Sep 26, 2019

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.

  • While the call is still core to the whistleblower's concerns, the complaint also lays out a pattern of behavior stretching back months that involves Trump, his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, Attorney General Bill Barr and White House officials alarmed at what they're being asked to do.
The takeaways

1. Much of the information laid out in the report was exposed over the past weeks and months by reporters at the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and others — not to mention the fact that Trump himself also confirmed to the public that he had brought up the possibility of investigating Joe Biden in his call with Zelensky.

  • The whistleblower was not a direct witness to the phone call and alleged actions, but their description of the call, which was based on information from multiple White House officials, aligns with the memo released by the White House.

2. One of the main concerns that prompted the whistleblower to report their complaint was the White House's handling of the transcript of the Trump-Zelensky phone call. They allege that the White House attempted to "lock down" the summary in a sensitive computer system designed to hold national security information.

  • The complaint states that a White House official called this action "an act of abuse" because the call "did not contain anything remotely sensitive from a national security perspective" — supported by the fact that the released memo did not include any notable redactions.

3. 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 issues related to investigating Joe Biden for corruption.

4. An initial review by Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson found that despite "arguable political bias," he determined that the whistleblower complaint "appears credible." The Justice Department later blocked acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire from turning over the complaint to Congress.

Go deeper: Read the complaint with summaries of each section

Go deeper

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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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."

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Misleading Trump tweet claims Ukraine whistleblower complaint "not holding up"

President Trump tweeted Monday that the Ukraine whistleblower's complaint is "mostly" about his call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and that its account of the call is "a fraud" — 2 claims disproven by both the complaint itself and the memo of the call released by the White House.

"The Fake Whistleblower complaint is not holding up. It is mostly about the call to the Ukrainian President which, in the name of transparency, I immediately released to Congress & the public. The Whistleblower knew almost nothing, its 2ND HAND description of the call is a fraud!"
Go deeperArrowSep 30, 2019