The whistleblower complaint that has plunged President Donald Trump into controversy and driven Democrats in the U.S. House toward impeachment has now been declassified and released.
Read the whistleblower’s complaint here. The Intelligence Community Inspector General letter regarding the complaint can be viewed here. The letter deals with Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a political newspaper who once starred on a comedy show about a teacher who accidentally becomes president.
The whistleblower remains anonymous, although a few details have trickled out about the whistleblower, including the possibility that the person may have an “arguable” political bias (you can read more about that angle later in this article). The whistleblower wrote that he or she was “deeply concerned that the actions described…constitute ‘a serious problem, abuse, or violation of law or Executive Order.’”
The whistleblower alleged that he or she had “received information from multiple U.S. Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election. This interference includes, among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the President’s main domestic political rivals. The President’s personal lawyer, Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General Barr appears to be involved as well.”
The complaint says that the whistleblower learned this information from “more than half a dozen U.S. officials” but was not personally “a direct witness to most of the events described.”
Here’s that key passage from the complaint:
Rep. Chris Stewart, a Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, wrote on Twitter on the evening of September 25, 2019: “BREAKING NEWS: The whistleblower complaint has been declassified. I encourage you all to read it.”
The accusations against Trump focus on Ukraine and a call that Trump had with that Volodymyr Zelensky in which he urges an investigation of his 2020 rival Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. Hunter is Biden’s son with Neilia Hunter Biden, his first wife who was tragically killed in a car crash with the couple’s small daughter when Hunter was a child. He’s found himself in the midst of numerous controversies over the years. Trump in turn has accused Joe Biden of trying to stop a prosecutor who may have been planning to investigate a company where Hunter Biden served on the board.
Members of Congress who have already seen the complaint disagree sharply on the seriousness of it. For example, Stewart, who has already read it, told Deseret News, “After reading the whistleblower complaint, I have no additional concerns.”
Others sharply disagree, as they have over Trump’s phone call with Zelensky, breaking down along partisan lines. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, told The New York Times that the whistleblower’s complaint was “deeply disturbing” and “very credible.”
Of Trump’s call with Zelensky, he wrote, “The transcript of the call reads like a classic mob shakedown: – We do a lot for Ukraine – There’s not much reciprocity – I have a favor to ask – Investigate my opponent – My people will be in touch. Nice country you got there. It would be a shame if something happened to her.”
Here’s what you need to know:
The Whistleblower Claimed the Call Record Was Stored in an Unusual Manner
The first part of the whistleblower’s complaint focuses on Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The whistleblower wrote that the whistleblower had been told that “after an initial exchange of pleasantries, the President used the remainder of the call to advance his personal interests. Namely, he sought to pressure the Ukrainian leader to take actions to help the President’s 2020 reelection bid.”
The whistleblower stated that, on the call, he or she learned Trump “pressured” Zelensky to “initiate or continue an investigation into the activities of former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter Biden” as well as “assist in purportedly uncovering that allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election originated in Ukraine, with a specific request that the Ukrainian leader locate and turn over servers used by the Democratic National Committee…”
In addition, the whistleblower accused Trump of pressuring Zelensky to meet or speak with Giuliani and Barr. The whistleblower alleged that about a dozen White House officials listened to the call along with a State Department official named T. Ulrich Brechbuhl.
In the days after the call, the whistleblower heard that White House officials had intervened to “lock down all 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.”
White House officials “told me that 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,” wrote the whistleblower. Instead “the transcript was loaded into a separate electronic system that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature. One White House official described this act as an abuse of this electronic system because the call did not contain anything remotely sensitive from a national security perspective.”
The whistleblower alleged that on July 26, the day after the call, US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker visited Zelensky and other Ukrainian figures and was accompanied by US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. They “reportedly provided advice to the Ukrainian leadership about how to ‘navigate’ the demands that the President had made of Mr. Zelensky.”
The whistleblower claimed that, around August 2, Rudy Giuliani reportedly traveled to Madrid to meet with Andriy Yermak, one of Zelensky’s advisers. It was characterized as a direct follow-up to the call about the “cases” they had discussed.
The whistleblower heard that Giuliani had “reportedly privately reached out” to other Zelensky advisers, including Chief of Staff Andriy Bohdan and Acting Chairman of the Security Service of Ukraine Ivan Bakanov.
The whistleblower then lists news articles to paint the “circumstances leading up to the 25 July presidential phone call.” Among them an article that contained the claim that “former Vice President Biden had pressured former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in 2016 to fire then Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin in order to quash a purported criminal probe into Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company on whose board the former Vice President’s son, Hunter, sat.”
The complaint stated that “starting in mid May, I heard from multiple U.S. officials that they were deeply concerned by what they viewed as Mr. Giuliani’s circumvention of national security decisionmaking processes to engage with Ukrainian officials and relay messages back and forth between Kyiv and the President.”
