Trump impeachment: Whistleblower ‘is CIA officer’
The whistleblower whose criticism has resulted in an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump is a CIA officer, US media report. Reported by BBC News
The unnamed officer once worked in the White House, many US sockets said.
The whistleblower says senior White House officials attempted to”lockdown” all details of a phone call between Mr Trump and the president.
Mr Trump demanded to know who gave advice to the whistleblower, saying the source was”alongside a spy”.
In the telephone on 25 July, Mr Trump pushed Volodymyr Zelensky to explore his leading Democratic political rival, Joe Biden.
The criticism, published on Thursday, says the call transcript wasn’t stored in the regular computer system. Instead, it had been stored in a different system used for classified information.
Why is the phone call contentious?
A rough transcript of this conversation, published by the White House this week, reveals the president urged his newly-elected Ukrainian counterpart to explore discredited corruption allegations against Mr Biden and his son Hunter.
“There’s a good deal of talk about Biden’s son, which Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to discover about that,” he told Mr Zelensky.
Democrats accuse Mr Trump of illegally seeking foreign help in the expectation of smearing Mr Biden – who’s seeking the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential election.
What’s the Trump-Ukraine story about?
How easy can it be to impeach a president?
He also called on the Ukrainian leader to Speak to US Attorney General William Barr and Mr Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani about exploring Hunter Biden’s past business dealings in Ukraine.
Mr Trump is also accused of using military aid to Ukraine as a bargaining tool. The package – which has since been released – had been appropriated by Congress to support the interests of US interests in a friendly nation.
Mr Trump, a Republican, denies any wrongdoing and has dismissed the impeachment proceedings as a “hoax” and “another witch-hunt”.
He acknowledged he had blocked almost $400m (#322m) in military aid to Ukraine days before he spoke to Mr Zelensky, but denied it had been to force the Ukrainian leader into exploring Mr Biden.
Who’s the whistleblower?
Few details are known. An attorney for the whistleblower warned that attempting to identify the individual could put them”in harm’s way”.
The New York Times, Washington Post, and Reuters news agency identified the whistleblower as a CIA officer.
Meanwhile, an audio recording has surfaced in which Mr Trump demands to know who supplied information to the whistleblower – and describes them as”close to a spy”.
“I wish to know who is the individual, who’s the man who gave the whistleblower the info. Because that is near a spy,” the president said in private opinions to staff in the UN. The recording was given to the Los Angeles Times.
In an apparent reference to the implementation of spies from the US in the past, he adds:”You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right?”
The comments were condemned by the Democratic chairmen of three House committees in the House of Representatives. In a joint statement they said the remarks constituted”reprehensible witness intimidation”.
One Democrat said he wanted the whistleblower to speak with members of the House Intelligence Committee”at the earliest”.
“I’m concerned at some of the statements that the president was making about the whistleblower, and if he is likely to retaliate against the man,” said Representative Raja Kirshnamoorthi.
What does the complaint say?
The whistleblower’s complaint accuses Mr Trump of”with the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign nation in the US 2020 election”.
The declassified record characterises the president’s conduct as a”serious or flagrant problem, abuse, or violation of law”.
The whistleblower says they had heard from several sources that senior White House officials had intervened to”lock down” all documents of the telephone, especially a formal word-for-word transcript.
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“This set of activities underscored to me that White House officials knew the gravity of what had transpired from the telephone,” the whistleblower wrote in the complaint.
The whistleblower says details of this telephone had been stored in a”stand-alone computer system reserved for codeword-level intelligence data, such as covert actions”.
The complaint makes clear that the whistleblower was”not a direct witness” to all the events described, but discovered their coworkers’ accounts to be plausible.
What’s happened in Congress?
The launch of the whistleblower complaint on Thursday came as lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee started to question President Trump’s top intelligence official on the situation.
Acting National Intelligence Director Joseph Maguire had originally refused to talk about the complaint with Congress. But under questioning from the committee on Thursday, Mr Maguire said he thought the whistleblower had acted in”good faith” and”did the right thing”.
Committee chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat, opened the hearing by accusing President Trump of a “classic organised crime shakedown”.
But the leading Republican on the committee, Devin Nunes, a Trump supporter, said:”I need to congratulate the Democrats on their newest informational warfare operation against the president and their extraordinary ability to once again enlist the mainstream press in their effort.”
Mr Schiff asked Mr Maguire he had sought advice from the White House before deciding to publish the whistleblower’s report.
“It just seemed sensible to test,” Mr Maguire responded, stating he had sought the advice of White House counsel to determine whether the report contained information protected by presidential executive privilege.
He added:”I think everything in this matter is wholly unprecedented.”
What is the claim about Joe Biden?
Throughout the telephone with Mr Zelensky, Mr Trump increased the 2016 elimination of a Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin.
Then he went on to talk Hunter Biden and the unsubstantiated allegation that his dad – then the US vice-president – halted the prosecution of his son by calling Ukraine to fire Mr Shokin.
Mr Shokin’s office had opened an investigation to Burisma, a natural gas company where Hunter Biden was a board member.
There’s absolutely no evidence of any wrongdoing by the Bidens.
Mr Biden, as well as other Western officials, had called for Mr Shokin to be fired due to the perception that he was soft on corruption.
When Mr Shokin was substituted, his successor continued to research Burisma for 10 weeks prior to the inquiry ended.
The US justice department said on Wednesday that Mr Trump had not spoken to the attorney general about having Ukraine research Mr Biden.
Speaking at a fundraising event in San Marino, California, on Thursday, Mr Biden said:”It is a strategy that is used by this president to attempt and hijack an election so we don’t focus on the problems that matter in our own lives.”
The way the controversy unfolded
On or before 18 July – President Trump requests White House aide to hold back nearly $400m in military aid to Ukraine, report US press
25 July – President Trump speaks to Ukraine’s leader at a 30-minute phone call
9 September – Congress learns of a whistleblower’s complaint concerning the telephone, but is obstructed from the Trump administration from watching it
11 September – Army support for Ukraine is cleared for release from the Pentagon and Department of State
23 September – Mr Trump affirms he withheld Ukrainian aid, saying it was because of concerns about”corruption”
24 September – Mr Trump claims the aid was withheld so that other nations would pay more.