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READ: Opening Statement Of Deputy Assistant Secretary Of State George Kent

Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent waits to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent waits to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A senior State Department official testifying before the open-hearing phase of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump said Rudy Giuliani's "effort to gin up politically motivated investigations were ... infecting U.S. engagement with Ukraine."

The remarks by George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, came in his opening statement before the inquiry. The veteran diplomat also said Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, and his associates had begun a smear campaign against Marie Yovanovitch, then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Yovanovitch, who testifies Friday, was recalled from her post in the spring.

Kent said the U.S. had long been concerned about corruption in Ukraine, including graft in Burisma, the energy company that is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry. Trump says former Vice President Joe Biden had pressured Ukrainians to stop investigating Burisma because Biden's son Hunter was on its board. Kent said he raised concern that "Hunter Biden's status as board member could create the perception of a conflict of interest," but he added: "Let me be clear, however, I did not witness any efforts by any U.S. official to shield Burisma from scrutiny."

The impeachment inquiry is examining whether Trump held up aid to Ukraine and the offer of a White House visit to newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in exchange for an investigation into the Bidens. The president denies any such offer of quid pro quo was made.

Read Kent's opening statement.

Copyright NPR 2019.

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