A whistleblower's accusations about a phone call between President Donald Trump and the president of Ukraine was controversial enough to cause Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her allies in the House of Representatives to back impeachment. The White House has dismissed it as a complaint over nothing. Now the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has declassified the letter so that anyone can see what it actually says.
What did the letter say?
In the letter, which was written to Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who chair the Intelligence Committees in their respective houses of Congress, the still anonymous whistleblower reported that he had heard 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."
The whistleblower admitted that they were "not a direct witness to most of the events described." However, they said that they thought the information about these events given by colleagues was "credible because, in almost all cases, multiple officials recounted fact patters that were consistent with one another."
The complaint focused on a phone call that Trump had made with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the transcript of which the White House released yesterday.
The whistleblower's account of events does seem to generally match up with the transcript of the call. The complaint accused Trump of asking Zelensky to talk with his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, about investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden's dealings with Ukraine; the transcript confirmed this. It also said that Trump had asked Zelensky to look into whether claims of Russian interference in 2016 started in Ukraine, and to turn over servers used by the DNC in 2016; the phone call transcript also confirmed this.
The crucial difference between the two accounts is that the whistleblower said that these conversation topics might "pose risks to national security and undermine the U.S. Government's efforts to deter and counter foreign election interference in U.S. elections."
Trump, who has repeatedly referred to the call as being "perfect," portrayed it as simply business as usual. The president was also quick to point out that there was no evidence in the transcript of any "quid pro quo" from the U.S. if Ukraine agreed to what the president had asked.
There's more, about a classified server
The whistleblower also accused the White House of initially trying to hide the transcript, by sticking it on a "computer system managed directly by the National Security Council (NSC) Directorate for Intelligence Programs," which was "a standalone computer system reserved for codeword-level intelligence information, such as covert action." This would be unusual since nothing in the phone call itself was considered to be classified or sensitive information.
The whistleblower said that multiple White House officials had revealed that this was "not the first time" that the Trump administration had put something in this secure system "solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive — rather than national security sensitive — information."
In a press conference on Wednesday, Trump volunteered that anyone who wanted could also read the transcript from an earlier call he had with Zelensky, as well as two calls between Zelensky and Vice President Mike Pence.