Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney organized a meeting this spring in which officials were determined to take Ukraine policy out of the traditional channels, putting Energy Secretary Rick Perry, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and special U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker in charge instead, a top State Department official told lawmakers Tuesday.

George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for Ukraine, told House investigators he was instructed to “lay low,” focus on the five other countries in his portfolio and defer to Volker, Sondland and Perry — who called themselves the “three amigos” — on matters related to Ukraine, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) told reporters Tuesday. Kent took that as a sign, Connolly added, that having been critical of the plan he was being pushed aside “because what he was saying was not welcome” at high levels of the government…

The revelations from Kent’s testimony suggest the decision to wrest Ukraine policy away from career diplomats and put it in the hands of officials seen as more sympathetic to the president was taken several weeks before Trump spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In their July 25 call, Trump appeared to pressure the Ukrainian leader to launch probes into the 2016 U.S. election and the son of 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden.