The White House attempted to cover up a conversation President Donald Trump had with his Ukrainian counterpart in which the USA president demanded an investigation of his would-be 2020 political foe, according to a declassified whistleblower complaint released Thursday morning.
The nine-page document dated 12 August, 2019, which was released ahead of testimony to House investigators from acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire, lists concerns regarding the misuse of power of his office by the U.S. president to "solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 United States election".
Maguire told the House intelligence committee he could not legally disclose the complaint because he "did not have the authority to waive" executive privilege.
The whistleblower says White House officials told them the conversation on July 25 between Trump and Zelenskiy was removed from the computer system that is typically used for such records of calls with foreign leaders.
The whistleblower's complaint recounted what led up to that phone call, during which President Trump repeatedly pressured the Ukrainian leader to work with his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
Even though the whistleblower heard about the call from other officials, the memo of the call released by the White House confirms that the substance of the complaint was accurate; the characterizations about the substance-and the goal of the phone call-have become a primary source of disputes. White House lawyers ordered that the transcript of the call be removed from the computer system where it would normally be stored and placed into a separate system reserved for "especially sensitive" classified information.
One exception was Rep. Mike Turner of OH, who said, "Concerning that conversation, I want to say to the president - this is not OK".
After viewing the complaint Wednesday evening, several Democratic lawmakers said it provided valuable information and is evidence of the need for further investigation.
"I want to congratulate the Democrats on the rollout of their latest information warfare operation against the president", Representative Devin Nunes said, warning Maguire in the hearing Democrats would seek to twist his words.
The complaint adds little of value to the Democrats' case against Trump.
Ahead of his public testimony, the House committee released text of the whistleblower complaint.
Trump said he supports the Ukrainian leader's effort to combat "massive" corruption, and doubled down on his accusations against Biden and his son Hunter. In the call, Trump discussed having the Ukrainian president help investigate the Biden family's business dealings.
As the whistleblower complaint was headed to the committees, the House debated a resolution to release it. He disputed a report by the Washington Post that he had threatened to resign if the White House tried to block him from talking about the complaint before Congress.
"The actions of the Trump presidency revealed the dishonorable fact of the president's betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections", Pelosi said.
A federal law required that the report be sent to lawmakers after an inspector general determined that it was urgent and credible. "I have upheld my responsibility to follow the law every step of the way in the matter that is before us today".
That office released a report on Wednesday saying that lawyers did not believe that the complaint met the threshold required to provide it to Congress.