WASHINGTON (CN) – The House Intelligence Committee on Thursday released a redacted version of the whistleblower complaint that details concerns President Trump abused his office to have Ukraine interfere in the 2020 U.S. election.
The Aug. 12 letter details interactions between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky but also points to the President’s private attorney Rudy Giuliani, as well as Attorney General William Barr.
“This complaint is a roadmap for our investigation, and provides significant information for the Committee to follow up on with other witnesses and documents,” Committee Chair Adam Schiff said in a statement released with the letter.
Addressed to Schiff and his Senate corollary, Republican Richard Burr, the whistleblower’s letter describes a July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky that suggests the interactions between the two leaders were deeply fraught with quid pro quo and other issues related to national security.
The whistleblower also describes having been approached over the past several months by more than six members of the intelligence community with similar concerns.
“I was not a direct witness to most of the events described,” the letter says. “However, I found my colleagues’ accounts of these events to be credible because, in almost all cases, multiple officials recounted fact patterns that were consistent with one another.”
As described by the whistleblower, Trump urged Zelensky in the July phone call to initiate an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden’s son. Biden has been polling for months as Trump’s strongest competition for re-election in 2020, and the letter says Trump in the phone call with Zelensky praised the Ukrainian prosecutor who had been pushed for more Biden-related investigations.
The letter also says Trump asked the Ukrainian government to make it look like “allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election originated in Ukraine.”
Multiple times and in tandem, the letter continues, Trump pressured Zelensky to “meet or speak with … Mr. Giuliani and Attorney General Barr.”
The complaint goes on to say Ukraine’s government was the first to acknowledge the nature of the phone call with a readout of the conversation on July 25 noting Trump wanted them to “complete the investigation of corruption cases that have held back cooperation” between the two countries.
Noting that security during the call was light, the whistleblower wrote that the content was set to be “routine.” The whistleblower described uncertainty as to whether anyone was in the room with Trump when the call occurred but was told that State Department and Intelligence officials were involved.
Apart from the contents of the call itself, the letter describes coverup efforts made by the White House.
“White House officials told me they were ‘directed’ by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system in which such transcripts are typically stored,” the letter states. “Instead the transcript was loaded into a separate electronic system that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information of especially sensitive nature.”
The whistleblower quoted one White House official as saying this transfer was “an abuse of the electronic system” because the call didn’t contain “remotely sensitive national security perspective.”
Government officials got access to the document overnight and their reactions have started to roll in.
According to reports, Illinois Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi said the complaint laid out the situation “logically” and considered the whistleblower’s acknowledgment of what he or she personally knows and does not know a “hallmark of a credible document.”
And while feedback from across the aisle has been slow so far, Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican and member of the Senate intelligence panel, said the complaint had “a lot that’s very troubling here.”
“Republicans ought not to be rushing to circle the wagons,” he said.
Trump, meanwhile, took to Twitter to renew his cries of a witch hunt.
“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 president tweeted at 8:45 a.m.
On Wednesday, after Trump released a summary of his call with Zelensky, Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted that the matter was a “nothing (non-quid pro quo) burger.”
He has yet to make a statement on today’s release of the complaint.
Though complaints such as the one at issue are required by federal law to be immediately disclosed to Congress, Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire has come under fire for keeping the complaint under seal until now.
Maguire claimed in a statement this week that his handling of the complaint followed the law “every step of the way.”
Schiff released the whistleblower’s complaint about an hour before Maguire would appear before his committee to offer testimony on the controversy.
A retired vice admiral in the U.S. Navy who was appointed to the intelligence post this past August, Maguire defended himself as nonpartisan in his testimony but emphasized repeatedly what he called the unprecedented nature of the complaint against Trump.
“Upon reviewing the complaint, we were immediately struck by the fact that many of the allegations in the complaint are based on a conversation between the president and another foreign leader, and such calls are typically subject to executive privilege.”
Maguire said he approached the Justice Department and Office of the Inspector General about how to proceed with the complaint because its allegations are linked to someone outside the intelligence community. They offered an opinion that the complaint did not rise to the “statutory definition of urgent concern,” and that he was therefore not legally required to transmit the material, Maguire testified.
“While the Office of Legal Counsel opinion did not require transmission of the complaint to committees, it did leave me with the discretion to forward the complaint,” he said.
Maguire also said the Inspector General planned to notify committee members of the complaint’s “existence,” which he supported to “ensure the committees were kept as informed as possible.”
Though he offered little detail as to the merit of the complaint in his opening statement, Maguire did say he is “not familiar with any prior instances where a whistleblower complaint touched on such complicated and sensitive issues.”
Though Maguire described the document about the call released on Wednesday as a transcript, it merely reflects notes about the conversation rather than a direct read-out of what was said.