White House Officials ‘Alarmed’ By Trump Contacts With Ukraine
New reports indicated that the President's contacts with Ukraine's President set off alarm bells inside the White House.
The Washington Post is reporting that President Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, as well as the general American policy toward Ukraine that it indicated, raised a high degree of concern among several top foreign policy advisers in the White House:
At least four national security officials were so alarmed by the Trump administration’s attempts to pressure Ukraine for political purposes that they raised concerns with a White House lawyer both before and immediately after President Trump’s July 25 call with that country’s president, according to U.S. officials and other people familiar with the matter.
The nature and timing of the previously undisclosed discussions with National Security Council legal adviser John Eisenberg indicate that officials were delivering warnings through official White House channels earlier than previously understood — including before the call that precipitated a whistleblower complaint and the impeachment inquiry of the president.
At the time, the officials were unnerved by the removal in May of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, by subsequent efforts by Trump’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to promote Ukraine-related conspiracies, as well as by signals in meetings at the White House that Trump wanted the new government in Kiev to deliver material that might be politically damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
“When people were listening to this in real time, there were significant concerns about what was going on — alarm bells were kind of ringing,” said one person familiar with the sequence of events inside the White House, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. “People were trying to figure out what to do, how to get a grasp on the situation.”
It is unclear whether some or all of the officials who complained to Eisenberg are also the ones who later spoke to the whistleblower.
The accounts are sharply at odds with Trump’s depiction of the call as a “perfect” exchange in which he “did nothing wrong,” despite appearing to link U.S. support for Ukraine to that country’s willingness to investigate the family of the former vice president. On Thursday, Trump renewed his attacks on Twitter, describing the impeachment inquiry as a “Democrat Scam.”
But new details about the sequence inside the White House suggest that concerns about the call and events leading up to it were profound even among Trump’s top advisers, including Bolton and then-acting deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman. Bolton and Kupperman did not respond to requests for comment.
Officials said that within hours of the 9 a.m. conversation, a rough transcript compiled by aides had been moved from a widely shared White House computer network to one normally reserved for highly classified intelligence operations. According to the whistleblower’s complaint, White House lawyers “directed” officials to move the transcript to the classified system. At the same time, officials were seeking ways to report what they had witnessed, an undertaking complicated by the lack of a White House equivalent to the inspector general positions found at other agencies.
It appears to be some of these White House officials who first alerted the whistleblower who started off this process of what was going on with the July phone call and other matters related to Ukraine. It’s unclear whether or not one of these people may also be what amounts to the second whistleblower that we learned about last week and could also explain the comments by the attorney for the first whistleblower that his firm was representing “multiple” persons with knowledge regarding the Ukraine matter.
In any case, this report makes clear that the concerns about American policy toward Ukraine and its connection to other things going on in American politics was a concern long before that phone call. What it does suggest, though, is that the efforts to obtain damaging information about political opponents predates the July 25th phone call, something that has only been suggested in the half in references to the first phone call between Trump and Zelensky, which occurred shortly after Zelensky’s election in April and which was described at the time as being merely congratulatory but which has also been rumored to have included some discussion of the Biden issue. It also appears that the concerns that these White House officials have were related to the efforts of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani to chase down support for a bizarre conspiracy regarding the 2016 Presidential election that claims the Clinton campaign and Ukraine were actually the guilty parties rather than the Trump campaign and Russia.
Taken together with the arrest of Giuliani’s apparent associates earlier this week, this is all leading in some very interesting directions to say the very least.