President Trump released a memorandum describing the call on the day before the whistleblower’s complaint was released. Read the full memorandum here.
The passage about Hunter Biden says:
Trump: Good because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that. The other thing, There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me.
I wanted to tell you about the prosecutor. First of all, I understand and I’m knowledgeable about the situation. Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament, the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate, who will be approved, by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September. He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue. The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case. On top of that, I would kindly ask you if you have any additional information that you can provide to us, it would be very helpful for the investigation to make sure that we administer justice in our country with regard to the Ambassador to the United States from Ukraine as far as I recall her name was Ivanovich. It was great that you were the first one who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100%. Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous President and she was on his side. She would not accept me as a new President well enough.
Trump told reporters of that call, according to NBC: “What Joe Biden did for his son, that’s something they should be looking at.” Trump also said, NBC reported: “He said, ‘I’m not going to give billions of dollars to Ukraine unless they remove this prosecutor.’ And they removed the prosecutor supposedly in one hour,” Trump claimed, referring to Biden. “And the prosecutor was prosecuting the company of the son and the son. He just shouldn’t have said that. Now, as far as my conversation, it was perfect. It was a perfect conversation.”
The Whistleblower Is an Intelligence Officer Who May Have a Political Bias, a Government Document Says
CNN is reporting that the whistleblower has “tentatively agreed” to meet with members of Congress. Meanwhile, many are eager to learn more about the person’s background.
The whistleblower who has made accusations against President Donald Trump may have an “arguable political bias” because there are suggestions the person was “in favor of a rival political candidate,” a government memo says. It doesn’t reveal what those indications are specifically. Nor does it name the rival political candidate.
The details are contained in a Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel opinion released September 25, 2019, and which you can read here. It describes some of the findings by the intelligence community inspector general (ICIG). The document describes the complaint as “a complaint from an intelligence-community employee about statements made by the President during a telephone call with a foreign leader.” The opinion was signed by Steven A. Engel, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel.
According to the opinion, “Although the ICIG’s preliminary review found ‘some indicia of an arguable political bias on the part of the Complainant in favor of a rival political candidate,’ the ICIG concluded that the complaint’s allegations nonetheless appeared credible.” The report adds, “The ICIG determined that the allegation ‘appears credible’ without conducting any detailed legal analysis concerning whether the allegation, if true, would amount to an unlawful solicitation of a campaign contribution.”
The opinion stated that, “The complainant alleged that unnamed ‘White House officials’ had expressed concern about the content of a telephone call between the President and a foreign leader. According to the ICIG, statements made by the President during the call could be viewed as soliciting a foreign campaign contribution in violation of the campaign-finance laws.”
The opinion continues, “the complaint arises out of a confidential diplomatic communication between the President and a foreign leader that the intelligence-community complain-ant received secondhand.”
However, the opinion states: “We conclude that the complaint submitted to the ICIG does not involve an ‘urgent concern’ as defined in 50 U.S.C. § 3033(k)(5)(G). As a result, the statute does not require that the DNI transmit the complaint to the intelligence committees.”
The opinion further states:
The complainant alleged that he or she had heard reports from ‘White House officials’ that, in the course of a routine diplomatic communication between the President and a foreign leader, the President had made statements that the complainant viewed as seeking to pressure that leader to take an official action to help the President’s 2020 re-election campaign. The complainant described this communication as arising during a scheduled call with the foreign leader that, consistent with usual practice, was monitored by a number of U.S. officials. Having heard about the President’s reported statements, the complainant expressed an intent to report this information to the intelligence committees.”
According to a report in The New York Times, the whistleblower is an “intelligence officer,” and the complaint, according to two sources, shares concerns about Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president and “also about how the White House handled records of the conversation.”
The Times article also says that the whistleblower named witnesses in the complaint who were interviewed by Michael Atkinson, inspector general for the intelligence community. According to the Times, Atkinson “concluded that there was reason to believe that the president may have illegally solicited a foreign campaign contribution” and that “the information in the complaint was credible.”
The Times reported that Atkinson “also found reason to believe that the whistleblower may not support the re-election of Trump.”
The Controversy Dates to Hunter Biden’s Directorship on the Board of a Company Possibly Targeted by a Prosecutor Joe Biden Wanted Dismissed
Hunter Biden has worked as a lobbyist and is partner of a consulting group, but one of his board of directorships is what has caused the controversy. According to The New York Times, he was on the board “of one of Ukraine’s largest natural gas companies.” Politifact concluded in an article exploring the issue that “Experts agree that Hunter Biden’s acceptance of the position created a conflict of interest for his father.”
The New York Times previously reported in May 2019 that dealing with Ukraine was something Joe Biden “enthusiastically embraced” as President Barack Obama’s vice president, “browbeating Ukraine’s notoriously corrupt government to clean up its act.” You can read the full Times’ report here.
