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.
Whistleblower protections are sacrosanct in our democracy, Mr. President.
Your attack against a whistleblower increases the chance that corruption goes unreported, and heightens risk of an illegal reprisal.
We will do everything we can to protect this, and every, whistleblower. https://t.co/0HP4FC8cQ3
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) September 20, 2019
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.
….Knowing all of this, is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially “heavily populated” call. I would only do what is right anyway, and only do good for the USA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2019
(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.”
Insane Rudy says he’s being faced with a “ridiculous allegation” and then in the next breath says the allegation is true and he’s proud of it. pic.twitter.com/TZ1u6aIzjZ
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) September 20, 2019
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.
The president asked a foreign power to help him win an election.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 20, 2019
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.
Donald Trump and his staff are openly asking foreign governments to interfere in our elections…again.
He is a threat to our democracy, he must be impeached.#WhistleblowerGate
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) September 20, 2019
(image: Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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