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The words Trump had to hear: Investigations, Biden, Clinton

WASHINGTON (AP) — There were three words President Donald Trump wanted to hear from the Ukraine president: Investigations, Biden, Clinton.

That’s according to the transcript, released Thursday, of an impeachment inquiry interview with career State Department official George Kent.

“Potus wanted nothing less than President Zelenskiy to go to the microphone and say investigations, Biden and Clinton,” Kent testified.

“Basically there needed to be three words in the message, and that was the shorthand.”

Kent told investigators that that was his understanding of what Trump wanted Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to say in order to unlock U.S. military aid, as relayed to the official by others, including those in direct contact with the president.

Numerous current and former Trump officials have testified that the president was conditioning U.S. aid on Ukraine publicly investigating Democrats including his potential 2020 political foe Joe Biden and Biden’s son.

Clinton, he explained, was “shorthand” for the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. It was a reference to Trump’s view, pushed by his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani but outside of mainstream U.S. intelligence, that Ukraine played a role interfering in the election.

Kent also raised concerns about Giuliani’s “campaign of lies” against Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and the Trump administration’s firing of the veteran diplomat.

House investigators are releasing key transcripts from days of closed-door interviews in the impeachment inquiry as they prepare for public sessions with witnesses next week. A whistleblower’s complaint about Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Zelenskiy was the spark that ignited the investigation.

Kent had testified for hours in October about the shifting U.S. policy toward Ukraine as administration officials and Giuliani were taking the lead, acting outside of regular foreign policy channels.

The career official began to understand that unless Ukraine took on the investigations Trump wanted, the administration would hold up nearly $400 million in military aid to the young democracy that relies on U.S. support to counter Russian aggression.

Kent said he memorialized in writing the conversations he was having with other diplomats amid his concerns of “an effort to initiate politically motivated prosecutions that were injurious to the rule of law, both in Ukraine and U.S.” The memorandum was submitted to the State Department.