On Thursday morning, a redacted version of the whistle-blower report at the heart of Democrats’ efforts to impeach President Trump was released to the public. The complaint details Trump’s alleged efforts to solicit the help of Ukraine’s president to investigate Democratic 2020 candidate Joe Biden, and the White House’s effort to cover up Trump’s request. Here are the highlights:
Trump’s phone call was damning
The letter details a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the details of which have been previously reported. In that call, the letter says, Trump pressured Zelensky to “initiate or continue an investigation into the activities of former Vice-President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter Biden,” and asked Zelensky to try to “assist in purportedly uncovering that allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election originated in Ukraine” — one of the president’s pet conspiracy theories. Trump requested that Zelensky speak with his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as well as Attorney General William Barr about those matters.
The Trump administration allegedly tried to bury the transcript of the call
The whistle-blower writes that in the days after the phone call, White House officials said they were instructed 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.” The transcript was instead loaded into a different system typically used to store classified information, which one White House official, according to the complaint, described as an abuse of the system, since the call did not contain any sensitive national security information.
Rudy Giuliani’s role drew internal criticism
The complaint also lays out in detail Giuliani’s long-running efforts to try to get Ukraine’s government to aggressively investigate Biden — efforts Giuliani has not been shy about divulging.
But the whistle-blower writes that “starting in mid-May, I heard from multiple U.S. officials that they were deeply concerned by what they viewed as Mr. Giuliani’s circumvention of national security decisionmaking processes to engage with Ukrainian officials and relay messages back and forth.”
The complaint points the finger at Attorney General William Barr
On the first page of the complaint, the whistle-blower writes that Giuliani is “a central figure” in the effort to tarnish Biden ahead of the 2020 election, but “Attorney General Barr appears to be involved as well.” Barr has denied any involvement in the matter, and the complaint does not lay out any new information about his role in it. But his decision not to recuse himself from the Ukraine probe altogether, which has already drawn fierce Democratic criticism, is likely to draw even more scrutiny now.
More than six officials informed the whistle-blower of the misconduct
“Over the past four months, more than half a dozen U.S. officials have informed of various facts related to this effort,” the letter states.
“I was not a direct witness to most of the events described,” it goes on. “However, I found my colleagues’ accounts of these events to be credible because, in almost all cases, multiple officials recounted fact patterns that were consistent with one another.” These witnesses, the whistle-blower says, were “deeply disturbed” by the Ukraine phone call because they had “witnessed the President abuse his office for personal gain.”
Republicans will likely call into question the accuracy of the letter, given the secondhand information contained therein. But the fact that there are multiple other witnesses to the president’s alleged malfeasance makes corroboration more likely.