WASHINGTON • A top US diplomat told congressional investigators that President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani conducted a "campaign full of lies" against the US ambassador to Ukraine before she was recalled from her post, according to a transcript of his testimony released on Thursday.
Mr George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, told the Trump impeachment inquiry that he was also subject to attacks by Mr Giuliani but was told to "keep my head down" by a senior State Department official.
The Democratic-led inquiry in the House of Representatives is focused on a July 25 phone call in which Mr Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Mr Joe Biden, a former vice-president and now a leading Democratic rival in the November 2020 presidential election.
Mr Giuliani is central to the inquiry and has been mentioned frequently in testimony by State Department diplomats, who have painted a picture of the former New York City mayor running a shadow US policy towards Ukraine to pressure it to carry out a corruption investigation into Mr Biden and his son, who worked for a Ukrainian petrol company.
Mr Kent mentioned Mr Giuliani 73 times in his testimony to lawmakers during a closed-door session on Oct 15 but released on Thursday.
Ms Marie Yovanovitch, then US ambassador to Ukraine, was abruptly pulled from her post in May. Mr Kent said Mr Giuliani had conducted a smear campaign against the envoy.
"His assertions and allegations against former ambassador Yovanovitch were without basis, untrue, period," Mr Kent testified.
"Mr Giuliani, at that point, had been carrying on a campaign for several months, full of lies and incorrect information (against) Ambassador Yovanovitch, so this was a continuation of his campaign of lies," he said.
Neither Mr Giuliani nor a lawyer for him immediately responded to requests for comment on Mr Kent's testimony.
Mr Kent also said Ukrainian officials understood when they met Mr Giuliani that he was not a regular private citizen and that he represented Mr Trump.
"Giuliani was not consulting with the State Department about what he was doing in the first half of 2019. And to the best of my knowledge, he's never suggested that he was promoting US policy," Mr Kent said.
For nearly a year, Mr Giuliani pursued unsubstantiated allegations that Mr Biden had pushed to fire a Ukrainian prosecutor to stop him from investigating Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company, where Mr Biden's son Hunter served on the board.
Mr Giuliani had also told Reuters that he played a role in the effort to remove Ms Yovanovitch.
Democrats have been releasing transcripts of the closed-door interviews as they prepare for public hearings in Congress next week.
Mr Kent is among the three US diplomats who will serve as star witnesses.
Lawmakers are trying to determine whether Mr Trump froze US$391 million (S$532 million) in US security assistance for Ukraine to put pressure on Mr Zelensky to conduct the investigation, thus misusing US foreign policy for his personal gain.
Mr Trump's defenders say there is no evidence of him and the Ukrainian President engaging in a "quid pro quo" - exchanging a favour for a favour - because the aid to Ukraine was released and Mr Zelensky never explicitly promised anything.
A quid pro quo is not necessary to prove high crimes or misdemeanours, which is the standard the US Constitution requires for the impeachment of a president.
Mr Kent and Mr William Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, will testify on Wednesday, and Ms Yovanovitch will testify on Friday.
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was subpoenaed by the House Intelligence Committee to appear yesterday, an official working on the inquiry said.
Earlier this week, the White House rebuffed a committee request for Mr Mulvaney to appear.