- President Donald Trump is circulating a baseless theory that a whistleblower complaint filed against him is based on secondhand information that has no factual basis.
- Two simple facts undermine Trump’s claims. First, the complaint is corroborated by a White House memo that Trump himself decided to release earlier this week.
- Second, Trump’s hand-picked acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, confirmed to Congress on Thursday that the complaint is “in alignment” with the White House’s memo.
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President Donald Trump is testing out a new defence in the wake of an explosive whistleblower scandal engulfing the White House: the whistleblower’s complaint, which details a July 25 phone call where Trump repeatedly pressured Ukraine’s president to work with his personal lawyer to investigate the then-Democratic presidential frontrunner, is based on hearsay and secondhand information that has no factual basis.
“Sounding more and more like the so-called Whistleblower isn’t a Whistleblower at all,” Trump tweeted on Friday. “In addition, all second hand information that proved to be so inaccurate that there may not have even been somebody else, a leaker or spy, feeding it to him or her? A partisan operative?”
The reality is a very different, and two simple facts throw cold water on the president’s claims.
1. The whistleblower’s complaint is corroborated by a White House memo of the phone call that was released before the complaint was made public.
What the complaint alleges:
- Trump used the power of his office to “solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 US election.” Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is a “central figure” in the effort and Attorney General William Barr may be involved as well.
- Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “initiate or continue an investigation into the activities” of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
- Trump also asked Zelensky to “assist in purportedly uncovering that allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election originated in Ukraine, with aspecific request that the Ukrainian leader locate and turn over servers used by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and examined by the U.S. cyber security firm Crowdstrike, which initially reported that Russian hackers had penetrated the DNC’s networks in 2016.”
- Trump pressed Zelensky to “meet or speak with two people the President named explicitly as his personal envoys on these matters, Mr. Giuliani and Attorney General Barr, to whom the President referred multiple times in tandem.”
What the White House’s memo of the call says:
- On Biden: “There’s a lot of talk about [former vice president Joe Biden’s] son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.”
- On the Russia probe, DNC, and Ukraine: “I would like you to do us a favour though, because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it … I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike … I guess you have one of your wealthy people … The server, they say Ukraine has it.”
- On Giuliani: “Good because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair … Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great.”
- On Barr: “I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it,” Trump said, according to the notes. “Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.”
2. Trump’s own handpicked spy chief, acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire, confirmed to Congress on Thursday that the complaint lines up with the White House’s memo.
“Would you say that the whistleblower complaint is remarkably consistent with the transcript that was released?” Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas asked Maguire when he testified before the House Intelligence Committee.
“The whistleblower’s complaint is in alignment with what was released yesterday by the president,” Maguire replied.
He also emphasised that the complaint is credible – a conclusion shared by the intelligence community’s inspector general – and that the whistleblower took all the right steps to report Trump’s conduct.