A few hours ago, the House Intelligence Committee released the October 15 testimony of George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary for the State Department's Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. Kent has served in the U.S. foreign service since 1992.
In part of his testimony, Kent harshly criticized the reporting of current Fox News contributor John Solomon. Solomon, then of The Hill, had published multiple columns concerning the Trump administration, Ukraine, and corrupt former Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko that were featured prominently in right-wing media, particularly on the Fox News shows of Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham.
In the transcript, Kent explained at length that the four specific storylines that Solomon ran with about Ukraine were completely without merit, describing some of Solomon’s reporting as “entirely made up in full cloth.”
DANIEL GOLDMAN (HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE DIRECTOR OF INVESTIGATIONS): When was the next time that you learned anything being Mr. Giuliani's involvement in Ukraine, after February 11th?
GEORGE KENT: Well, Mr. Giuliani was almost unmissable starting in mid-March. As the news campaign, or campaign of slander against, not only Ambassador Yovanovitch unfolded, he had a very high -- a media promise, so he was on TV, his Twitter feed ramped up and it was all focused on Ukraine, and it was focused on the four story lines that unfolded in those days between March 20 and 23rd.
GOLDMAN: Where do those story lines unfold?
KENT: They unfolded both in the U.S. media and the Ukrainian media, simultaneously in peril.
GOLDMAN: What U.S. media outlets?
KENT: Well, Mr. Solomon started off in The Hill, as I recall. There was a lot of tweeting, and of people that I had not previously been aware of, and then that also then played into late night television, subsequent days, both the Hannity show and the Laura Ingraham show covered this topic extensively.
GOLDMAN: That original John Solomon article, was that based on accurate information?
KENT: It was based on an interview with Yuriy Lutsenko.
GOLDMAN: And was the information that Mr. Lutsenko provided accurate, to your knowledge?
KENT: No. It was, if not entirely made up in full cloth, it was primarily non-truths and non-sequiturs.
The interview was broken into two parts. The first part was focused on any corruption efforts in which he went after the Ambassador and other actors on anticorruption issues. I think that is where he claimed that we hadn't shared his money, meaning his assistance to the prosecutor general's office.
And the second half of the first wave theme was looking back at the 2015 campaign and allegations that the National Anti-Corruption Bureau head, a person name Artem Sytnyk, had somehow provided the list of people taking money from the discredited pro-Russian party, Party of Regions, back in 2016.
So that was day one. There were two story lines that were launched more or less in parallel that were covered extensively in the U.S. press, first by The Hill and amplifiers, and in Ukraine by what are known as Porokhobots, trolls on the internet, particularly Facebook, in support of then-President Poroshenko and against the people that are to be Poroshenko's opponents.
GOLDMAN: You said there were some, I think you said, surprising Twitter --
KENT: I honestly -- I have forgotten my Twitter password. I’m not on the Twittersphere. So they are just names that did not mean anything to me until they all sudden became very active, talking about Ukraine and particularly the activities of our embassy in Ukraine.
GOLDMAN: Were you aware of whether the President retweeted this John Solomon article?
KENT: To the best of my recollection, the President may have retweeted something affiliated with the Hannity show the second day.
GOLDMAN: Did it reference John Solomon, as you recall?
KENT: I honestly, again, I have started following Twitter more than I did before March, but I was not an active follower at that point.
GOLDMAN: Prior to the initial article between February 11th and March 20th, was there any engagement that you had, either with the Ukrainian -- on the Ukrainian side, or with any State Department officials about any of these issues related to Rudy Giuliani?
CHAIRMAN ADAM SCHIFF: If I could -- just for clarification again, I think I mentioned one or two of the story lines, but you said there were four story lines. Can you tell us what the other story lines were?
MR. KENT: The third story line that came out the next day was focused on the Bidens and Burisma, that was the third story line. The fourth one that came out of day after was going after some civil society organizations, including anticorruption action center that were described as Soros organizations?
GOLDMAN: I want to -- we're going to go through these four a little bit in more depth, but I want to make sure that there's nothing else that occurred between February 11th and March 20th of note on this topic?
KENT: I received an email from our embassy on March 19th, the deputy director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau for Ukraine, usually referred to as NABU, that was set up in 2015 and proved very effective at trying to investigate high-level corruption as it was intended to do. The deputy director was a former Georgian national named Gizo Uglava. And he came into the embassy and described his conversation the night before with a completely inebriated, drunk, Yuriy Lutsenko, and Lutsenko was angry. He said he'd given an interview with an American journalist 2 weeks prior and that interview that he had accused the embassy of undermining him, and that was his motivation, and that the embassy had been supportive of the Democrat party, and was not supportive of the Trump party and that so basically the lines of attack that then came out in the subsequent articles, Lutsenko shared with this other law enforcement individual, who then came and shared what he had heard from Lutsenko the night before.
GOLDMAN: To the embassy?
KENT: To the embassy, yes.
GOLDMAN: And prior to March 19th, there was no other indication other than television or --
KENT: To the best of my recollection, the story was not in play publicly until the first articles appeared. And to the best of my recollection, somebody from The Hill reached out to us in the early evening, or the very end of the work day on the 19th, and asked the press officer of the European Bureau whether we had reaction to a number of assertions, allegations.