Whistleblower alleges White House cover-up, Trump calls it fake news

Transcripts of a call at the heart of an impeachment inquiry against US President Donald Trump were transferred by White House, above, officials to a highly secure computer system reserved for storing classified information, a whistleblower’s complaint made public on Thursday said.

Quoting multiple sources in the White House, the unnamed whistleblower, a US intelligence official, said Trump called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25 to get a corruption case opened against Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden and his son Hunter who was facing an inquiry as board member in a Ukraine-based energy firm in 2016.    

In the complaint dated August 12 to the inspector general for the US intelligence agencies, the whistleblower alleged that Trump sought Kiev’s help to smear Joe ahead of the 2020 presidential election. The person also alleged a cover-up by some unidentified White House officials.

The whistleblower, however, acknowledged that the unprecedented complaint against the president was based on second hand information received from multiple officials during routine intelligence gathering. That included Trump’s phone conversations with Zelensky.

The complainant wrote he did not personally listen to the call between Trump and Zelensky. He came to know about it from officials who listened to the conversations between the two heads of states as is the practice.

The transcript of the call released on Wednesday showed Trump telling Zelensky that his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr would help him in investigating the Biden family.

The whistleblower wrote that a day after the call, two of Trump’s ambassadors met Zelensky. They also met Giuliani and urged him to “contain the damage” to national security as he kept passing messages between Trump and Kiev.

The whistleblower alleged that in May, Trump instructed Vice President Mike Pence to cancel a trip to Ukraine to attend Zelensky’s inauguration. He wanted to send a clear message to Kiev that top US leaders will not meet Zelensky until Washington is convinced he toes their line.

Ukraine wanted military aid and, unlike Europe, the US was helping the country in a big way. In the conversations with Trump on Aug 25, Zelensky appreciated US support to his country in the area of defence.

Democrats have accused Trump of withholding nearly $400 million military aid approved by Congress as a leverage to get Zelensky open the case against the Biden family.

Amid mounting concerns over the allegation, the president lifted the freeze and Pentagon has resumed sending aid to Ukraine from early this month.

Responding to the whistleblower’s complaint soon after landing in Washington, Trump called it another fake news story based on second hand information.

House Intelligence Committee chairman, Adam Schiff, who released the complaint, has zero credibility, Trump said.

Schiff should have looked into the case against Bidens instead of summoning acting director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, to the committee to testify on the whisleblower’s complaint, Trump said.

The White House too dismissed the complaint as a collection of third-hand accounts of events and press clippings that prove nothing.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham denounced the hysteria and false narratives being peddled by Democrats and a section of the media.

Trump released the transcript of his call with Zelensky because he had nothing to hide, Grisham said.

Barr too questioned the whistleblower. His spokeswoman said he was unaware of the phone call until the whistleblower wrote about it.

Barr never discussed helping Zelensky in investigating the Biden family with Trump, the spokeswoman said.

Earlier, Schiff said he found the facts mentioned in the complaint credible.

Illinois Democrat Rep Mike Quigley, called the complaint disturbing.