The whistleblower complaint that spearheaded Donald Trump’s Ukraine controversy was de-classified and published on Thursday, with the anonymous author leading the letter with the bombshell accusation that the president is “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 election.”
The complaint details the concerned reactions of government officials who witnessed Trump’s July 25 phone call with newly-elected Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. While the White House released a document that detailed the president’s comments during the call, in which he urged Zelensky to do him a “favor” by launching an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, the four-part whistleblower complaint flags news concerns outside of what Trump said during the call, including allegations that White House officials were directed to cover up transcripts of the call.
Five takeaways from the call include:
1. Alleged Cover-up
Chief among new information disclosed in the complaint is the allegation that “senior White House officials had intervened to ‘lock down’ all the records of the phone call, especially the word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced — as is customary — by the White House Situation Room.” The complaint’s author also notes White House lawyers were involved in directing officials to obfuscate records of the call under the guise that it was “politically sensitive” information; this effort included removing “the electronic transcript from the computer system in which such transcripts are typically stored for coordination, finalization, and distribution to cabinet level officials.”
Allegations of a coverup raise new questions, most notably, if the White House believed the call to be innocuous and “perfect,” as Trump has claimed time after time, then why go through the effort of trying to disappear records of the conversation?
2. The Complaint Implicates America’s Top Law Enforcement Official
In the intro of the complaint, the whistleblower accuses Trump of “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election. This interference includes, among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the President’s main domestic political rivals.”
The author goes on to implicate Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who was already known to have been working with Zelensky’s office to push them into investigating Biden, but more notably, the complaint names Attorney General Bill Barr as being involved: “The President’s personal lawyer, Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General Barr appears to be involved as well.”
During the July 25 call, Trump repeatedly told Zelensky that he will ask Barr to call hm to discuss a potential investigation into Biden, but it is unclear if the proposed conversation ever happened.
Despite Barr’s alleged involvement in collaborating with a foreign government to target one of Trump’s political adversaries, the attorney general has not recused himself on the matter. In fact, the attorney general has done the opposite, taking it upon himself to clear the president of wrongdoing related to the Ukraine controversy after the whistleblower complaint went through an inspector general probe and was referred to Barr’s Department of Justice.
In response to the inspector general report on the matter that found the whistleblower’s allegations “credible,” the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel agreed with the IG’s credibility determinations but insisted the Zelensky call did not amount to a “thing of value,” while the DOJ’s Criminal Division argued “there was no campaign finance violation.”
3. The Zelensky Call Was Flagged as an ‘Urgent Concern’
The whistleblower cited an inspector general code to note that they were “reporting an ‘urgent concern,'” indicating the serious nature of the allegations.
“I am deeply concerned that the actions described below constitute ‘a serious or flagrant problem, abuse, or violation of law or Executive Order’ that ‘does not include differences of opinions concerning public policy matters,’ consistent with the definition of an ‘urgent concern,'” the complaint reads. “I am therefore fulfilling my duty to report this information, through proper legal channels, to the relevant authorities. I am also concerned that these actions pose risks to U.S. national security and undermine the U.S. Government’s efforts to deter and counter foreign interference in U.S. elections.”
While testifying before Congress about the complaint shortly after its declassification on Thursday, Joseph Maguire, Trump’s acting Director of National Intelligence, noted that the “urgent concern” code is a legally protected category according to laws put in place to protect whistleblowers.
4. ‘More Than a Half Dozen Officials’
The whistleblower acknowledged in the beginning of the complaint that they are “not a direct witness to most of the events described,” but they spoke to many people who did directly witness the Trump-Zelensky conversation as well as actions related to the call.
“Over the past four months, more than half a dozen U.S. officials have informed me of various facts related to this effort,” the complaint states. “The information provided herein was relayed to me in the course of official interagency business. It is routine for U.S. officials with responsibility for a particular regional or functional portfolio to share such information with one another in order to inform policymaking and analysis.”
“I found my colleagues’ accounts of these events to be credible because, in almost all cases, multiple officials recounted fact patterns that were consistent with one another,” the letter adds. “In addition, a variety of information consistent with these private accounts has been reported publicly.”
The whistleblower also purported that officials they spoke with were “deeply disturbed” and worried that they had “witnessed the President abuse his office for personal gain.”
The claim that so many officials who were privy to the call were disturbed by it challenges the DOJ’s quick clearing of Trump, as the whistleblower’s sources could have been interviewed to corroborate and verify the allegations.
5. ‘Ongoing Concerns’
Section three of the complaint, which is titled “Ongoing Concerns,” states that U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland met with Ukrainian government officials to help them adhere to Trump’s “favor.” The two U.S. officials “provided advice to the Ukrainian leadership about how to ‘navigate’ the demands that the President had made of Mr. Zelenskyy,” states the whistleblower.
The complaint goes on to purport that Giuliani “privately reached out to a variety of other Zelenskyy advisers, including Chief of Staff Andriy Bohdan and Acting Chairman of the Security Service of Ukraine Ivan Bakanov.” While the whistleblower clarifies that they are unsure if the officials actually discussed a potential Biden investigation witht he Ukraine officials, the complaint notes “Mr. Yermak and IVIr. Bakanov intended to travel to Washington in mid-August.”
The final section of the letter covers the “circumstances leading up to the 25 July Presidential phone call,” namely, how Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Letsenko pushed corruption accusations against Biden prior to Trump asking Zelensky for the “favor.”
[featured image via Win McNamee/Getty Images]
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