Updated at 12:30 p.m. on Friday: Revised to include additional comment from Castro.
WASHINGTON – San Antonio Rep. Joaquin Castro on Thursday used the final day of House impeachment hearings to accuse Energy Secretary Rick Perry of wrongdoing in Ukraine over his dealings with that country’s energy sector.
The attack – which Perry has previously rejected – was prompted by testimony from David Holmes, a State Department employee at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.
Holmes told the House Intelligence Committee that he accompanied Perry at times when the former Texas governor attended the May inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. He said he saw Perry give Zelenskiy a list of what Perry described as “people he trusts.”
“Secretary Perry told President Zelenskiy that he could seek advice from the people on this list on issues of energy sector reform,” Holmes said, adding that Perry then had private meetings with Ukrainian energy contacts.
That testimony doesn’t conflict with Perry’s account that he was merely passing along a list of subject-matter experts to Ukrainian officials at the request of the Ukrainian government.
But Castro, a Democrat, pointed to Associated Press reports that said the list included, among others, a Texan who’s donated to Perry’s political campaigns and that the donor was ultimately part of a business partnership that won a potentially lucrative oil and gas deal in Ukraine.
“We have seen substantial evidence and heard substantial evidence of wrongdoing by the president of the United States,” Castro said. “I feel the cancer of wrongdoing may have spread beyond the president and into others in the executive branch.”
Castro on Friday said those allegations should be investigated by U.S. Attorney General William Barr. He also alleged that Perry’s hands aren’t clean when it comes to the quid pro quo allegations facing President Donald Trump.
“Rick Perry and others were apparently on the mission to help the president accomplish it,” he said. “These guys really weren’t carrying out diplomatic work. They were carrying out the president’s dirty work, and it looks like they were trying to enrich the president or their friends.”
Perry has not disputed that he recommended to the Ukrainians the name of Michael Bleyzer, a Ukrainian-American businessman who lives in Texas and has supported Perry’s political career.
“He’s a really brilliant, capable businessman who I would recommend … for a host of different things in Kyiv,” Perry said last month at a news conference in Lithuania. “He knows the country. He’s from there. So, why not?”
Perry has denied, however, any wrongdoing in his Ukraine dealings, including over his action to suggest energy sector experts to Ukrainian officials.
Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes has said that Perry has “consistently called for the modernization and reform of Kyiv’s business and energy sector in an effort to create an environment that will incentivize Western companies to do business in Ukraine.”
“What he did not do is advocate for the business interests of any one individual or company,” said Hynes, who on Thursday didn’t immediately respond to a request for additional comment.
Bleyzer, in a statement to AP, has also denied that Perry helped his firm get the gas deal, a 50-year contract that Bleyzer won in a partnership with Alex Cranberg, another longtime Perry donor.
“I believe that Secretary Perry’s conversations with Ukrainian government officials, if they in fact took place, did not play any role in Ukrainian Energy winning its bid,” Bleyzer said earlier this month, calling the process competitive and transparent.
Perry, who is leaving the Cabinet in December, was mentioned throughout the House impeachment hearings, as Democrats and Republicans clashed over the allegations that Trump abused his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate a political rival.
That reflects Perry’s standing as one of the “three amigos,” the name Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, gave to himself, Perry, and Kurt Volker, another diplomat, as the trio working with Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, on Ukraine matters.
On Wednesday, Sondland said Perry and other top officials were “in the loop” on a quid pro quo that Ukraine must investigate former Vice President Joe Biden over Hunter Biden’s work for a company called Burisma in order for Zelenskiy to secure a White House meeting with Trump.
Hynes, the DOE spokeswoman, said Sondland “misrepresented both Secretary Perry’s interaction with Rudy Giuliani and direction the secretary received from President Trump.”
She said that Perry spoke to Giuliani “only once at the president’s request” and that “at no point before, during or after that phone call did the words ‘Biden’ or ‘Burisma’ ever come up in the presence of Secretary Perry.”
On Thursday, another witness before the House Intelligence Committee gave Perry a sterling review.
Fiona Hill, a former national security adviser, said she recommended that Perry lead the U.S. delegation to Zelenskiy’s inauguration, “given his role as secretary of energy and also his deep knowledge of the energy industry.”
“Secretary Perry himself is an extraordinarily good advocate of U.S. interests, particularly in the energy sphere,” she said, noting that an important goal for Ukraine is to reduce the country’s reliance on Russian oil and gas sources.
Hill had testified in a closed-door deposition that she “personally had no concerns” about Perry’s work related to Ukraine.
Washington bureau chief Todd J. Gillman contributed to this report.