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Whistleblower complaint says Trump abused power amid impeachment inquiry

The White House then tried to "lock down" the information to cover it up, the complaint says

AP/PTI  |  Washington 

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is sworn in to testify before a House Intelligence Committee hearing on the handling of the whistleblower complaint, at Capitol Hill in Washington	Photo: Reuters
Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is sworn in to testify before a House Intelligence Committee hearing on the handling of the whistleblower complaint, at Capitol Hill in Washington Photo: Reuters

The secret whistleblower complaint at the center of Congress’ impeachment inquiry alleges that President Donald Trump abused the power of his office to “solicit interference from a foreign country” in next year’s US election.

The White House then tried to “lock down” the information to cover it up, the complaint says.

The nine-page document was released Thursday ahead of testimony to House investigators from Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, who acknowledged that the complaint alleged serious wrongdoing by the president but insisted that 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.” “I believe that this matter is unprecedented,” he said.

The document, with its precise detail and clear narrative, will likely accelerate the impeachment process and put more pressure on Trump to rebut its core contentions and on his fellow Republicans to defend him. The complaint provides a road map for corroborating witnesses and evidence, which will complicate the president's effort to characterize the findings as those of a lone partisan out to undermine him.

Trump insisted anew that it is all political. After the complaint was released, he immediately tweeted, “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.”

The whistleblower complaint centers in part on a July phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which Trump prodded Zelenskiy to investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden. The White House released a rough transcript of that call on Wednesday.

“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 said.

The anonymous whistleblower says that despite his or her not being present for the 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.

The whistleblower said that White House officials had tried to suppress the exact transcript of the call that was produced — as is customary — by the White House Situation Room, according to the complaint.

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.

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First Published: Fri, September 27 2019. 02:08 IST
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