Donald Trump sits in the Oval Office with a stupid 'Who, me?' look on his stupid face.

What You Need to Know to Understand This #WhistleblowerGate Mess

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On Thursday night, a number of outlets published reports of a whistleblower complaint made by an intelligence official about a phone call or phone calls between Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The reports were vague, but the complaint was apparently really alarming and, according to the Washington Post, “involved communications with a foreign leader and a ‘promise’ that Trump made.”

We shouldn’t even really know any of this and we only do because the White House is reportedly trying to interfere. Basically, the whistleblower went to the intelligence community’s inspector general (the ICIG) with the complaint, which they were supposed to do. The ICIG agreed that the complaint was serious and “urgent” enough to send it up to the Director of National Intelligence, who is then legally required to send it to Congress.

Except oops! The acting DNI didn’t give the complaint, he gave it back to the White House, handing it over to the Justice Department. So Now Congress and Trump are at odds over what’s to be done.

As for Trump, he spoke to reporters and, just as he did in that tweet there, dismissed the whistleblower as being partisan, calling this a “ridiculous story” and “political hack job.”

Immediately after he said that, he walked the statement back, admitting he doesn’t know who the whistleblower is. “I do not know the identity of the whistleblower. I hear it’s a partisan person,” he said.

Meanwhile, Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani gave a frighteningly unhinged interview to Chris Cuomo at CNN.

Giuliani was already being investigated for this same conversation with Ukraine. On Trump’s behalf, he allegedly tried “to coerce the Ukrainian government into pursuing two politically-motivated investigations.” Specifically, he wanted the Ukranian government to help Trump’s currently incarcerated former campaign chair Paul Manafort, and also to go after Joe Biden by targeting his son Hunter Biden, who has connections to a Ukranian gas company.

At the time, both Giuliani and Trump denied that this happened. Trump didn’t exactly deny that these are things he would do–just that he wouldn’t do them on a phone call. But by the level of his protestations, it sure looked like he was learning in real-time that those calls aren’t exactly private.

(Yes, yes a lot of people think he’s dumb enough to do just that.)

Anyway, this brings us back to Giuliani and CNN and the interview that had been scheduled for just a few hours after the existence of the whistleblower complaint was made public. Cuomo asked if Giuliani thought there was any link between that complaint and the accusations of trying to dig up dirt on Biden.

Giuliani lost it and screamed at Cuomo about trying to investigate a “ridiculous charge”–but then immediately said that he did push the Ukranian government to investigate Biden and said he’s “proud of it.”

It’s a typical Trump act to do something as alarming and illegal as trying to pressure foreign powers to influence our election and then admit to it as if it’s a totally normal thing to do that only a crazy Democrat would care about. It’s like he’s playing all his greatest gaslighting hits all over again.

So that’s where we’re at now. Trump and his cronies have admitted to trying to get foreign powers to influence our next election. They’re refusing to let Congress see an “urgent” whistleblower complaint, thereby basically engaging in a cover-up of a national security scandal and also sending the message that future whistleblowers–even those who follow the proper procedures through the proper channels, as this one did–won’t be protected in the ways they’re supposed to be. And Trump is trying to gaslight us into thinking this is all totally normal.

(image: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.