A blockbuster intelligence whistleblower report accuses President Trump of “soliciting foreign interference” in the 2020 election and sought to cover up his damning call with the Ukraine president by moving it to a new computer server.
The intelligence whistleblower report that was revealed Thursday morning says the unnamed operative was alarmed to hear of Trump’s attempt to pressure Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky into digging up dirt on presidential rival Joe Biden.
It also says that he heard White House officials sought to “lock down" the transcript of Trump’s now-infamous July 25 phone call by moving it to a “separate computer network.”
“They were directed by White House lawyers to remove the transcript,” the whistleblower writes.
The smoking gun of a cover up spurred the whistleblower to file the shocking complaint, which legally forced officials to maintain records of the call and other Trump actions.
The stunning new revelation is certain to rock the Trump presidency just hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched an impeachment inquiry that could remove him from office.
Trump responded in an all-caps Tweet that sought to rally GOP support for his embattled presidency.
“STICK TOGETHER, PLAY THEIR GAME, AND FIGHT HARD REPUBLICANS. OUR COUNTRY IS AT STAKE!” Trump 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 whistleblower quotes at least six officials as witnesses to what appear to be strong evidence of impeachable offenses.
The fact that a possible White House cover up involved computer servers would amount to an ironic twist in the Trump scandal, given his unending focus on Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is expected to testify before Congress today about the whistleblower report, which the White House and Attorney General William Barr unsuccessfully sought to squelch.
Under the law, Maguire was required to turn over the report to Congress after another official deemed it “urgent” and credible. He instead notified the Department of Justice, which ordered him to keep it under wraps.
Larry Pfeiffer, a former CIA chief of staff, said an alternate server exists for only the most secret of U.S. covert actions, such as the effort to kill Osama bin Laden.
That server would not have been appropriate place to move records of a conversation like the one between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, which was only sensitive because Trump may have broken laws barring soliciting foreign help in a battle with a domestic political riva
“It would not have been a place to hide activities of the president,” Pfeiffer told CNN.
Democrats plan to grill Maguire about why he withheld the intelligence community whistleblower’s complaint from Congress for weeks. Maguire will then go behind closed doors to speak to the Senate intelligence panel.
There were signs that the document, now at the center of a firestorm about Trump’s handling of Ukraine, could be made public as soon as Thursday morning.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn), a member of Democratic leadership, said Wednesday evening that he expects the complaint would be made public “sooner rather than later.”
The complaint is at least in part related to a July phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which Trump prodded Zelensky to investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden. The White House released a rough transcript of that call Wednesday morning.
The White House apparently thought releasing the transcript might dampen the furor because it shows Trump taking a friendly tone toward Zelensky.
But instead it sparked new alarm at the clear evidence that Trump improperly asked him to dig up dirt on Biden and his son, Hunter, as a “favor.”
House Democrats emerging from a secure room would not divulge details of the classified document but described it as disturbing and urgent. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) called the call a “shakedown.”
The complaint showed the whistleblower learned details of the call from White House officials, according to one person familiar with the complaint who was granted anonymity to discuss it.
Another such person said the lawmakers did not learn the identity of the whistleblower, who is supposed to be protected from retaliation.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said he is even “more worried” now than he was before reading it and “there are huge numbers of facts crying out for investigation.”
Most Republicans were quiet or defended the president as they left the 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.
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”
Pelosi on Tuesday said that if Trump abused his presidential powers, it would mark a “betrayal of his oath of office.”
The unidentified whistleblower first 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.
Atkinson, who met privately with House lawmakers last week, will talk behind closed doors to the Senate intelligence panel Thursday.
The House and Senate committees have also invited the whistleblower to testify, but it is uncertain whether the person will appear and whether his or her identity could be adequately protected without Maguire’s blessing. Schiff said Wednesday morning that Maguire still had not provided any instructions on how that could happen.
The whistleblower is prepared to speak privately before the Senate and House intelligence committees but the person’s lawyers want to first ensure that they have the appropriate security clearances.
With News wire services