The White House designated a three-person team to bypass formal U.S.-Ukraine policy following a meeting organized by acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, a senior State Department official told House impeachment investigators.
The official, George Kent, said he did not personally attend that meeting on May 23, but department officials were informed afterward that then-Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, would be in charge of the policy, Bloomberg reports.
Neither Secretary of State Michael Pompeo nor other officials who would normally form the diplomatic channels of American foreign policy in Ukraine were to be involved, according to a recounting of Kent's testimony by Representative Gerald Connolly.
Connolly added that Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of State, referred to the trio as the "three amigos."
Volker testified earlier this month; Sondland is to appear on Thursday. Text messages showed that Volker coordinated with Sondland, on a proposed announcement by Ukraine's leader that his government would investigate the issues raised by Trump's allegations of wrongdoing by former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Connolly added that Kent also did not have to expressly explain in his testimony what the bypassing of normal channels meant. That's because, he said, Kent had already testified about his own concerns that the "shadow, parallel role" of Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, had "undermined 28 years of U.S. efforts to try to promote the rule of law in Ukraine."
Trump and his allies have argued that the impeachment inquiry was illegitimate without a formal House vote.