Whistleblower feared Trump’s call with Ukraine constituted flagrant abuse of power
The House Intelligence Committee on Thursday released a declassified version of a whistleblower complaint regarding President Donald Trump’s interactions with the Ukrainian president and subsequent handling of records about a July 25 phone call between the two leaders.
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The whistleblower’s complaint recounted what led up to that phone call, during which President Trump repeatedly pressured the Ukrainian leader to work with his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
“Multiple US officials told me that the Ukrainian leadership was led to believe that a meeting or phone call between the President and President Zelenskyy would depend on whether Zelenskyy showed willingness to ‘play ball’ on issues that had been publicly aired by Mr. Lutsensko and Mr. Giuliani,” the whistleblower claimed.
Less than one day after the White House released a transcript from that call, the whistleblower’s complaint sheds additional light on how the conversation was perceived by administration officials.
“I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election,” the whistleblower claimed.
Not only did the whistleblower take issue with the nature of the July 25 call, but reported hearing from White House officials “that they were ‘directed’ by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system in which such transcripts are typically stored for coordination, finalization, and distribution to Cabinet-level officials.”
“Instead,” the whistleblower claims, “the transcript was loaded into a separate electronic system that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature. One White House official described this act as an abuse of this electronic system because the call did not contain anything remotely sensitive from a national security perspective.”
The whistleblower characterized White House lawyers’ actions as part of an effort to “’lock down’ all records of the phone call.”
According to their complaint, the whistleblower reported hearing from White House officials that the president’s phone call with Zelenskiy “was ‘not the first time’ under this administration that a presidential transcript was placed into this codeword level system solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive – rather than national security sensitive – information.”
The whistleblower did not provide other specific examples of other occasions where a presidential transcript was placed into this system.
Several of the president’s defenders have argued that the whistleblower may be politically motivated. The intelligence community inspector general, in a letter to the office of the director of national intelligence, wrote that he did identify some indication of “arguable political bias on the part of the Complainant in favor of a rival political candidate,” but he added that “such evidence did not change my determination that the complaint relating to the urgent concern ‘appears credible,’ particularly given the other information the [intelligence community inspector general] obtained during its preliminary review.”