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Whistleblower: White House tried to ‘lock down’ call details

Last Updated Sep 26, 2019 at 11:16 am PDT

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Summary

Whistleblower at center of Congress’ impeachment inquiry alleges President Donald Trump abused power of his office

Whistleblower says White House then tried to “lock down” the information to cover it up

Trump accused of using power of his office to 'solicit interference from a foreign country' in next year’s U.S. election

WASHINGTON — The whistleblower 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 U.S. election. The White House then tried to “lock down” the information to cover it up, the official’s complaint says.

The 9-page document released Thursday fleshes out the circumstances of a summertime phone call in which the president encouraged his Ukraine counterpart to help investigate a political rival, alleges a pivotal role for Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and suggests a concerted White House effort to suppress the exact transcript, including by relocating it to a separate computer system.

“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.

With its precise detail and clear narrative, the previously secret document 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 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.

It is also certain to revive questions about the activities of Giuliani, who the complaint 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.

Trump insisted anew on Thursday 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 tweet was in all capital letters.

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 aftermath of the call, according to the whistleblower, White House lawyers were concerned “they had witnessed the President abuse his office for personal gain.”