Impeachment Update: Whistleblower Complaint Released, Pence Phone Call and More
Trump’s impeachment worries continue to unfold as a whistleblower complaint is made public and Trump reveals Vice President Mike Pence also had phone calls with Ukraine.
On Thursday morning a whistleblower complaint which claims President Trump pressured Ukranian officials to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden was released to the public. The Trump administration had previously stonewalled the House’s access to the complaint which ultimately compelled House Democrats to launch an impeachment inquiry into the President on Tuesday.
At issue is whether President Trump abused the powers of his office for personal political gain by withholding hundreds of millions in military aid from Ukraine in order to pressure Ukraine into opening an investigation into Biden, one of the leading Democratic candidates likely to face Trump in the 2020 election.
On Sept. 23, the Washington Post reported that Trump told Mick Mulvaney, his acting chief of staff and head of the Office of Management and Budget, to withhold almost $400 million in military aid for Ukraine prior to a July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president.
July 25 Phone Call
Thursday’s release of the whistleblower complaint comes shortly after the White House released a summary of the July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. That phone call is specifically mentioned in the whistleblower complaint as an instance in which President Trump pressured Ukraine to help with his 2020 reelection bid.
Republicans and Trump have claimed the release of the summary of the phone call shows there was no explicit quid pro quo demand for an investigation in exchange for military aid from the U.S. However, Democrats allege the summary reads like a “classic mafia shakedown” and that a quid pro quo isn’t necessary for Trump to have betrayed the powers of his office and the country.
According to the call 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.”
Read the five-page phone call summary below:
While the Whistleblower himself was not directly privy to the July 25 phone call, he reported in his complaint that “multiple White House officials with direct knowledge of the call” informed him that after an exchange of pleasantries the President used the remainder of the call “to advance his personal interests. Namely, he sought to pressure the Ukranian leader to take actions to help the President’s 2020 reelection bid.”
The complaint continues, “The White House officials who told me this information were deeply distrubed by what had transpired in the phone call. They told me there was already a ‘discussion ongoing’ with White House lawyers about how to treat the call because of the likelihood, in the officials’ retelling, that they had witnessed the President abuse his office for personal gain.”
The whistleblower’s complaint also describes an alleged coverup of the July 25th call whereby “senior White House officials intervened to ‘lock down’ all records of the phone call, especially the word for word transcript of the call that was produced – as is customary – by the White House Situation Room.”
“White House officials told me they were ‘directed’ by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system in which transcripts are typically stored for coordination, finalization, and distribution to Cabient-level officials.
“Instead the transcript was loaded into a separate electronic system that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature.”
The whistleblower also alleges that the President’s personal lawyer, Rudolph Guiliani, and current Attorney General William Barr are central figures in the matter as they acted as Trump’s “envoys” on the matter. The complaint cites numerous instances where Guiliani spoke with Ukranian officials acting in a manner to apply pressure to investigate the Biden’s and Ukranian interference in the 2016 election.
“Multiple U.S. officials told me that the Ukranian leadership was led to believe that a meeting or phone call between the President and President Zelenskyy would depend on whether Zelenskyy showed willingness to ‘play ball’ on the issues that had been aired by Mr. Lutsenko and Mr. Guiliani.” Lutsenko was the Prosecutor General of Ukraine from May 2016 to August 2019.
In summary, the complaint outlines the whistleblower’s “deep concerns” that the President’s actions constitute a “serious or flagrant problem, abuse or violation of law or Executive Order.”
Read the full nine-page whistleblower complaint below:
Pence Phone Call
In an unusual twist, President Trump on Wednesday appeared to throw Vice President Mike Pence into the center of the Ukranian controversy.
“I think you should ask for Vice President Pence’s conversation, because he had a couple of conversations also,” Trump said at a news conference in New York City where he was in attendance for the United Nations General Assembly. “I could save you a lot of time. They were all perfect. Nothing was mentioned of any import other than congratulations.”
“The word is they’re going to ask for the first phone conversation,” Trump said at the news conference, revealing that there was another phone call prior to the July 25 phone call. “You can have it anytime you need it. And also Mike Pence’s conversations, which were, I think, one or two of them. They were perfect. They were all perfect.”