The Times added that Joe Biden, in 2016, “threatened to withhold $1 billion in United States loan guarantees if Ukraine’s leaders did not dismiss the country’s top prosecutor, who had been accused of turning a blind eye to corruption in his own office and among the political elite.” The prosecutor’s name was Viktor Shokin.
Some allege that Shokin actually stopped investigating Burisma, countering his narrative that he wanted to pursue the probe. Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of the Kyiv-based Anti-Corruption Action Center (AntAC), told Radio Free Europe that Shokin “dumped important criminal investigations on corruption associated with [former President Viktor] Yanukovych, including the Burisma case.” Furthermore, “Ukrainian prosecutors and anti-corruption advocates who were pushing for an investigation into the dealings of Burisma and its owner, Mykola Zlochevskiy, said the probe had been dormant long before Biden leveled his demand,” Radio Free Europe reports.
“Ironically, Joe Biden asked Shokin to leave because the prosecutor failed [to pursue] the Burisma investigation, not because Shokin was tough and active with this case,” Kaleniuk said to Radio Free Europe. The owner of Burisma was Mykola Zlochevsky. “Zlochevsky had been Ukraine’s ecology minister under former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian leader who had been forced into exile in Russia,” James Risen wrote for Intercept.
Risen added, “The then-vice president issued his demands for greater anti-corruption measures by the Ukrainian government despite the possibility that those demands would actually increase – not lessen — the chances that Hunter Biden and Burisma would face legal trouble in Ukraine.” Read his full report here.
The prosecutor was voted out. The Times reported that Hunter Biden “had a stake in the outcome,” because, at the time, he was a board member for “an energy company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch” who had been a target of the fired prosecutor.
The Times described Hunter as a “Yale-educated lawyer” who had served on Amtrak’s board and boards for nonprofit organizations but didn’t have experience in Ukraine. He was paid “as much as $50,000 per month” some months for his work for Burisma Holdings, The Times reported.
The Times claimed that Hunter and his partners “were part of a broad effort by Burisma to bring in well-connected Democrats” during “the period” that the company faced probes in the Ukraine and from Obama administration officials.
The newspaper quoted Hunter Biden as saying, “I have had no role whatsoever in relation to any investigation of Burisma, or any of its officers. I explicitly limited my role to focus on corporate governance best practices to facilitate Burisma’s desire to expand globally.”
NBC News reported that the elder Biden’s role in Ukraine involved leading “the U.S. diplomatic efforts to bolster the country’s fledgling democracy and root out corruption after mass protests ousted the country’s pro-Russia president, Viktor Yanukovych.” According to NBC, Burisma, for which Hunter is no longer on the board, “had ties to Yanukovych,” raising conflict of interest concerns that the Obama White House denied. It was argued that the prosecutor was hesitant to go after any prominent members of the Yanukovych regime.
However, Bloomberg has reported that the prosecutor’s investigation into Burisma was dormant for some time before Joe Biden made his comments about Ukraine. According to Bloomberg, Joe Biden stated his comments against the prosecutor derived from U.S. frustrations that the prosecutor was soft on corruption.
In May 2019, Ukraine’s then prosecutor general “said there was no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe or Hunter Biden,” BBC reported.
This plays into accusations that President Trump, in a call to the president of Ukraine, urged him to investigate Biden’s son and Biden. Trump released a memorandum of the call on September 25, 2019 with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky.
Biden has previously spoken about his actions in Ukraine. “I remember going over (to Ukraine), convincing our team … that we should be providing for loan guarantees. … And I was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from (then Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko) and from (then-Prime Minister Arseniy) Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor (Shokin). And they didn’t…” he said during an event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations in 2018.
“They were walking out to a press conference. I said, nah, … we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, ‘You have no authority. You’re not the president.’ … I said, call him. I said, I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said, you’re not getting the billion. … I looked at them and said, ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’ Well, son of a bitch. He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”
According to John Solomon, writing for The Hill: “U.S. banking records show Hunter Biden’s American-based firm, Rosemont Seneca Partners LLC, received regular transfers into one of its accounts — usually more than $166,000 a month — from Burisma from spring 2014 through fall 2015, during a period when Vice President Biden was the main U.S. official dealing with Ukraine and its tense relations with Russia.”
Solomon added that Shokin “told me in written answers to questions that, before he was fired as general prosecutor, he had made ‘specific plans’ for the investigation that ‘included interrogations and other crime-investigation procedures into all members of the executive board, including Hunter Biden.'”
Politifact concluded: “Vice President Joe Biden did urge Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor, with the threat of withholding U.S. aid. But that was the position of the wider U.S. government, as well as other international institutions. We found no evidence to support the idea that Joe Biden advocated with his son’s interests in mind, as the message suggests. It’s not even clear that the company was actively under investigation or that a change in prosecutors benefited it.”