National Security

Whistleblower complaint says Trump sought to enlist Ukraine’s help in 2020

A whistleblower complaint released by the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday alleges that President Trump sought to enlist Ukraine’s help in the 2020 election by mounting a corruption investigation against former Vice President Joe Biden. 

The declassified version of the whistleblower complaint details the government insider’s worries about Trump’s contacts with Ukraine’s leader, revelations of which on Tuesday triggered a formal impeachment inquiry against the president. 

The complainant said “multiple White House officials with direct knowledge” described to the whistleblower the details of the July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, including that “the President used the remainder of the call to advance his personal interests. Namely, he sought to pressure the Ukrainian leader to take actions to help the President’s 2020 reelection bid.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) tweeted a release of the complaint roughly 30 minutes before acting Director of National Security Joseph Maguire was set to testify before his panel. 

{mosads}In the complaint, the whistleblower, who is unnamed and whose identity remains unknown, states that they had received information from multiple government officials that the president was “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign government in the 2020 U.S. election.”

“The President’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General [William] Barr also appears to be involved as well,” the complaint states. 

The Aug. 12 complaint says that over the past four months, more than half a dozen U.S. officials had told them of “various facts related to the affair.”

While the whistleblower says they were not a direct witness, the whistleblower found the accounts of colleagues to be credible.

The complainant said “multiple White House officials with direct knowledge” described to the whistleblower the details of the Zelensky phone call.

According to the nine-page complaint, the White House officials were “deeply disturbed by what had transpired in the phone call” and White House lawyers were consulted out of concern that the president used his office for his own personal gain. 

The whistleblower complaint says that there were approximately a dozen officials in the room during the phone call, which Trump made from the White House situation room. The officials included a mix of policy officials and duty officers, the complaint said, and participation was not reduced because it was seen as a “routine” call. 
The whistleblower said that they were told that senior White House officials intervened to “lock down” records of the phone call, and that White House officials were directed by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system where they are customarily stored and put onto a separate system “that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature.”

The complaint appeared to mirror the details of the phone call, as laid out in a five-page partial transcript of the call that the White House released early Wednesday morning. The memo showed that Trump encouraged Zelensky to investigate the allegations with Biden and aspects of the origins of the Russia investigation, offering to put the Ukrainian leader in contact with Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr.

While Trump has admitted that he raised the prospect of investigating Biden in the phone call, he has denied that he withheld financial aid to help combat Russian aggression as leverage in his discussions with the foreign leader. Trump has insisted that the call was appropriate and that he did not pressure Zelensky to pursue the Biden allegations, calling their conversation “perfect.” At a joint news conference at the United Nations with Trump on Wednesday, Zelensky said he did not feel pressure from Trump and that he did not want to get involved in U.S. political affairs.

The White House said Thursday that “nothing has changed” with the release of this complaint, dismissing it as “a collection of third-hand accounts of events and cobbled-together press clippings—all of which shows nothing improper.” 

“The White House will continue to push back on the hysteria and false narratives being peddled by Democrats and many in the mainstream media, and President Trump will continue to work hard on behalf of the American people as he always does,” said White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, saying Trump release the memo of the Zelensky call because he has “nothing to hide.”

Revelations about the phone call have led dozens of Democrats to come out in support of impeachment.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the launching of a formal impeachment inquiry on Tuesday, a position she had previously resisted.
There have been few fractures in Trump’s GOP line of defense so far, though a few senators — most notably Mitt Romney of Utah, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012 — have said they found some of Trump’s communications with the Ukrainian leader concerning. 
The nine-page complaint includes a brief classified appendix, which is partially redacted.

The whistleblower said they believed Trump’s actions risked undermining U.S. national security and hampering the government’s efforts to counter foreign interference in American elections.

The whistleblower also raised “ongoing concerns” following the call, noting that U.S. special representative for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, traveled to Kiev with U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sonland and met with Zelensky and other political figures the day after the call and that readouts indicated they did so to “navigate” demands made by the president on the call with Ukraine’s leader.  

The whistleblower also cited a reported subsequent trip by Giuliani to Madrid with one of Zelensky’s advisers that was described to him by U.S. officials as a “direct follow-up” to Trump’s call with Zelensky regarding the “cases” they discussed.

The complaint is highly detailed, noting press reports during the spring about Giuliani’s efforts to investigate the allegations against Biden, during which the whistleblower said they were told that Ukrainian leaders believed a meeting or phone call between Trump and Zelensky would “depend” on whether Ukraine “showed willingness to ‘play ball’” with  allegations aired by Giuliani.  

Giuliani first denied and then acknowledged in a CNN interview last week that he asked Ukraine to investigate Biden.

The committee also released a Aug. 26 letter from Inspector General Michael Atkinson accompanying the complaint also showing that the inspector general believed it to be a potential violation of campaign finance law, and that it could expose Trump or others working with him to counterintelligence risks. 

The Justice Department said Wednesday that it received a referral related to the complaint that the conversation could constitute a potential violation of campaign finance law, but said the department’s criminal division reviewed the official record and determined there was no such violation.

The whistleblower complaint has been the subject of massive public attention over the past two weeks. Schiff first revealed its existence on Sept. 13, saying the Trump administration had refused to provide it to Congress.

Maguire and the Justice Department argued that the issue did not represent an “urgent concern” as defined by law as Atkinson did, and withheld the details from Congress. The administration reversed course Wednesday and allowed lawmakers to review the classified version of the complaint at the U.S. Capitol. 

–This report was updated at 2:54 p.m.

Tags Adam Schiff Donald Trump Impeachment Joe Biden Mitt Romney Nancy Pelosi Rudy Giuliani Stephanie Grisham Ukraine William Barr
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