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.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Impeachment, Intelligence, National Security, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Somebody pulled a thread and the whole damned mess is unraveling before our eyes.

    14
  2. gVOR08 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: One may only hope.

    Pelosi wanted a smoking gun. And Trump pulled the trigger. Stupidity is it’s own reward.

  3. Teve says:

    Is there some point that a critical mass of Republican movers and shakers desperate to save their once and future earnings decide they need to jettison this fustercluck?

  4. Pylon says:

    Trump’s use of “perfect” has always struck me as telling. It’s a not a word you use generally to describe a phone call. It’s a word you use, say, in internal discussion with your team to describe an answer in a cross-examination. “How was that response?” “It was perfect – you covered yourself completely”.

    What it tells me is (a) Trump knew he was acting improperly in the call; (b) discussed it with people like Guiliani; (c) They say “no that call was perfect – you gave no quid pro quo”; and (d) Trump goes and outs the actual strategic discussion instead of just saying “here’s what I said”.

    14
  5. michael reynolds says:

    Lawrence O’Donnell had an interesting speculation last night, to whit that as the White House has no Inspector General, someone there leaked to the ‘whistleblower’ because that person was under an IG’s supervision and therefor had legal cover.

    If so, there is or was a rat in the WH. Bolton? Or (my based-on-vapor speculation) has Kellyanne finally cracked? George Conway was on some podcast lamenting that there was no one – no one at all – in the WH willing to do the right thing? Was he condemning his wife? Or giving her cover?

  6. CSK says:

    @Pylon: Trump’s way with words is, in a word, weird. Remember when he was using “proud” and “proudly” all the time in the most inapposite contexts? Such as “the American people are proudly saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again”? Who says Merry Christmas proudly?

  7. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds: How Kellyanne and George can live in the same zip code, never mind house, has always escaped me.

  8. Blue Galangal says:

    @michael reynolds: It’s hard to keep the multiple threads straight at this point (I think the Ukraine situation dates back to before May), and it appears now that many fine people were concerned about Trump’s phone calls re: Ukraine (and possibly others) since May, and that more than one person approached John Eisenberg, for lack of a White-House-style IG chain of command, with their concerns. Eisenberg (from all accounts a proponent of executive power) threw it up the chain to where it was quashed; but this explains why the WH wasn’t surprised at the WB revelation. Eisenberg had already been hearing about this from people privy to various phone calls.

    The Senate should take note, although they won’t, that these concerns had been raised, and thrown into the secret server, for months by the time the WB came forward.

  9. Blue Galangal says:

    @CSK: Whatever is wrong with his mind – I agree that it’s a form of FTD – it’s not odd at all. He retrieves what schemata he can from his long-term memory but it’s subject to retrieval error due to whatever is going on medically/physically with his brain and is thus fragmented and scattered. He is more apt to retrieve a word/concept that vaguely relates to his own self image – hence “proudly.” It makes no sense to rational beings.

  10. Guarneri says:

    “White House Officials ‘Alarmed’ By Trump Contacts With Ukraine”

    Alternatively,

    Deep State Officials Pissed Off About Policy, Decide to Cause Trouble

    There, fixed it for you.

    20
  11. mattbernius says:

    @Guarneri:
    Says the proud apologist for the administration of screwing over our allies and assisting in the planning of getting them killed.

    But hey, you’ll endorse assisting in mass murder for tax cuts.

    Or perhaps you just keep missing all the posts about the double-crossing of the Kurds. I mean you seem to be posting on everything else but those threads for some reason.

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  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Guarneri: People Who Think Nobody is Above the Law Step Forward.

    There, fixed that for the basement dwelling cultist with his head so far up Roger Ailes’ zombie asshole he can see Sean Hannity’s Adam’s apple bob every time he speaks.

  13. CSK says:

    @Blue Galangal: If Trump is using words–and remember, he has the best words–that relate to his self-image, no wonder he says “beautiful” all the time.

  14. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Guarneri:

    Deep State Officials Pissed Off About Policy, Decide to Cause Trouble

    For that matter maybe they are po’ed at the slowdown in job growth, or the exploding deficit, or the piss-poor GDP growth, or the flat stock market, or our allies being fuqed over to please Putin.
    But it may very well be that they are po’ed about our Nat’l Security being sold out for a well-debunked conspiracy theory.

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  15. Sleeping Dog says:

    @michael reynolds:
    Now that you mention the Conways, things must be might frosty around that household, given the viciousness and frequency with which George has gone after Tiny and how resolute Kelly Anne has been in his defense. I know that Carville and Matalin have pulled off a blue-red marriage, but both seem to have perspective and a good humor about it.

  16. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    Trump suffers from the twin curse of requiring superlatives for ordinary actions, and a very limited vocabulary.

