White House Assigned ‘3 Amigos’ to Head Ukraine Policy, Top Diplomat Says

A top U.S. State Department official told House investigators privately Tuesday administration officials told him to “lay low” on matters involving Ukraine in deference to the “three amigos” who assumed control of foreign policy toward the Eastern European ally, Democratic Congressman Gerald Connolly said.Connolly told reporters George Kent described a May 23 White House meeting during which President Donald Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, put Energy Secretary Rick Perry, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, and U.S. envoy to Ukraine  Kurt Volker in charge of Ukrainian affairs.Kent testified, “they called themselves the three amigos” and did so in the presence of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in meeting in Kyiv, Connolly said.Connolly recounted that Kent also told lawmakers the Trump administration was holding up military aid to Ukraine while pressing Zelenskiy to investigate a company linked to the son of political rival Joe Biden.   The Trump-Ukraine scandal was set off when an intelligence whistleblower expressed concern to the inspector general about Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, during which Trump urged a corruption investigation into the Bidens, including Hunter Biden’s job with a Ukrainian energy company.Trump has described his call with as “perfect” and accuses the Democratic-led house of a witch hunt.U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a bilateral meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on the sidelines of the 74th session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Sept. 25, 2019.On Monday,  a former White House aide reportedly told House investigators that former National Security Advisor John Bolton called Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani “a hand grenade who is going to blow up everybody.”People familiar with her testimony said Hill told the lawmakers that Bolton and others in the Trump administration were troubled by Giuliani’s efforts regarding Ukraine. Bolton reportedly said he was not part of any “drug deal” Giuliani and Mulvaney “are cooking up.”Democrats investigating Trump, and even some inside the White House, suspect Giuliani is running a shadow foreign policy outside the State Department on Trump’s behalf.Hearings continue Wednesday with testimony from Michael McKinley, a former senior advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.Michael McKinley, right, the top aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, arrives testify at a closed-door deposition on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 16, 2019.The case for obstruction by the Trump administration continues to build, House Democrat Adam Schiff says, even after senior administration officials and Giuliani defied subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry, according to House Democrat Adam Schiff.Subpoena ‘too broad’Vice President Mike Pence’s office called the Democratic-led House inquiry “self-proclaimed” and the subpoena “too broad.”The Pentagon said it is “unable to comply” at this time for legal reasons.The White House budget office also rejected a request, as did Giuliani in response to a subpoena for documents related to his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son.The White House has demanded the full House of Representatives vote on whether there should be an impeachment inquiry.Speaker Nancy Pelosi said late Tuesday nothing requires such a vote and there will not be one at this time. She said the House is honoring its responsibilities and the constitution.Other officials are scheduled to testify this week, including Sondland, who exchanged a series of text messages with other diplomats who were enlisted to help get Ukraine to investigate Biden.In one message, Sondland wrote that Trump insists there would be no quid pro quo with Ukraine. He is now expected to testify that Trump himself dictated that message.