Whistleblower: White House tried to ‘lock down’ call details

WASHINGTON (AP) — The whistleblower complaint at the center of Congress’ impeachment inquiry alleges that President Donald Trump abused the power of his office to “solicit interference from a foreign country” in next year’s U.S. election. The White House then tried to “lock down” the information to cover it up, the complaint says.

The 9-page document released Thursday fleshes out the circumstances of a summertime phone call in which Trump encouraged his Ukraine counterpart to help investigate a political rival, alleges a central role for one of the president’s personal lawyers and a suggests a concerted White House effort to suppress the exact transcript, including by relocating it to a separate computer system.

“In the days following the phone call, I learned from multiple U.S. officials that senior White House officials had intervened to ‘lock down’ all the records of the phone call, especially the official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced as is customary by the White House situation room,” the complaint says.

With its precise detail and clear narrative, the document will likely accelerate the impeachment process and put more pressure on Trump to rebut its core contentions and on his fellow Republicans to defend him. The complaint provides a road map for corroborating witnesses and evidence, which will complicate the president’s efforts to characterize the findings as those of a lone partisan out to undermine him.

Trump insisted anew that it is all political. After the complaint was released, he immediately tweeted, “The Democrats are trying to destroy the Republican Party and all that it stands for. Stick together, play their game and fight hard Republicans. Our country is at stake.” The tweet was in all capital letters.

The whistleblower complaint centers in part on a July phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which Trump prodded Zelenskiy to investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden.

The White House released a rough transcript of that call on Wednesday.

The House intelligence committee released a redacted version of the complaint Thursday ahead of testimony from Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence. He acknowledged that the complaint alleged serious wrongdoing by the president but insisted that it was not his role to judge whether the allegations were credible or not.

Maguire said he was unfamiliar with any other whistleblower complaint in American history that “touched on such complicated and sensitive issues.” He praised the whistleblower as having acted honorably, said he recognized the complaint as immediately sensitive and important and tried to handle it in the right way.

“I believe that everything in this matter here is totally unprecedented.”

In the complaint, the anonymous whistleblower says that despite his or her not being present for Trump’s Ukraine call, multiple White House officials shared consistent details about it.

Those officials told the whistleblower that “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,” the complaint said.

The whistleblower said that White House officials had tried to suppress the exact transcript of the call that was produced — as is customary — by the White House Situation Room, according to the complaint.

The officials told the whistleblower they were “directed” by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system in which such transcripts are typically stored for coordination, finalization and distribution to Cabinet-level officials.

“This set of actions underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call,” the report said.

“If this was all so innocent,” said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York, “why did so many officials in the White House, in the Justice Department and elsewhere make such large efforts to prevent it from being made public?”

The complaint also focuses on Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer. It says that multiple U.S. officials reported that Giuliani traveled to Madrid one week after the call to meet with one of Zelenskiy’s advisers, and that the meeting was characterized as a follow-up to the telephone conversation between the two leaders

House Democrats who are now mulling Trump’s impeachment pressed Maguire to explain why he withheld the intelligence community whistleblower’s complaint from Congress for weeks. He insisted he followed the law.

House Republicans largely steered clear of discussing the substance of the call during the hearing, focusing instead on their concerns that details of it had been leaked in the first place and about the way Democrats were characterizing it.

One exception was Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio, who said, “Concerning that conversation, I want to say to the president — this is not OK. That conversation is not OK. It’s disappointing to the American people.”

Later in the day, Maguire was to go behind closed doors to speak to the Senate intelligence panel.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday endorsed an impeachment investigation in light of the Ukraine revelations.

In a statement Thursday, the White House said, “Nothing has changed with the release of this complaint, which is nothing more than a collection of third-hand accounts of events and cobbled-together press clippings — all of which shows nothing improper.”

Late Wednesday, most Republicans who got an advance look at the complaint were quiet or defended the president as they left secure rooms. But at least one Republican said he was concerned by what he had read.

“Republicans ought not to be rushing to circle the wagons and say there’s no ‘there there’ when there’s obviously a lot that’s very troubling there,” said Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, a GOP member of the Senate intelligence panel who has been an occasional critic of Trump. He added that “Democrats ought not be using words like ‘impeach’ before they knew anything about the actual substance.”