  17. Deathcar2000 says:

    I don’t think asking foreign heads of state to manufacture a investigation into your political rival is a matter of policy disagreement. It is an apparent disregard for administering the law in an responsible manner and a violation of the public trust. If an investigation is warranted proceed through the proper channels, don’t bully other heads of state to dredge up dirt on your opponent.

    Is this hard to understand?

  18. michael reynolds says:

    @Guarneri:
    Drew crawls out from under his bed, armed with the latest transparent lies and beclowns himself to show his love for Cult Leader.

    “No collusion” is now “Absolutely collusion.” That question was resolved by Trump’s confession.
    You were wrong, I was right, and I was further correct in predicting that you would endorse his treason.

    What do you think it makes you when you support treason?

    11
  19. michael reynolds says:

    @Deathcar2000:
    Everything is hard to understand when you’re in a cult. @Guarneri aspires to be the Squeaky Fromme of #Cult45.

  20. Lounsbury says:

    @Guarneri:
    Reworded Guarneri: The Disloyal must be liquidated in the service of the Bolshevik Party

  21. Teve says:

    @CSK:

    Who says Merry Christmas proudly?

    Christians who lived during the Obama tyranny, when they were beaten by Federal transgender gangs for practicing their faith?

  22. Gustopher says:

    @CSK:

    How Kellyanne and George can live in the same zip code, never mind house, has always escaped me.

    Two words: hate fvck.

    People get off on the weirdest things. I just wish they would keep their foreplay in private.

  23. Teve says:

    @mattbernius: there are 65 comment on the three threads about the Kurds, and none of them are by guano. Weird.

  24. Deathcar2000 says:

    Good luck Guarneri I’m pulling for you man, cause it can’t be easy going through life with that messed up perspective.

    Find a confidante and unburden yourself of all these malformed ideas so we won’t have to suffer them.

  25. CSK says:

    @Teve: That’s it! That’s absolutely it! Thank you.

    @Gustopher: I cannot imagine the thrill of that.

  26. grumpy realist says:

    @Guarneri: Either you honestly believe what you’ve been belching up–which indicates someone of little to no morality–or you’re doing this For The Lulz–which indicates someone who should be spanked soundly and sent to bed without supper.

    Act like a five-year old, get treated like a five-year old.

  27. wr says:

    @CSK: “How Kellyanne and George can live in the same zip code, never mind house, has always escaped me”

    I can’t imagine anyone who would want to live with either one of them.

  28. mattbernius says:

    @wr:

    I can’t imagine anyone who would want to live with either one of them.

    Yeah, I have very little respect for George Conway. I realize he’s been embraced by the Never Trump movement, but I cannot wrap my head around how little respect he has for his wife.

    Put a different way, if he has that much of a moral objection to Trump, then he shouldn’t be willing to stay married to someone who is actively enabling the president. Or if being married is so important to him then he really shouldn’t be undermining his wife’s career at every opportunity.

    Or, this is just a grift for both of them.

    Either way it doesn’t reflect well on them as human beings.

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  29. OzarkHillbilly says:

    For anyone who cares: Marie Yovanovitch’s opening statement to the House committee.

  30. Steve V says:

    Omg somehow I missed this the other day:

    Steven Dennis
    @StevenTDennis

    “We uncorked a tiny bottle of champagne … took one gulp each and looked into each other’s eyes …. We uttered almost in unison: ‘We made America great’”
    — Operative at Kremlin-directed IRA after Trump won the election, per Senate Intel report
    bloomberg.com
    1:23 PM · Oct 8, 2019·Twitter Web App

    That’s your guy, Guarneri.

  31. Lounsbury says:

    @mattbernius: Rather he has not reduced his relationship to politics. That makes him more of a proper human being and not some vile internet posturer.

  32. de stijl says:

    If Kelly Anne and George are okay with their relationship any outside input is moot and immaterial.

    Just those two people have the right to decide what is right for them.

  33. DrDaveT says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Yovanovitch said one thing that I can’t agree with, though:

    Yovanovitch denied Lutsenko’s allegations as “completely false,” and added that separate allegations from Trumpworld of “disloyalty” to the President were “equally fictitious.”

    She was doing her job in America’s best interests and in a manner to reduce corruption. That’s clearly disloyal to Trump, any way you slice it.

  34. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl: Yep.

    @DrDaveT: Yep.

  35. gVOR08 says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    I know that Carville and Matalin have pulled off a blue-red marriage, but both seem to have perspective and a good humor about it.

    I think it’s more a weird perversion of professionalism. They’re political operatives, it’s all politics as a baseball game. Policy doesn’t matter, it’s just a matter of getting paid to support your team. And your spouse is doing PR for a different team. Who’s ahead in the division? Doesn’t matter, they both get paid.