled by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, and U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker, Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.) told reporters.
The official, George Kent, is the deputy assistant secretary responsible for Ukraine. Connolly said Kent testified that he was ordered to focus on the other countries in his portfolio because Perry, Sondland, and Volker — who called themselves the "three amigos" — were taking over for career diplomats on Ukraine. Kent said the meeting was held on May 23, just a few days after Marie Yovanovitch was removed from her position as ambassador to Ukraine and two months before President Trump's phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump asked him to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
Last week, Yovanovitch testified before lawmakers that Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was behind the campaign to get her recalled. Documents the State Department inspector general sent to Congress earlier this month show that Kent first said in March that he believed Yovanovitch was the subject of a "classic disinformation campaign," The Washington Post reports, and he wanted his superiors to stand up for her.