House Intelligence Committee releases whistleblower report on Trump-Zelensky call

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The whistleblower complaint that led to the impeachment inquiry against US President Donald Trump has been released. In it, the leaker admits he did not actually hear the phone call at the center of the scandal.

Released by the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday, the complaint details the circumstances surrounding Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Democrats argue that Trump attempted to pressure Zelensky into reopening a corruption investigation into 2020 candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter, and his business dealings in the country.

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© AFP / SAUL LOEB; REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
The ‘incriminating’ call between Trump & Zelensky, explained

The complaint reveals little new about the call itself. In it, the whistleblower – believed to be a member of the intelligence community – admitted that they had not actually been privy to the call, but went on secondhand accounts from those who were. They also detailed a series of contacts between US and Ukrainian officials, some pertaining to the investigation into Hunter Biden’s business dealings.

Though Trump himself released a transcript of the call on Wednesday – which did not reveal a quid-pro-quo arrangement as Democrats alleged – the party has still pressed ahead with an impeachment inquiry. As the complaint was released, the committee prepared to interview Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire about his handling of the complaint.

According to the whistleblower, Trump’s mention of the investigation in the phone call amounted to soliciting “interference from a foreign country in the 2020 US election.”

Accompanying the report was a letter from Maguire, who said the complaint “appears credible” and determined it to be an “urgent concern.”

President Trump responded angrily to the release, accusing Democrats of “trying to destroy the Republican party and all that it stands for.”

The complaint adds little of value to the Democrats’ case against Trump. Much of it is built on the concerns of anonymous officials who viewed the call as a “flagrant” abuse of office. The whistleblower also expressed concern that the White House apparently attempted to block the release of the call transcript. However, Trump’s release of the record on Wednesday rendered this concern moot.

Much of the whistleblower’s story surrounding the call is built on media reports. According to one of these reports, Ukrainian officials close to Zelensky claimed to have “evidence” that other officials in Kiev had “interfered” with the 2016 US election on behalf of the Democratic Party. Another report alleged that Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, planned to travel to Kiev to pressure Zelensky to investigate this supposed “evidence.” 

Giuliani’s trip never happened, and these reports, alongside the whistleblower’s “general understanding of the state of affairs” make up the bulk of the complaint.

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Steve Swanson protests in silence with a sign over his head reading “Impeach Now!” in front of the White House in Washington, U.S. June 19, 2019.  © REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Trump impeachment proceedings based on ‘nothing’ phone call, but fallout will hurt America long-term

Also cited as evidence against Trump is his statement to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos earlier this summer, in which he said that he would “listen” to dirt on his political rivals from a foreign country. The president later said: “They all do it, they always have, and that’s the way it is.”

Whether the transcript will be enough to sustain an impeachment inquiry against Trump remains to be seen. Unless House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-California) can solicit more damaging information from the whistleblower in a committee hearing, the call transcript itself remains the only piece of hard evidence against Trump, but doesn’t detail the level of abuse the whistleblower alleged.

Furthermore, while a majority of House members back impeaching Trump, the American public does not share their opinion. A Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday shows that only 37 percent of voters support impeachment, the vast majority of them Democrats.

Though many Democrats long to see Trump impeached and removed from office, more fear that impeachment would strengthen the president’s chances come 2020, and would give credence to his argument that the effort to remove him is “the single greatest witch hunt in American history.”

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Author: HEDGE

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