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White House scandal puts Mick Mulvaney in the spotlight

Mick Mulvaney reportedly "contributed substantially to the unfolding political crisis" at the White House.
Mick Mulvaney
Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney listens to a question during a press briefing at the White House, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, in Washington.

Donald Trump's Ukraine scandal is obviously centered around the president's actions and alleged abuses, but as developments unfold, the cast of characters facing scrutiny continues to grow.

Yesterday, for example, State Department official George Kent testified to lawmakers behind closed doors and was reportedly encouraged to "lay low" when he raised concerns about Rudy Giuliani's schemes in Ukraine.

And as notable as this was, Kent's testimony about acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was every bit as interesting.

According to Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who was present for the deposition, Kent testified that Mulvaney oversaw a meeting where he sidelined State Department officials and tapped three political appointees -- Energy Secretary Rick Perry, European Ambassador Gordon Sondland and special envoy Kurt Volker -- to oversee Ukraine policy for the United States.Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state who worked on Ukraine and five other countries, told congressional investigators that the trio called themselves "the three amigos" and elbowed all the other officials at State out of the way, according to Connolly.

That's no small revelation. If Kent's testimony was accurate, it suggests the acting White House chief of staff deliberately shifted authority of U.S. policy toward Ukraine away from the proper officials.

This comes a day after lawmakers heard from Fiona Hill, the former top adviser in Trump's White House on U.S. policy toward Russia and Ukraine, who reportedly testified that she heard from then-White House national security adviser John Bolton about Mulvaney's role in the scheme.

What's more, NBC News reported last week that the White House's decision to block the release of almost $400 million in aid to Ukraine -- a key element of the scandal -- went through the White House Office of Management and Budget. The report added, "The role of the OMB in handling the aid money has also placed Mick Mulvaney, the director of the OMB and also the president's chief of staff, under growing scrutiny."

A Washington Post report added overnight that current and former administration officials said Mulvaney "contributed substantially to the unfolding political crisis, both through his connection to key events related to the attempt to pressure Kiev and through his general approach to the chief of staff job, which was driven by a perceived reluctance to displease the president."

Watch this space.