Sep 26, 2019

"Not the first time"

Document scan provided by U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee. Photo Illustration: Axios Visuals

The whistleblower report holds one central allegation: President Trump used his office to push Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his White House covered up the paper trail.

The big picture: The report chronicles events around the July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to allege a pattern of Trump administration misbehavior.

Before the call, multiple U.S. officials told the whistleblower that they were "deeply concerned by what they viewed as Mr. Giuliani's circumvention of national security decisionmaking processes."

  • The White House response to the call: White House officials allegedly "intervened to 'lock down' all records of the call" and place the transcript in a classified system, even though it didn't contain sensitive national security information.
  • A day after the call: The whistleblower said that the U.S. envoy to Ukraine and the U.S. ambassador to the EU met with Ukrainian officials and provided them with advice on how to "navigate" Trump's demand.
  • And on Ukraine's end: Multiple U.S. officials told the whistleblower that Ukrainian leadership was "led to believe" that a phone call or meeting between Trump and Zelensky would depend on whether Zelensky showed a willingness to "play ball" on the issues aired by Ukraine's Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko and Rudy Giuliani — i.e. investigating Joe Biden.

Between the lines: Expect a bunch of attention — and even some hearings — on the allegation found in the report's appendix.

  • "According to White House officials I spoke with, this 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."

What's next: Don't be surprised to see efforts to unmask the whistleblower, even after they followed the proper legal channels.

  • Trump today called for treating the whistleblower and the people who aided them as treasonous spies.
  • "We used to handle it a little differently than we do now," he said. (Audio).

Go deeper:

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Whistleblower alleges Trump abused power to solicit foreign interference

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky with President Trump. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The whistleblower complaint at the heart of a controversy over President Trump and Ukraine alleges that Trump used "the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 election," and that Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General Bill Barr appeared to be involved in the effort as well.

Why it matters: The Trump administration's initial refusal to turn over the complaint is what led to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's watershed decision on Tuesday to finally support a formal impeachment inquiry. Likely as a result of pressure from that announcement, the administration released both the complaint and, earlier in the day, a summary of Trump's July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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4 takeaways from the Trump-Ukraine whistleblower complaint

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

A whistleblower complaint released by the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday alleges that President Trump used the power of his office to solicit foreign interference from Ukraine for the purpose of helping his 2020 re-election campaign.

The big picture: The allegations detailed in the complaint go beyond the summary of the phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky released by the White House on Wednesday.

Go deeperArrowSep 26, 2019

Whistleblower complaint: White House pattern of hiding "politically sensitive" transcripts

The whistleblower complaint regarding the Trump administration's interactions with Ukraine alleges that the White House attempted to "lock down" the memo summarizing President Trump's July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a sensitive computer system designed to hold national security information.

Why it matters: A footnote in the complaint states that the computer system is used for "codeword-level intelligence information, such as covert action," and claims that White House officials stated that it was not the first time that the Trump administration had used the system "for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive — rather than national security sensitive — information."

Go deeperArrowSep 26, 2019