The intelligence officer who filed a whistle-blower complaint about President Trump’s interactions with the leader of Ukraine raised alarms not only about what the two men said in a phone call, but also about how the White House handled records of the conversation, according to two people briefed on the complaint.
The whistle-blower, moreover, identified multiple White House officials as witnesses to potential presidential misconduct who could corroborate the complaint, the people said — adding that the inspector general for the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, interviewed witnesses.
Mr. Atkinson eventually concluded that there was reason to believe that the president might have illegally solicited a foreign campaign contribution — and that his potential misconduct created a national security risk, according to a newly disclosed Justice Department memo.
An early portrait of the intelligence officer began to take shape on Wednesday as the White House released a rough log of a July 25 phone call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, the latest extraordinary revelation set off by the whistle-blower’s complaint.
This account is based on interviews with the two people and with lawmakers who were permitted to read the complaint late in the day, as well as on details revealed in a Justice Department memo explaining the Trump administration’s legal rationale for withholding the whistle-blower’s allegations from Congress before Mr. Trump relented this week. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
In other words, it's not just Trump who will go down over this. The report is expected to be declassified and released on Thursday because Team Crimer thinks it will actually save them.
Mr. Atkinson also found reason to believe that the whistle-blower might not support the re-election of Mr. Trump and made clear that the complainant was not in a position to directly listen to the call or see the memo that reconstructed it before it was made public, according to the Justice Department memo, which referred only to a single phone call between Mr. Trump and an unnamed foreign leader.
Instead, the officer heard about the call secondhand from unidentified White House officials who expressed concern that Mr. Trump had “abused his authority or acted unlawfully in connection with foreign diplomacy,” the memo said. Still, Mr. Atkinson concluded after an investigation that the information in the complaint was credible.
In their first public comments, lawyers for the whistle-blower said their client hoped to remain anonymous but wanted to continue to cooperate with lawmakers conducting oversight.
The "hearsay" and "biased" arguments will play on FOX News State TV all day, for sure. But the reality is that the IG found Trump was a credible national security risk, and that the Justice Department agreed with him.
And like Watergate, it's the clumsy cover-up that's going to do these idiots in.
The complaint also alleges a pattern of obfuscation at the White House, in which officials moved the records of some of Trump’s communications with foreign officials onto a separate computer network from where they are normally stored, this person said. The whistleblower alleges that is what officials did with Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky, an action that alarmed the intelligence community inspector general and prompted him to request that the White House retain records of the Zelensky call, the person who read the complaint said.
And that brings us to more big news from last night, that the whistleblower complaint and IG investigation also turned up a second phone call to Zelensky, from April, where Trump also asked him to work with Giuliani on attacking Joe Biden. So why did Trump have such a hard-on for working with the Ukraine to fabricate something he could use against Joe Biden and the Democrats?
So he'd have cover to pardon Paul Manafort.
The effort by President Trump to pressure the government of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son had its origins in an earlier endeavor to obtain information that might provide a pretext and political cover for the president to pardon his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, according to previously undisclosed records.
These records indicate that attorneys representing Trump and Manafort respectively had at least nine conversations relating to this effort, beginning in the early days of the Trump administration, and lasting until as recently as May of this year. Through these deliberations carried on by his attorneys, Manafort exhorted the White House to press Ukrainian officials to investigate and discredit individuals, both in the US and in Ukraine, who he believed had published damning information about his political consulting work in the Ukraine. A person who participated in the joint defense agreement between President Trump and others under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, including Manafort, allowed me to review extensive handwritten notes that memorialized conversations relating to Manafort and Ukraine between Manafort’s and Trump’s legal teams, including Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
These new disclosures emerge as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Tuesday that the House would open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s conduct. What prompted her actions were the new allegations that surfaced last week that Trump had pressured Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Trump’s potential 2020 campaign rival, Biden, and his son Hunter, placing a freeze on a quarter of a billion dollars in military assistance to Ukraine as leverage. The impeachment inquiry will also examine whether President Trump obstructed justice by attempting to curtail investigations by the FBI and the special counsel into Russia’s covert interference in the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor.
New information in this story suggests that these two, seemingly unrelated scandals, in which the House will judge whether the president’s conduct in each case constituted extra-legal and extra-constitutional abuses of presidential power, are in fact inextricably linked: the Ukrainian initiative appears to have begun in service of formulating a rationale by which the president could pardon Manafort, as part of an effort to undermine the special counsel’s investigation.
From 2004 to 2014, Manafort had advised President Viktor Yanukovych, who advocated that his country sever ties with the United States and other Western nations, and align itself more closely with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. After Yanukovych fled the country in disgrace in 2014, a ledger was recovered from the burned-out ruins of his Party of Regions. Its records showed that Yanukovych and his political allies had made some $12.7 million in secret cash payments to Manafort. The disclosure led directly to Manafort’s resignation in August 2016 as chairman of the Trump presidential campaign.
The records I have reviewed also indicate that on at least three occasions, Rudy Giuliani was in communication with Manafort’s legal team to discuss how the White House was pushing a narrative that the Democratic National Committee, Democratic donors, and Ukrainian government officials had “colluded” to defeat Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential bid. (This story has since been debunked as baseless, though that has not prevented Trump, Giuliani, and other surrogates in conservative media from repeatedly pushing the story.)
In particular, the records show that Manafort’s camp provided Giuliani with information designed to smear two people: one was a Ukrainian journalist and political activist named Serhiy Leshchenko, whom Manafort believed, correctly, of helping to uncover Manafort’s secret payments from Yanukovych; another was Alexandra Chalupa, a Ukrainian-American political consultant and US citizen, whom Manafort suspected, mistakenly in this case, was also behind the exposé. The records also show that Giuliani and attorneys for Manafort exchanged information about the then US ambassador to the Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who Giuliani believed had attempted to undercut his covert Ukrainian diplomacy and fact-finding; the records are unclear as to whether it was Giuliani or Manafort’s attorney who first initiated their discussion about her.
After his arrest in 2017, Manafort continued to encourage President Trump and his lawyers to engage in this effort when they joined Manafort in a joint legal defense agreement. Attorneys are allowed to enter into such agreements in order share information and coordinate legal, public relations, and political strategies—in this case regarding the investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, including that of the special counsel. Federal courts have long ruled that joint defense agreements are legal to protect the due process rights of those under investigation, as long as they are not used by potential defendants to coordinate providing cover stories or false information to prosecutors.
And there's the game. Create the narrative on Biden, and use it to pardon Manafort and sink Mueller.
Enjoy, folks. This is going to be fun.