GOVERNMENT

Whistleblower accuses White House of Ukraine call cover-up

Sep 26, 2019, 4:52 PM | Updated: 4:56 pm
President Donald Trump walks to the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 2...
President Donald Trump walks to the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019, as he returns from attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON (AP) — White House officials took extraordinary steps to “lock down” information about President Donald Trump’s summertime phone call with the president of Ukraine, even moving the transcript to a secret computer system. That’s according to a whistleblower in a politically explosive complaint that accuses the administration of a wide-ranging cover-up.

The whistleblower, in a 9-page document released Thursday , provides many new details about the phone call. In it, Mr. Trump repeatedly spoke of how much the U.S. had aided Ukraine and encouraged new President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to help investigate political rival Joe Biden and his son.

Accusations of efforts to pressure the leader of a foreign nation to dig for dirt on a potential 2020 Trump rival are now at the heart of a House impeachment inquiry against the president.

The whistleblower’s official complaint alleges a concerted White House effort to suppress the transcript of the call and describes a shadow campaign of diplomacy by the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani that worried some senior administration officials.

“In the days following the phone call, I learned from multiple U.S. officials that senior White House officials had intervened to ‘lock down’ all the records of the phone call, especially the official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced as is customary by the White House situation room,” the complaint says.

The previously secret document, with its detail and clear narrative, is likely to accelerate the impeachment process and put more pressure on Trump to rebut its core contentions and on his fellow Republicans to defend him or not. It also provides a road map for Democrats to seek corroborating witnesses and evidence , which will complicate the president’s efforts to characterize the findings as those of a lone partisan out to undermine him.

In response, Trump threatened “the person” who he said gave information to the whistleblower as he spoke at a private event in New York with staff from the U.S. mission to the United Nations.

“I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy,” Trump said. “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”

The remarks were reported by The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times.

On his Twitter account, Trump insisted the entire controversy is political: “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.” His tweet was in all capital letters.

Under pressure from House Democrats, the White House a day earlier released a rough transcript of the phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president. In it, Trump prodded Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential 2020 election foe, and Biden’s son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

But the complaint released Thursday offered a broader picture of what was happening in the White House and the administration at the time. In the aftermath of the call, according to the whistleblower, White House lawyers were concerned “they had witnessed the president abuse his office for personal gain,” the complaint says.

The complaint has revived questions about the activities of Giuliani, who it says alarmed government officials by circumventing “national security decision making processes.” Giuliani, a Trump loyalist who represented the president in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, repeatedly communicated with advisers of Ukraine’s president in the days after the phone call.

The House intelligence committee released a redacted version of the whistleblower complaint Thursday ahead of testimony from Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence. Maguire acknowledged that the complaint alleged serious wrongdoing by the president but said it was not his role to judge whether the allegations were credible or not.

Maguire said he was unfamiliar with any other whistleblower complaint in American history that “touched on such complicated and sensitive issues.” He praised the whistleblower as having acted honorably, said he recognized the complaint as immediately sensitive and important and insisted the White House did not direct him to withhold it from Congress.

“I believe that everything in this matter here is totally unprecedented,” he said.

In the complaint, the anonymous whistleblower says that he or she was not present for Trump’s Ukraine call, multiple White House officials shared consistent details about it.

Those officials told the whistleblower that “this was ‘not the first time’ under this administration that a presidential transcript was placed into this codeword-level system solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive — rather than national security sensitive — information,” the complaint said.

In this case, the complaint said, the officials told the whistleblower they were “directed” by White House lawyers 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.

“This set of actions underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call,” the official complaint said.

“If this was all so innocent,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said in reaction, “why did so many officials in the White House, in the Justice Department and elsewhere make such large efforts to prevent it from being made public?”

The complaint also says multiple U.S. officials reported that Giuliani traveled to Madrid one week after the call to meet with one of Zelenskiy’s advisers, and that the meeting was characterized as a follow-up to the telephone conversation between the two leaders.

House Republicans largely steered clear of discussing the substance of the call during Thursday’s hearing, spending more time criticizing Democrats than Trump.

One exception was Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio, who said, “Concerning that conversation, I want to say to the president, This is not OK. That conversation is not OK. It’s disappointing to the American people.”

Late in the day, Maguire went behind closed doors to speak to the Senate intelligence committee.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday endorsed an impeachment investigation in light of the Ukraine revelations. The president, she said, “betrayed his oath of office, our national security and the integrity” of America’s elections.

The unidentified whistleblower submitted the 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.

The House and Senate intelligence committees have invited the whistleblower to testify, but it is uncertain whether the person will appear.

___
Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo, Lisa Mascaro, Laurie Kellman and Alan Fram contributed to this report.

Today’s Top Stories

Government

Herbert Cox statement Reyes election lawsuit...
Mark Jones

State of Utah files lawsuit against pharmaceutical retailers

Three pharmaceutical retailers are facing a lawsuit from the State of Utah. The lawsuit was filed the week of July 1.
6 days ago
This June 20, 2017, photo provided by Chris Wonderly shows Hovenweep Castle at Hovenweep National M...
Curt Gresseth

Supreme Court widens state power over tribes. What does it mean for Utah?

The director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs discusses the recent US Supreme Court ruling and what it means for tribes in Utah.
7 days ago
Ketanji Brown Jackson takes the oath for the Supreme Court....
MARK SHERMAN Associated Press

Jackson sworn in, becomes 1st Black woman on Supreme Court

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, will be sworn as the court's 116th justice Thursday, just as the man she is replacing, Justice Stephen Breyer, retires.
7 days ago
Immigration activists rally outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC on April 26. Photo credi...
Tierney Sneed and Priscilla Alvarez, CNN

Supreme Court says Biden can end Trump-era ‘Remain in Mexico’ immigration policy

The Supreme Court on Thursday gave President Joe Biden the green light to end the controversial "Remain in Mexico" immigration policy.
7 days ago
The Supreme Court is pictured. The court just limited the EPA...
MARK SHERMAN Associated Press

Supreme Court limits EPA in curbing power plant emissions

The Supreme Court on Thursday limited how the nation's main anti-air pollution law can be used to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
7 days ago
President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Madrid, ...
DARLENE SUPERVILLE and ZEKE MILLER Associated Press

Biden says transatlantic alliance has adapted to new threats

Biden's comments came at a press conference in Madrid at the conclusion of the annual meeting of NATO leaders and after he attended a summit with the Group of Seven advanced democratic economies in the Bavarian Alps.
7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Whistleblower accuses White House of Ukraine call cover-up