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Whistleblower says White House sought to lock down call records

Complaint, inspector general letter released ahead of hearing

Bloomberg  |  Washington 

Demonstrators hold signs as part of a protest in support of impeachment hearings in New York, on Thursday 	PHOTO: Reuters
Demonstrators hold signs as part of a protest in support of impeachment hearings in New York, on Thursday | Photo: Reuters

Multiple officials were “deeply disturbed” by US President Donald Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president and the administration attempted to “lock down” records of the interaction, according to a whistle-blower’s complaint made public Thursday.

The information in the complaint was gathered from multiple US officials, according to the whistle-blower’s account, which the intelligence community’s inspector general said “appears credible.” “The officials who told me this information were deeply disturbed by what had transpired in the phone call. They told me that there was already a ‘discussion ongoing’ with lawyers about how to treat the call because of the likelihood, in the officials’ retelling, that they had witnessed the president abuse his office for personal gain,” according to the complaint.

The whistle-blower said that senior White House officials used unusual procedures when handling the records of Trump’s July 25 conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

They said it wasn’t the first time that a presidential transcript was put into a “code word-level system solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive — rather than national security sensitive — information.”

The redacted complaint and a letter from the inspector general to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire were declassified and released ahead of a hearing Thursday morning of the House Intelligence Committee.

The whistle-blower’s complaint points to possible violations of campaign finance law as well as an attempt to seek foreign assistance to interfere in or influence a federal election. It implicates Trump’s lawyer as well as Attorney General William Barr.

Trump calls inquiry a ‘joke’

Trump on Wednesday dismissed as a “joke” the grounds laid out for the impeachment inquiry into him, as Democrats stood firm in accusing the US president of a “mafia-style shakedown” of his Ukrainian counterpart. Trump denied claims he abused his office by repeatedly urging Zelensky to probe his rival Joe Biden — as confirmed in a call transcript released by the White House.

The next explosive episode in the rapidly unfolding impeachment drama is set for Thursday, when acting director of national intelligence Joseph McGuire testifies on Capitol Hill. “They are getting hit hard on this witch hunt because when they look at the information, it's a joke,” said the president.

First Published: Fri, September 27 2019. 01:02 IST