Whistleblower’s Complaint Has Been Corroborated
The evidence piles up.
It’s been roughly two weeks since we learned about President Trump’s July phone call with President Zelensky of Ukraine and the reports of an intelligence community whistleblower who chose to spoke out about learning about the contents of that call and other information through their work at the White House. As The Washington Post points out, the evidence supporting the contents of that complaint has only continued to mount in the intervening time even as the Administration and its supporters have tried to claim otherwise:
Since the revelation of an explosive whistleblower complaint that sparked an impeachment crisis for President Trump, he and his Republican allies have coalesced around a central defense: The document was based on secondhand information, mere hearsay riddled with inaccuracies.
But over the past two weeks, documents, firsthand witness accounts and even statements by Trump himself have emerged that bolster the facts outlined in the extraordinary abuse-of-
The description of a July 25 phone call between Trump and the president of Ukraine, which formed the heart of the complaint and was still secret at the time the claim was filed in mid-August, matches a rough transcript of the call that the White House released a day before the complaint was made public.
The whistleblower’s assertion that records related to the phone call were transferred to a separate electronic system intended for highly classified material has since been confirmed by White House officials.
And the whistleblower’s narrative of the events that led up to the call — including a shadow campaign undertaken by Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani and the attempts of State Department officials to navigate his activities— have been largely confirmed by the text messages of three diplomats released Friday, as well as Giuliani himself in media interviews.
Independent evidence now supports the central elements laid out in the seven-page document. Even if they disregarded the complaint, legal experts said, lawmakers have obtained dramatic testimony and documents that provide ammunition for the whistleblower’s core assertion: that the president of the United States used “the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.”
“Everything we’ve found to date validates the information. . . . It’s brilliantly effective. It really does function almost as a one-stop-shop, investigative road map,” said Harry P. Litman, a former U.S. attorney in Pennsylvania who has represented other government whistleblowers.
[S]pecific details the whistleblower provided about Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky can be found in the rough transcript of the conversation released by the White House.
Among them: that Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate former vice president Biden and his son, and that the only specific instance of allegedcorruption that Trump referenced on the call was the one pertaining to Biden.
The whistleblower also accurately described howTrump had asked the Ukrainians to pursueallegations that Russian interference in the 2016 election originated in Ukraine and to “turn over servers used by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and examined by the U.S. cyber security firm CrowdStrike.”
According to the White House, Trump told Zelensky, “I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say CrowdStrike . . .,” adding, “The server, they say Ukraine has it.”
The whistleblower also said thatTrump had explicitly asked the Ukrainians to meet or speak with Giuliani and Attorney General William P. Barr on these matters, referring to them “multiple times in tandem.”
“I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it,” Trump told Zelensky, according to the White House readout. “I’m sure you will figure it out.”
Mark Zaid, a lawyer for the whistleblower, said the complaint itself noted that it was based both on the whistleblower’s personal knowledge and on information gathered from other officials.
Despite some Republican claims to the contrary, the law that protects government officials who step forward with knowledge of wrongdoing has never required that their information be firsthand, he said.
“It’s always gratifying when the veracity of a client’s concerns are proven to be true,” Zaid said. “It is obviously disappointing at times to see that something improper might have happened in the government, but there’s a sense of pride in seeing someone stand up for truth and integrity and in seeing the process work to address it.”
In the complaint, the whistleblower described other internal government deliberations that were not public at the time the document was filed.
For instance, he wrote that he had learned from other officials that Trump instructed Vice President Pence not to attend Zelensky’s inauguration in May. Current and former U.S. officials confirmed the president’s directive to The Post this past week.
In addition, the whistleblower assertedthat in the weeks before Trump and Zelensky spoke, the Ukrainians were told that a phone call or meeting with the U.S. president — a highly sought-after mark of respect for the newly elected Ukrainian president — would depend on whether Zelensky was willing to “play ball” with Giuliani. And the whistleblower said he had learned that Giuliani was engaging with Ukrainian officials and relaying messages between Trump and Kiev.
Giuliani has acknowledged that he conveyed Trump’s desire for Ukraine to investigate Biden to Ukrainian officials close to Zelensky
“Your country owes it to us and to your country to find out what really happened,” Giuliani told a top aide to the Ukrainian president, according to an interview he gave The Post last month.
In addition to the corroboration noted above, there was more concrete evidence released at the end of the week that adds to what we already knew. First of all, of course, there was the President himself standing on the South Lawn of the White House and stating for television cameras what he had previously only stated privately, and asking not only Ukraine but also China to open investigations into former Vice-President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Then, in response to document requests from Congress, the Administration released a treasure trove of text messages between diplomats and other officials making clear the extent to which American officials were pressuring Kvyv to comply with the President’s political vendetta. Finally, we have the news that there is apparently a second person out there considering coming forward as a whistleblower, a person who is already a witness with respect to the complaints of the original complaint but who apparently also has additional information about what happened vis a vis Ukraine and the efforts to pressure the Zelensky Administration to investigate the Bidens. ABC News is reporting this morning that this second whistleblower is being represented by the same law firm representing the first whistleblower
In the land of the Trump defenders, of course, we’re still stuck on the idea that the whistleblower’s complaint was based on secondhand information and that, somehow mysteriously, the rules regarding whistleblower complaints were changed in the weeks before the complaint was filed to drop a requirement that such complaints be based on first-hand knowledge. In the first respect, it is simply not true that previous whistleblower rules barred whistleblowers from basing their complaint on so-called “hearsay” or second-hand knowledge, To the extent there was a change, it was a simple change in the form used to report the claims that asked whistleblowers to differentiate when they were basing their complaint on first-hand and second-hand knowledge. There was no rule against second-hand knowledge per se. Second, the whistleblower’s complaint in this particular case made clear from the start that it was based both on first and second-hand knowledge. Additionally, it is worth noting that the Inspector General to whom the complaint was turned over was able to verify much of the second-hand knowledge through independent interviews before turning over his report to the Acting Director of National Intelligence.
What all this means, of course, is that the evidence available to the House Intelligence Committee, which for practical purposes is currently taking the lead in the underlying impeachment investigation, is expanding significantly and that the evidence against the President is continuing to mount. By some measures, of course, one could argue that the House has all the evidence it needs to proceed forward with the drafting and approval of Articles of Impeachment against the President, something that has only happened two other times in American history, and would have happened a third time had Richard Nixon not resigned before the House of Representatives could vote.
Notwithstanding the fact that the case is less than a month old, I think it’s fair to say that this is the most serious case of impeachment since the allegations against Nixon. It’s certainly more serious than the charges against President Andrew Johnson, which were largely based on his refusal to comply with with what was most likely an unconstitutional law regard the appointment and removal of Cabinet officials and the charges against President Clinton, with of course revolved around perjury committed by the President when asked about an extramarital affair with a White House intern.
Obviously, Congress must continue to move forward and gather additional evidence but, as things stand, this is all headed toward a very foreseeable end in the House of Representatives. What happens in the Senate is up to them, and they will have to answer to history and to their constituents when they handle the matter however they chose.