Democrats express alarm over whistleblower complaint, but offer few details

Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday offered broad descriptions of the whistleblower complaint at the center of the Trump-Ukraine scandal, describing the document as both troubling and credible.

The White House agreed to allow Congress to view the complaint amid growing public pressure for details surrounding President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Official testifies that Bolton had 'one-on-one meeting' with Trump over Ukraine aid Louisiana governor wins re-election MORE’s conversations with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he asked the foreign leader to investigate political rival former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBudget official says he didn't know why military aid was delayed: report Growing 2020 field underscores Democratic divide READ: Foreign service officer Jennifer Williams' closed-door testimony from the House impeachment inquiry MORE and his son. The White House also released a five-page readout of the call, in which Trump raises both Biden and Ukraine in his discussion with Zelensky.

ADVERTISEMENT

The revelations of Trump's request sparked a political firestorm on Capitol Hill, prompting House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiLouisiana governor wins re-election Dynamic scoring: Forward-thinking budgeting practices to grow our economy Pelosi: Trump tweets on Yovanovitch show his 'insecurity as an imposter' MORE (D-Calif.) to do an abrupt about-face and come out in support of a formal impeachment inquiry. 

While neither Democrats nor Republicans went into specifics on the nature of the whistleblower complaint, a source familiar with the document confirmed to The Hill that it relates to Trump’s conversations with Ukraine’s leader.

Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, described the complaint as “concerning” while leaving the committee spaces, but he declined to elaborate.

Quigley later appeared on CNN where he described the complaint as the "political equivalent" of Trump’s 2016 campaign remark that he could "shoot somebody on the street and his base would stay with him."

"I guess what I read, to me, was the political equivalent of that: Defying the constitution, committing a criminal act and thinking I can get away with it," Quigley said, while calling it "deeply troubling." 

Other Democrats echoed Quigley, describing the whistleblower and their allegations as "credible."

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy READ: Top NSC aide Tim Morrison's closed-door impeachment inquiry testimony Top NSC aide puts Sondland at front lines of Ukraine campaign, speaking for Trump MORE (D-Calif.) said he believes the complaint was “well written” and “credible,” and felt it provided members with more threads to investigate.

“I want to thank the whistleblower for coming forward. I think that what this courageous individual has done has exposed serious wrongdoing,” the chairman told reporters after viewing the complaint.

Schiff also noted that the committee has not yet having received all of the information from the intelligence community's Inspector General Michael Atkinson. Members said they did not review Atkinson’s full preliminary report, but they also declined to comment on whether they reviewed a redacted whistleblower complaint.

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire — with consultation with the Justice Department — has argued that the complaint falls outside of the intelligence community whistleblower statute, which led him to initially block the allegations from reaching Congress seven days after receiving notice from Atkinson that he had determined the complaint to be both credible and an “urgent concern.”

Atkinson ultimately notified the committees that the complaint was being withheld, which was one of the initial sparks that has fueled the Ukraine matter to grow into a full blown political fire.

Democrats have claimed the White House wanted to hide Trump’s exchange with Zelensky and that releasing a partial memo only bolsters their case for impeachment.

“I think it's a travesty that this complaint was withheld as long as it was because it was an urgent matter, it is an urgent matter. And there was simply no basis to keep this from the committee,” Schiff said.

Rep. Raja KrishnamoorthiSubramanian (Raja) Raja KrishnamoorthiEx-Ukraine ambassador testifies in impeachment hearing: Five things to watch Sondland emerges as key target after Vindman testimony Ex-Trump official's refusal to testify escalates impeachment tensions MORE (D-Ill.) said he felt the report “raised a lot of concerns that are out there,” while describing the complainant as “credible” because the whistleblower acknowledged “the things he or she knows and doesn't know.”

Some Republicans have called for the complaint to be released, indicating that they believe it will help combat the claims of wrongdoing coming from Democrats.

"I do not support impeachment of President Trump,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted. “I have just read the whistleblower complaint made available to House Intelligence Committee Members. I believe strongly in transparency and it should be immediately declassified and made public for the American people to read.”

Other GOP members have said that while they find the complaints concerning, the partial transcript makes clear and is the best evidence that Trump did not seek to use financial aid to Ukraine as leverage to get Zelensky to investigate Biden.

Schiff, however, has compared Trump’s request to that of a “mob boss,” in which he didn’t have to explicitly say it to make his request known.

The members comments come one day before Maguire is slated to publicly testify before the House Intelligence Committee on the handling of the complaint.