Trump wanted Ukraine to meddle in US election: Whistleblower
Washington: The whistleblower complaint published by the US House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence accuses President Donald Trump of trying to induce the Ukrainian government to take actions targeting former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful.
“In the course of my official duties, I have received information from multiple US Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 US election,” the unnamed insider wrote in the complaint, dated August 12, Efe news reported on Thursday.
“This interference includes, among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the President’s main domestic political rivals,” the whistleblower said, describing Trump’s personal lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, as “a central figure in this effort.”
The complaint was addressed to Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the respective chairmen of the Senate and House panels charged with overseeing intelligence.
Democrats say Trump betrayed the US Constitution by urging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to look into whether Biden, while serving in the administration of Barack Obama, pressured Kiev to drop an investigation of a gas company that employed the then-vice president’s son as a director.
The White House released Wednesday what it called a transcript of Trump’s July 25 telephone conversation with Zelensky, though the document is actually in the form of a memorandum rather than a verbatim record of the call.
Shortly before the House committed released the complaint, Trump launched a rhetorical volley via Twitter “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 president tweeted.
After publishing the complaint, the intelligence committee heard testimony from the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, whose job is to coordinate the activities of the 17 US intelligence agencies.
“I believe that the situation we have and why we’re here this morning is because this case is unique and unprecedented,” he told the panel.
The complain was submitted to the inspector-general for the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, who deemed it credible and urgent, which meant that under the law, the document should have been delivered to Congress within seven days.
Maguire, however, held back the complaint while seeking legal advice from the White House and the Department of Justice.
When Schiff confronted him Thursday about that decision, Maguire said he didn’t think the complaint met the threshold of “urgent concern.”
The acting spy chief said he also thought that the information about Trump’s call with Zelensky was protected under executive privilege.
While Trump has attacked the whistleblower, claiming that the individual’s actions were politically motivated, Maguire defended the complainant.
“First, I want to stress I believe the whistleblower and the inspector general have acted in good faith throughout,” he said. “I have every reason to believe that they have done everything by the book and followed the law.”
On Tuesday, the speaker of the Democratic-controlled US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi announced that lawmakers would begin impeachment proceedings against the president in connection with Ukraine affair.
She made the decision after the White House acknowledged that Trump put a hold on nearly $400 million in US security assistance to Ukraine about a week before the conversation with Zelensky.
Critics have suggested that Trump froze the aid to Ukraine to make Kiev more amenable to his request to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden, who joined the board of Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings in 2014.