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Report: Ukraine at Crux of Whistleblower Complaint

Giuliani denies, then admits asking country to investigate Joe Biden
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 20, 2019 6:20 AM CDT

(Newser) – More details on the whistleblower complaint from an intelligence official about President Trump are beginning to emerge—and they include a possible connection to the 2020 election. Sources tell the Washington Post that the complaint centers on Ukraine and may involve a call to the country's president that House Democrats are already investigating. Democrats have demanded to see a transcript of the call to Volodymyr Zelensky. They accuse Trump and lawyer Rudy Giuliani of pressuring the leader to pursue a "politically motivated" investigation of Joe Biden's son, Hunter—and another to help former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The whistleblower complaint, filed two-and-a-half weeks after the call, reportedly involved a "promise" to a foreign leader. More:

  • "Multiple actions." Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community's inspector general, spoke to the House Intelligence Committee in a closed-door briefing Thursday. Sources tell CNN that Atkinson, who handled the complaint and described it as "urgent," declined to discuss details under orders from the administration, but told lawmakers the intelligence official had concerns about "multiple actions" and a "sequence of events."

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  • Giuliani contradicts himself. In a CNN interview Thursday night, Giuliani accused Joe Biden of bribing Ukraine's former president to fire a prosecutor investigating Hunter's time on the board of a natural gas company. Asked by anchor Chris Cuomo whether he had asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, Giuliani said "No, actually I didn't." He said he had asked Ukraine to investigate alleged interference to help Hillary Clinton in 2016, but admitted he had asked about the prosecutor as well. "So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden," Cuomo said. Giuliani replied: "Of course I did."
  • "There's an urgency here." After Atkinson—who wanted to submit the complaint to congressional committees but was overruled by acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire—spoke to the House Intelligence Committee Thursday, committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff and other Democrats accused the White House of trying to cover the matter up and vowed to go to court if necessary, the New York Times reports. "There's an urgency here that I think the courts will recognize," he said. Schiff said lawmakers are "determined to do everything we can to determine what this urgent concern is, to make sure that the national security is protected and to make sure that this whistleblower is protected."
  • The House investigation. In a letter to the White House earlier this month demanding records on Trump and Giuliani's efforts in Ukraine, Democratic committee chairs said Trump had threatened to withhold military aid to the country. "As the 2020 election draws closer, President Trump and his personal attorney appear to have increased pressure on the Ukrainian government and its justice system in service of President Trump’s reelection campaign, and the White House and the State Department may be abetting this scheme," they wrote.

  • The whistleblower. Attorney Andrew Bakaj, a former intelligence official who specializes in whistleblower reprisal investigations, has confirmed that he is representing the intelligence official who filed the Aug. 12 complaint, the AP reports. In his CNN appearance Thursday night, Giuliani claimed that the whistleblower "could be a Democrat holdover trying to destroy Donald Trump."
  • "Perfectly appropriate." Giuliani also told CNN that it would have been "perfectly appropriate" for Trump to ask Ukraine to investigate alleged corruption. He later tweeted: "A President telling a Pres-elect of a well known corrupt country he better investigate corruption that affects US is doing his job. Maybe if Obama did that the Biden Family wouldn’t have bilked millions from Ukraine and billions from China; being covered up by a Corrupt Media."
  • "A deficiency in the law." Politico looks at the legal issues involved in the apparently unprecedented situation of an intelligence official reporting concerns about a president's behavior. "There's no doubt that the current situation has identified a deficiency in the law because it wasn’t contemplated that there would be a refusal to transmit at least some information to Congress," says attorney Mark Zaid.
  • Next steps. Maguire is expected to testify publicly on the whistleblower complaint in front of the House Intelligence Committee next Thursday. Maguire and Atkinson are also expected to speak to the Senate Intelligence Committee next week.
(President Trump has pushed back against the allegations.)

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