By , Tyler Olson
Published November 12, 2019
George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eastern Europe, will be one of the first witnesses to appear in the televised hearings for House Democrats' impeachment inquiry into President Trump Wednesday as the investigation moves from closed-door depositions into the open.
Kent and U.S. chargé d'affaires in Ukraine Bill Taylor are to appear together before the House Intelligence Committee. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is set to testify before lawmakers Friday.
Democrats have been moving quickly with their investigation, sparked by a whistleblower complaint, over whether Trump improperly used his office to pressure Ukranian President Voldomyr Zelensky into ordering investigations that could have been politically beneficial to his reelection campaign in exchange for the release of about $400 million in military aid.
Wednesday's hearing presents an opportunity for Democrats to make their case on why Trump should be impeached directly to voters, and for Republicans to poke holes in their argument.
The following is a look back at George Kent's background and connection to the impeachment inquiry:
Kent has served as a career diplomat under five presidents, starting in 1992. In his current role, he has been responsible for United States policy in Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. He's worked various diplomatic roles for the State Department in Poland, Uzbekistan and elsewhere.
A Harvard graduate with degrees in Russian History and Literature, Kent also earned degrees from Johns Hopkins and National Defense University. He's also been the senior anti-corruption coordinator in the State Department's European Bureau, according to his government biography.
He characterized his time in service as nonpartisan to congressional investigators during his closed-door deposition last month.
"I appear today in the same spirit that I have brought to my entire career," he said, "as one of thousands of nonpolitical career professionals in the Foreign Service who embody that vow daily around the world often in harsh and dangerous conditions."
Kent said in that same testimony that he had been subject to disinformation campaigns and online threats from Russians and corrupt Ukranian actors for years, but expressed concerns about "people with clearly questionable motives" who made what he called "false claims" about Yovanovitch that resulted in Trump's push to remove her from her post as Ukranian ambassador.
Kent likely will be quizzed about whether the president and his allies were pressuring Zelensky to open investigations that would help Trump, including one into 2020 president contender Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
In an exchange with Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., during his closed-door deposition, Kent said he had no firsthand knowledge -- outside from what he had heard from others, including Taylor -- of there being a clear aid-for-investigations quid pro quo.
"Do you have any firsthand knowledge of United States aid to Ukraine ever being connected to the opening of a new investigation?" Zeldin asked.
"I do not have direct knowledge, no," Kent said.
Republicans are also likely to bring up Hunter Biden's role with the Ukrainian gas company Burisma while his father was vice president, which Kent said he'd previously flagged as a potential "conflict of interest." He later was told to drop the matter, however.
In addition, Democrats are likely to focus on Kent's previous testimony that Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani undermined Yovanovitch with a "campaign of lies" and was part of a backchannel of U.S. diplomacy to Ukraine.
Democrats also may hone in on Kent's assertions that others had told him Trump clearly wanted Zelensky to open investigations into his political appointments.
Trump "wanted nothing less than President [Zelensky] to go to a microphone and say investigations, Biden and Clinton," he said.