Five things to know as Ukraine fallout widens for Trump

President TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation MORE's July 25 conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the White House’s handling of the call records have ignited a firestorm on Capitol Hill, with Democrats moving full steam ahead on their impeachment inquiry.

The controversy has engulfed a host of administration officials, prompted vigorous defenses from Trump and laid the foundation for a bruising impeachment battle.

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Here are five things to know about Trump's interactions with Ukraine and the widening fallout.

 

Democrats zeroing in on call memo, whistleblower complaint

The controversy exploded last week with the release of two documents that provide the basis for allegations of wrongdoing against Trump.

First came a rough transcript of Trump's call with Zelensky, which was declassified and made public on Wednesday after the president said it would prove he did nothing wrong.

Democrats have seized on a few key passages, particularly one in which Trump says he would like Zelensky to do him a "favor" after discussing military aid. In another part of the conversation, Trump encourages Zelensky to "look into" Democratic presidential candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California MORE's role in ousting former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. Later, Trump tells Zelensky to get in touch with his personal attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiTrump knocks testimony from 'Never Trumpers' at Louisiana rally Jordan calls Pelosi accusing Trump of bribery 'ridiculous' Giuliani under investigation for alleged campaign finance, lobbying breaches: report MORE and Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrGOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse DOJ watchdog won't let witnesses submit written feedback on investigation into Russia probe: report Bill Clinton advises Trump to ignore impeachment: 'You got hired to do a job' MORE.

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The declassification and release of a whistleblower complaint on Thursday shed further light on Trump's dealings with Ukraine.

The whistleblower is a member of the intelligence community but was not on the July 25 call. Their recounting of what they had heard about Trump's conversation with Zelensky aligned with the rough transcript made public by the White House.

The whistleblower wrote that White House officials who shared information about the exchange were concerned Trump had abused the office of the presidency for personal gain.

The author of the report further alleged that administration officials sought to limit the number of people with access to the transcript of the conversation by placing it in a secure system typically reserved for matters of national security.

 

Barr, Pompeo, Pence among those ensnared

Barr, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoJudge rules American-born woman who joined ISIS not a US citizen Human rights: Help or hindrance to toppling dictators? The Hill's Morning Report - Fallout from day one of Trump impeachment hearing MORE, Vice President Pence, acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump files to dismiss lawsuit from Bolton aide on impeachment testimony OMB official to testify in impeachment probe if subpoenaed after others refused Kent, Taylor say they're not 'Never Trumpers' after Trump Twitter offensive MORE and former Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker have all been tied to the evolving controversy.

Trump said he would have Zelensky get in touch with Barr to discuss an investigation into the Bidens, according to the White House memo of the call.

The Justice Department has sought to distance Barr from that conversation, saying he was first notified of Trump’s conversation with Zelensky “several weeks” after it took place and that he was never asked to contact Ukraine.

Democrats have seized on Barr's involvement, calling for him to testify, recuse himself from the Ukraine matter or resign.

Mulvaney was ensnared when Trump directed him to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. military aid for Ukraine just days before the call with Zelensky.

Pompeo, meanwhile, was reportedly on the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky. Further complicating matters is the fact that Giuliani has indicated the State Department was aware of his efforts to dig up dirt on Biden in Ukraine.

Pompeo, one of Trump's most loyal and longest-serving Cabinet members, said last week that the State Department's dealings related to Ukraine had been "entirely appropriate."

Volker, who had been the State Department's special envoy to Ukraine, resigned last week after he was alleged to have met with Ukrainian officials to discuss Trump's desire to see an investigation into Biden.

Pence, who has made a habit of staying out of Trump-created controversies, was roped in last week when the president suggested releasing transcripts of Pence's conversations with Zelensky to prove nothing improper had taken place.

 

Giuliani playing key role

The former New York City mayor and personal lawyer for Trump is in many ways sharing the spotlight with Trump at the center of the Ukraine saga.

He has unabashedly pursued information in Ukraine that could be damaging to Biden, one of Trump's chief political rivals heading into 2020. Giuliani has defended his conduct, denied any wrongdoing and said he is working for his client.

Giuliani is said to have met with Shokin in late 2018 and with Shokin's successor, Yuriy Lutsenko, multiple times earlier this year. He said in May he would travel to Ukraine in search of information helpful to Trump but later called off that trip amid wide scrutiny.

Giuliani's name comes up several times in the whistleblower report, and his involvement has been a cause for concern among officials who feel he was conducting shadow diplomacy as a private citizen.

But Giuliani has been adamant in a slew of recent television interviews that the State Department was aware of his actions and had even encouraged him to take some meetings with Ukrainian officials.

Democrats are now eager to hear exactly what transpired. The House Intelligence Committee and the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Monday subpoenaed Giuliani as part of the impeachment inquiry into Trump.

 

Trump focusing on two Bidens

Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden joined the board of Burisma Holdings, a natural gas giant in Ukraine, in 2014.

The job came at a time when the United Kingdom, the U.S. and other governments began urging a corruption investigation into Burisma founder Mykola Zlochevsky.

Shokin, Ukraine's prosecutor general at the time, oversaw the investigation into Zlochevsky in 2015 but faced criticism for failing to do enough.

Joe Biden emerged as the point man for the Obama administration in pressing for stronger action on corruption in Ukraine as governments in the European Union and other institutions pushed for a change.

The U.S. threatened to withhold roughly $1 billion in loan guarantees if Shokin was not replaced as prosecutor general, a message Joe Biden delivered to officials in Kiev. Joe Biden recounted that conversation during a 2018 Council on Foreign Relations conference.

There's no evidence that Hunter Biden was involved in any wrongdoing at Burisma, and Joe Biden has maintained that his actions as vice president were unrelated to his son's business dealings.

But Trump and his allies have alleged that there were conflict of interest issues and have tried to paint Biden's push to oust Shokin as improper. They circulated a video of Biden's appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations last year to argue that he threatened Ukraine.

It's unclear what a Ukrainian investigation into the Bidens would yield, though Trump and his inner circle consider the matter politically damaging for the Democratic presidential front-runner.

 

White House, Democrats both moving swiftly

The House moved quickly last week in response to the information about Trump's call with Zelensky.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump knocks testimony from 'Never Trumpers' at Louisiana rally Jordan calls Pelosi accusing Trump of bribery 'ridiculous' USMCA deal close, but not 'imminent,' Democrats say MORE (D-Calif.) announced the day before the rough transcript was released that the House would formalize an impeachment inquiry into the president. In the week since, the House Intelligence Committee has heard from the acting director of national intelligence, requested documents from Pompeo and sought a deposition from Volker, among others.

Democrats are expected to proceed swiftly on their impeachment inquiry with a narrow focus on the Ukraine events.

Trump, meanwhile, has responded to the latest threat to his presidency in much the same way he treated former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' MORE's investigation. He has repeatedly proclaimed that his call with Zelensky was "perfect" and showed no wrongdoing.

He has increasingly lashed out at the whistleblower and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump on Schiff: 'He will not make the LSU football team' Trump knocks testimony from 'Never Trumpers' at Louisiana rally Johnson opens door to subpoenaing whistleblower, Schiff, Bidens MORE (D-Calif.), who is leading the investigations into Trump's conduct.

The president has sought to undermine the whistleblower's credibility, seizing on the fact that they did not witness many of the events they recounted firsthand and deriding the complaint as "fake."

Trump on Monday escalated his attacks on Schiff, suggesting the lawmaker be arrested for treason for giving a paraphrased description of the July 25 call during a congressional hearing.