Inspector General for intelligence community warns that whistleblower complaint is “an urgent concern” that raises “serious national intelligence and security risks.”
Hear audio of the declassified whistleblower complaint read aloud here.
By Miriam Raftery
September 26, 2019 (Washington D.C.) -- A whistleblower complaint against President Donald Trump has been declassified and released today in its entirety. The complaint states that the President abused his power during a July 25, 2019 phone call, pressuring the Ukraine’s president to investigate the son of Trump’s political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, in an effort to influence the 2020 election.
The whistleblower, whom the New York Times reports is a CIA agent assigned to the White House, also alleges that Trump tried to hide his actions by locking up records of the call. The Washington Post reports that just one week before the call to the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump ordered a halt to military aide promised to the Ukraine.
The Trump administration’s own intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson warned that the whistleblower complaints to be both credible and an “urgent concern” that raises “serious national intelligence and security risks.”
On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House will launch a formal impeachment inquiry over the allegations. “The actions taken to date by the President have seriously violated the Constitution,” said Pelosi, adding that the President betrayed his oath of office and “must be held accountable—no one is above the law.” After the unredacted transcript was released today, Pelosi stated, “This is a cover up.”
Trump has denied wrongdoing and said he made no effort to pressure Zelensky over Biden’s son. He denounced the impeachment inquiry as “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!” and “Witch Hunt garbage” in a series of Twitter posts.
But even a summary of the call finally released by the White House confirms that Trump did push the Ukranian leader to investigate Biden’s son, Hunter, who worked for a Ukranian oil company, for corruption---even though a prior investigation by the Ukraine found no wrongdoing by Hunter Biden, the Ukranian prosecutor confirmed.
According to the White House summary, Trump told Zelensky, “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it…It sounds horrible to me.”
Trump also pushed Zelensky to work with Attorney General Barr and to meet with Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
The summary, which resembles a transcript, is reportedly some 19 minutes shorter than the length of the phone call, leading to questions over what was left out. Trump has been documented at least four times in the past altering transcripts on issues ranging from his conversations with Vladimir Putin to his golf scores.
The President later made a veiled threat against whoever leaked information to the whistleblower, the Washington Post reports. At a private United Nations event, caught on tape by the Los Angeles Times, Trump said, "I want to know who’s the person that gave the whistleblower, who’s the person that gave the whistleblower the information, because that’s close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? With spies and treason, right?” Treason, according to the Constitution, is punishable by death.
Former Republican National Committee spokesman Tim Miller has broken ranks with the party to denounce Trump’s actions and defend Biden’s. In an editorial, Miller explains that Biden’s son was doing consulting work for Burisma, a Ukranian oil company under investigation for corruption. Vice President Biden, along with European allies and U.S. diplomats “all called on the prosecutor to be fired so the corrupt oligarchs could be investigated MORE AGGRESSIVELY,” Miller observes, noting that Biden even called for a deeper investigation into the oligarch running the company that Biden’s son worked for.
Miller concludes, “Donald Trump was allegedly pressuring the Ukrainian government to investigate a domestic political foe on a bogus conspiracy for personal gain. Joe Biden was pressuring the Ukrainian government to root out corruption in their own country and bring about democratic reforms.”
The former Republican National Committee advisor, who also served as communications director for Jeb Bush, concludes that the President’s efforts to pressure the Ukraine’s president for political gain “is not a game. Sometimes things are cut and dry Sometimes one man is fighting corruption and the other guy is corrupting all of us, on purpose. This is one of those times.”
Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, a Republican running against Trump in the primary, went even further. “"Talk about pressuring a foreign country to interfere with and control a US election, it couldn't be clearer," Weld said in an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "And that's not just undermining democratic institutions, that is treason. It's treason pure and simple."
Constitutional experts disagree with Weld, since the Constitution defines treason narrowly as "levying War against [the US] or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”
But Trump’s action could meet the standard for other impeachable offense. The president, the Constitution says, "shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
Some other Republicans have circled the wagons to support Trump.
San Diego Congressman Duncan D. Hunter released a statement sent to media denouncing the impeachment inquiry as a “weak attempt to score political points…not based on any evidence or facts,” adding, “Democrats know that the Senate will not convict this President, but they continue to pursue impeachment for the simple political purpose of being able to claim he was impeached.” Hunter, long a staunch Trump supporter, is currently under indictment for 60 federal counts of corruption; if convicted a presidential pardon could be his only recourse to avoid prison.
Some other prominent Republicans locally have also slammed Democrats for the impeachment effort.
Retired Congressman Darrell Issa, who today announced he is running against Hunter, denounced Democrats’ impeachment efforts as “treacherous” at a press conference this morning.
Conservative talk show host Carl DeMaio, who is also running for Hunter’s seat, when asked by a reporter about the situation, retorted, “The only abuse of power I see in Washington today are the continual witch hunts…I’ve seen no impeachable offense by the President.”
Meanwhile support for impeachment is growing among Democrats and the American public. The charges against Trump of pressuring a foreign power to influence a U.S. election also parallel allegations that Trump’s campaign solicited help from Russia to defeat Hilary Clinton back in 2016.
San Diego Congresswoman Susan Davis this week announced her support for the impeachment inquiry. ““President Trump’s actions surrounding Ukraine epitomize his disregard for checks and balances as well as normal practices and protocols. It adds to a growing list of illegal acts and abuse of power showing that this President does not have either the capacity or the interest to follow the rule of law,” she states, adding, ““It is time to open an impeachment inquiry. To not move forward would make Congress complicit in the President's behavior. The President admitted he made the call, leveraging the power of his office to get what he wanted from a head of State.”
Tonight, CNN reports that a majority of the House of Representatives now supports an impeachment inquiry. A Newsweek poll finds that a majority of Americans support impeaching Trump if he suspended military aid to Ukraine to pressure the foreign nation to investigate former Vice President Biden and his son. Forty-four percent of those polled said they'd "strongly support" removing Trump if the allegations are true, while another 11 percent said they'd "somewhat support" it. Only 20 percent said they would “strongly oppose” impeaching Trump for such an action, and 6 percent said they'd "somewhat oppose" impeachment.
An impeachment inquiry does not necessarily mean that an impeachment vote will be held, depending on what investigations now being conducted by House committees find. If the House does vote to impeach, the Senate would then hold an impeachment trial to determine whether or not the President should be removed from office. While the House is controlled by Democrats, the Senate is controlled by Republicans, making the odds against a conviction even higher.
Impeachment carries some political risk for Democrats, if the Senate were to vote against ousting Trump and he claims vindication, galvanizing his base to turn out and vote out Democrats. Not acting, however, risks alienating Democrats’ own base.
No president in U.S. history has ever actually been removed from office through an impeachment trial, though both presidents Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson were impeached by the House, but exonerated by the Senate. Richard Nixon resigned from office after high-ranking members of his own party advised him that he face impeachment if he did not resign, after tapes proved his involvement in the Watergate scandal.
There are parallels to Watergate, which involved Republican operatives breaking into Democratic party headquarters to influence the outcome of an election, prompting comparisons and images going viral on social media between Trump and Nixon, the last president to leave office mid-term due to an impeachment threat.