NYT: Trump was briefed on whistleblower complaint prior to releasing Ukraine aid
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In late August, White House lawyers briefed President Trump on the now-infamous whistleblower complaint about his dealings with Ukraine, the New York Times reports, citing "two people familiar with the matter."
Why it matters: The report suggests Trump knew officials had raised alarms about his July 25 phone call with Ukraine's president two weeks prior to his decision to unfreeze military aid, which Democrats allege he was using as leverage to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election.
Between the lines: The bombshell report could undermine a key Republican defense used throughout the public impeachment hearing — that there couldn't have been a "quid pro quo" because the aid was ultimately released on Sept. 11.
- House Democrats have long claimed that the aid was only released because Trump knew he had been "caught" after they launched an investigation in September into allegations that Rudy Giuliani was leading a campaign to dig up dirt on Joe Biden.
- The revelation that Trump knew about the whistleblower complaint in August would bolster that argument. The Times reports that it's not clear how much detail White House lawyers went into when briefing Trump on the complaint.
The revelation may also shed light on why President Trump denied any "quid pro quo" involving aid and the investigations to EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland — which, as the Times notes, came before the phrase had "entered the public lexicon" due to the Ukraine scandal.
- Sondland is one of several witnesses who testified that he believed both a White House meeting and military aid had been conditioned on the announcement of investigations.
- Sondland notably refused to say whether he believed Trump's assertion in a Sept. 9 phone call that there was no quid pro quo involving the military aid.
- Days after reportedly learning about the whistleblower complaint, Trump also denied to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) that there was a quid pro quo. Johnson said in a letter to House Republicans that Trump was "adamant, vehement and angry" when asked the question.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.