The Whistleblower Distraction

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President Trump and his defenders have attempted to distract from the President’s underlying betrayal of our national security by consistently steering the conversation back to the anonymous whistleblower. We’ve always known that this scandal is bigger than any single individual. Now, however, with the benefit of sworn testimony, we can be confident that Trump’s focus on the whistleblower is nothing more than a distraction for one simple reason: the whistleblower is no longer relevant.

Every single claim the anonymous whistleblower put forward in the original complaint has since been corroborated on the record by current and former Trump administration officials – or even by the White House itself. What’s more, the testimonies of these same officials have added new – and startling – elements to the record of betrayal, wrongdoing, and cover-ups that has emerged in recent weeks.

The Key Whistleblower Claims

The original whistleblower complaint contains 10 key allegations all of which have since been corroborated – usually under oath – by current and former Trump administration officials.

  • Claim 1: President Trump pressured his Ukrainian counterpart — by withholding security assistance and the promise of a White House meeting —  to investigate his political rival as well as a debunked conspiracy theory regarding the DNC server. 
  • Claim 2: Trump enlisted his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General Barr into the effort. Giuliani routinely circumvented national security decision-making processes to engage with Ukrainian officials and relay messages back and forth between Kyiv and Trump. 
  • Claim 3: Trump praised Ukraine’s Prosecutor General and suggested that Zelensky might want to keep him in his position. 
  • Claim 4: Other White House officials listened to the call, a mixture of policy officials and duty officers in the White House Situation Room.
  • Claim 5: Following the call, Ambassadors Kurt Volker and Gordon Sondland reportedly provided advice to the Ukrainian leadership about how to navigate the demands that the President had made of  Zelensky.
    • Corroborating Source: Text messages between Ambassadors Volker, Sondland and Taylor
    • Corroborating Source: Testimony, Ambassador Bill Taylor
  • Claim 6: Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, was suddenly recalled to Washington by senior State Department officials for “consultations” and would most likely be removed from her position as a result of a smear campaign against her. 
  • Claim 7: Ukrainian leadership was led to believe that a meeting or phone call between Trump and Zelensky would depend on whether Zelensky showed willingness to “play ball.”
  • Claim 8: The transcript of the call with President Zelensky was placed into a computer system managed directly by the National Security Council Directorate for Intelligence Programs.
    • Corroborating Source: Testimony, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman
  • Claim 9: In July, an Office of Management and Budget official informed Departments and Agencies that the President “earlier that month” had issued instructions to suspend all U.S. security assistance to Ukraine. Neither OMB nor the NSC staff knew why this instruction had been issued.
  • Claim 10: Ukrainian officials became aware that the aid could be in jeopardy.
    • Corroborating Source: Testimony, Ambassador Bill Taylor
    • Corroborating Source: Reporting by the New York Times

Additional Facts Not Contained in the Whistleblower Report 

In the weeks since the whistleblower report was made public, we have learned even more about Trump and his administration’s record of betrayal, wrongdoing, and cover-up than what was contained in the initial claim.

  • It was Trump himself who sought to withhold both U.S. security assistance and the prospect of a White House meeting if Kyiv failed to undertake the political investigations. 
  • The White House attempted to keep under wraps the reason for withholding the aid, instructing Executive Branch officials to describe it as a “routine” review. 
    • Source: Statements, senior administration officials
  • Trump never had contact or communication with the NSC Director responsible for Ukraine; instead, he relied on Giuliani, Sondland, and other political operatives to oversee his pressure campaign on Ukraine. 
  • The Inspector General of the Intelligence Community reviewed the whistleblower complaint and found it to be both “urgent” and “credible.”
    • Source: Statement, Office of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community
  • The White House and the Justice Department initially prevented the Acting DNI from providing the whistleblower complaint to Congress, in violation of the law. 
  • The CIA General Counsel initiated a criminal referral of Trump’s actions upon learning of them. 
  • Top State Department leadership was aware of the smear campaign against Ambassador Yovanovitch but did nothing to defend her. 
  • Sondland raised the need for an investigation of the Bidens during a July meeting with senior Ukranian officials in John Bolton’s office and subsequently in the West Wing’s Ward Room. 
  • Bolton was so disturbed by Sondland’s demand that he terminated the meeting in his office early. 
  • Bolton told colleagues that he wanted nothing to do with Trump and Mick Mulvaney’s “drug deal.”
  • Secretary Pompeo listened in on the July 25 call despite initially feigning ignorance.
  • The NSC Director responsible for Ukraine was so disturbed by the call that he notified the NSC’s senior lawyer immediately after. 
    • Source: Testimony, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman
  • The NSC lawyer moved the draft transcript to the CODEWORD-level server immediately upon hearing of the concerns. 
  • The transcript that the White House made public in September omits key words and phrases that the NSC Director unsuccessfully sought to have restored. 
  • Ukranian officials were concerned as early as May that Trump could veer away from the bipartisan support for Kyiv and knew of the decision to withhold aid as early as August. 
  • Sondland, acting on instructions from Trump himself, was explicit with the Ukrainians that, if they didn’t investigate the Bidens, the aid would be in jeopardy. 
  • Sondland and Volker went so far as to draft a statement for the Ukrainians to release regarding an investigation into the Bidens and the 2016 election. 
  • The aid was not released until mid-September, when the White House was aware that the whistleblower complaint was likely to become public. 
  • When the aid was finally released in September, the White House instructed the State Department to keep the news low profile. 
    • Source: Emails, State Department officials