Trump, whose administration had earlier balked at turning over the complaint, said Wednesday afternoon that “I fully support transparency on the so-called whistleblower information.”

The House and Senate intelligence committees have invited the whistleblower to testify, but it is uncertain whether the person will appear.

The unidentified whistleblower submitted a complaint to Michael Atkinson, the U.S. government’s intelligence inspector general, in August. Maguire then blocked release of the complaint to Congress, citing issues of presidential privilege and saying the complaint did not deal with an “urgent concern.” Atkinson disagreed, but said his hands were tied.

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20 comments

  • DaMailman

    Page 1: “I was not a direct witness to most of the events described”
    Heresay = inadmissible Justin Amash must have missed that class in law school.

  • J.B.

    i guess “evidence” is about as relevant as “innocent until found guilty” in today’s modern courts of partisan propaganda and opinion based based “investigations”.
    Personally….I am starting to think about half of our leadership has been completely infiltrated by a bunch seditionary idiots.

    • alex

      You are a pretty stupid person if you actually think this. Please take the democratic party supplied blinders off and get with the real world

        • Wings

          To Alex and c
          Sounds you cannot handle the TRUTH
          You two are the pathetic ones here
          Grow up and grow some balls and think for yourselves and not by reading what worthless #45 and his gop followers say or write but you can’t because you have your heads so far up his butt you can’t think for yourselves

          • Alex

            You must be one of those lazy SOBs that want the free things that democrats want to give you in exchange for your vote. The things this president has done since he has been in office is amazing. Trying to get a handle on illegal immigration, getting rid of Obamacare fines, cleaning up the swamp of dirty politicians, and many more good things. Sorry you feel the way you do but trust me you do not want a psychotic democrat to have power anymore. Their party is so far left winged with crazy ideas they feel should be acceptable.

  • lml25

    If this was all so innocent,” said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York, “why did so many officials in the White House, in the Justice Department and elsewhere make such large efforts to prevent it from being made public?”
    Why?Look at the circus that’s happening. Hillary Clinton can order up a FAKE dossier on Trump,with the cooperation of Obama–and no consequences–but Trump wants to check out REAL corruption by a Democrat and they start impeachment hearings.
    That’s why.

  • wings

    because #45 lies every day about everything, I will say whatever I want here, facts no longer matter, no-one ever takes time to read anything to comprehension, I can get my message out

  • Ej

    The socialist now know Bill Barr and prosecutors like Durham are closing in on them all. Little shifty Adam and his complete fabrication of the words we can all read are proof the oath they take to protect the constitution mean nothing. 2020 re-election are now confirmed. A lawsuit is filed in the eastern district of Michigan against Michigan AG for voter manipulation from her Ukrainian campaign manager and Ukrainian’s (Russian) help in her fraudulent election.

  • joe mama

    I’ve noticed how Fox 17, when they download a national news story, they always find one that is negative on President Trump. Never had this kind of bias with President Obama. WHEN this comes out to be the B.S. we know it is, you can count on me to stop watching your news program, stop following you on twitter, and stop visiting your website. Unless it is to find out who your sponsors are and to start a boycott.

  • We the people

    Hey wings, if TRUMP is a liar, then when he said he was going to lower taxes,which you are enjoying, and he did and he said he was going to build a wall, to keep people like you, out of this country oh and lower unemployment like he did and oh bring jobs back to this country that obama said was gone and never coming back, I could keep going but don’t have the space, I think everyone that hates TRUMP does so cuz HE HAS BIGGER BALLS then them, maybe you are one of them and maybe your food stamps got taken away cuz you have to work now.

  • You can't stop their madness

    What reason do we have to believe little mr. Schiff? I’m still waiting for Schiff to give us the proof positive he said he had of Russian collusion and obstruction of justice. When he produces that then I might pay attention to anything he has to say. He is about as credible as a used car salesman. There is no way on earth I’m going to give more credibility to a third person whistleblower compared to the first hand stenographers, especially when mr. Schiff adds in assumptions and opinions.

  • Ej

    A member of the CIA pushing propaganda ? A member of the intelligence community that will get you 6 ways from Sunday ? The Clowns In America are willing to continue The destruction of America.

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