On Thursday, while speaking at a private event in New York, President Trump blasted the whistleblower who alleged in an official complaint that the president “used the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.”
Someone in attendance at the event recorded the president speaking, and that recording was handed over to the Los Angeles Times.
Basically, that person never saw the report, never saw the call, [he] never saw the call — heard something, and decided that he or she, [or whoever the hell it is] — almost a spy. I want to know who’s the person who gave the whistleblower, who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart, right, [with] spies and treason? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.
For background, on September 18, The Washington Post reported that according to “former U.S. officials familiar with the matter,” an anonymous whistleblower from within the intelligence community filed a complaint pertaining to a phone call between President Trump and a foreign leader.
The Wall Street Journal ran a story the following Friday in which it was reported that, according to “people familiar with the matter,” during a phone call in July, Trump allegedly pressured the president of Ukraine to launch an investigation into an incident connected to former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
In the wake of these reports, Democratic lawmakers pressed for the release of the transcript of the conversation, and began issuing calls for impeachment proceedings. Several Republicans pushed back, urging caution.
During an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier, House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said:
We need to know more facts. This is just being written in The Wall Street Journal. What did we see last week with The New York Times writing something before they had all the facts?
McCarthy added that the Director of National Intelligence would be testifying before the House Intelligence Committee the following Thursday, and that “will be the appropriate time to find the information out.”
Appearing on separate morning news shows on Sunday, both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated that releasing the transcript of the call would be inappropriate.
On Wednesday, the White House released a “memorandum of [the] telephone conversation.” However, the document cautions that the memo is not a “verbatim transcript,” but that “the text in this document records the notes and recollections of Situation Room Duty Officers and NSC policy staff assigned to listen and memorialize the conversation in written form as the conversation takes place.”
As this story rapidly unfolds, a few Republicans have expressed concerns about the president’s alleged behavior, as well as with the rush to judgement from the other side.
On Wednesday, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) told reporters:
We need to slow down. This place is terrible at deliberation. Democrats ought not to be using the word “impeach” before they had the whistleblower complaint or read any of the transcript. Republicans ought not to be rushing to circle the wagons and say there’s nothing there when there’s obviously a lot that’s very troubling there. The administration ought not be attacking the whistleblower as some talking points suggest they plan to do. The media, humbly, should not pretend this story is, you know, about something that’s going to be resolved in the next two hours. Done right with lots of deliberation, this is going to take a long time, but there’s obviously some very troubling things here. But I think the partisan tribalism that’s always insta-certain is a terrible idea.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) said on Wednesday: “My reaction was the same as I had a few days ago, which is, this remains deeply troubling, and we’ll see where it leads, but the first reaction is troubling.”
In the official complaint, which was released on Thursday, the whistleblower states that the information being divulged isn’t first-hand, but gathered from “multiple U.S. government officials,” as well as “multiple White House officials with direct knowledge of the call.”
While the official complaint is approximately nine pages, and can be read in its entirety here, the following are several portions of the report that are critical to understanding the means by which the whistleblower allegedly obtained the information contained in the complaint:
In the course of my official duties, I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election. This interference includes, among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the president’s main domestic political rivals …
Multiple White House officials with direct knowledge of the call informed me that, after an initial exchange of pleasantries, the President used the remainder of the call to advance his personal interests. Namely, he sought to pressure the Ukrainian leader to take actions to help the President’s 2020 reelection bid …
The White House officials who told me this information were deeply disturbed by what had transpired in the phone call. They told me that there was already a “discussion ongoing” with White House lawyers about how to treat the call because of the likelihood, in the officials’ retelling, that they had witnessed the President abuse his office for personal gain…
Based on my understanding, there were approximately a dozen White House officials who listen to the call — a mixture of policy officials and duty officers in the White House Situation Room, as is customary. The officials I spoke with told me that participation in the call had not been restricted in advance because everyone expected it would be a “routine” call with a foreign leader.
According to NBC News, 223 Democrats in the House of Representatives, as well as one independent, “now favor some kind of impeachment action against President Donald Trump.” That’s a 51.4% majority.
Time will tell if the Democrats can get any Republicans to join their call for impeachment, and if those who have a desire to see the president impeached can agree on the exact proceedings.