The whistleblower complaint that has plunged President Donald Trump into controversy and driven Democrats in the U.S. House toward impeachment has now been declassified, according to a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
The whistleblower remains anonymous, although a few details have trickled out about the whistleblower, including the possibility that the person may have an “arguable” political bias (you can read more about that angle later in this article).
Rep. Chris Stewart, a Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, wrote on Twitter on the evening of September 25, 2019: “BREAKING NEWS: The whistleblower complaint has been declassified. I encourage you all to read it.” The report has not yet been made public, however.
Shimon Prokupecz, a CNN reporter, wrote on Twitter a few minutes later: “Two sources confirm to CNN that the whistleblower’s report concerning President Trump’s phone conversations with the Ukrainian president, has been declassified. However the report will not be released at least until Thursday morning.”
The accusations against Trump focus on Ukraine and a call that Trump had with that country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he urges an investigation of his 2020 rival Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. Hunter is Biden’s son with Neilia Hunter Biden, his first wife who was tragically killed in a car crash with the couple’s small daughter when Hunter was a child. He’s found himself in the midst of numerous controversies over the years.
Members of Congress who have already seen the complaint disagree sharply on the seriousness of it. For example, Stewart, who has already read it, told Deseret News, “After reading the whistleblower complaint, I have no additional concerns.”
Others sharply disagree, as they have over Trump’s phone call with Zelensky, breaking down along partisan lines. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, told The New York Times that the whistleblower’s complaint was “deeply disturbing” and “very credible.”
Of Trump’s call with Zelensky, he wrote, “The transcript of the call reads like a classic mob shakedown: – We do a lot for Ukraine – There’s not much reciprocity – I have a favor to ask – Investigate my opponent – My people will be in touch. Nice country you got there. It would be a shame if something happened to her.”
Here’s what you need to know:
The Whistleblower Is an Intelligence Officer Who May Have a Political Bias But Offered Names of Witnesses, a Report Says
CNN is reporting that the whistleblower has “tentatively agreed” to meet with members of Congress. Meanwhile, many are eager to learn more about the person’s background.
According to a report in The New York Times, the whistleblower is an “intelligence officer,” and the complaint, according to two sources, shares concerns about Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president and “also about how the White House handled records of the conversation.”
The Times article also says that the whistleblower named witnesses in the complaint who were interviewed by Michael Atkinson, inspector general for the intelligence community. According to the Times, Atkinson “concluded that there was reason to believe that the president may have illegally solicited a foreign campaign contribution” and that “the information in the complaint was credible.”
The Times reported that Atkinson “also found reason to believe that the whistleblower may not support the re-election of Trump,” and the whistleblower didn’t have firsthand information about the call. The newspaper added that, according to a Justice Department memo from head Legal Counsel Steven A. Engel, Atkinson “had found unspecified indications of ‘an arguable political bias,’ suggesting the whistleblower favored a rival political candidate.” That candidate was not named.
The Controversy Dates to Hunter Biden’s Directorship on the Board of a Company Possibly Targeted by a Prosecutor Joe Biden Wanted Dismissed
Hunter Biden has worked as a lobbyist and is partner of a consulting group, but one of his board of directorships is what has caused the controversy. According to The New York Times, he was on the board “of one of Ukraine’s largest natural gas companies.” Politifact concluded in an article exploring the issue that “Experts agree that Hunter Biden’s acceptance of the position created a conflict of interest for his father.”
The New York Times previously reported in May 2019 that dealing with Ukraine was something Joe Biden “enthusiastically embraced” as President Barack Obama’s vice president, “browbeating Ukraine’s notoriously corrupt government to clean up its act.” You can read the full Times’ report here.
The Times added that Joe Biden, in 2016, “threatened to withhold $1 billion in United States loan guarantees if Ukraine’s leaders did not dismiss the country’s top prosecutor, who had been accused of turning a blind eye to corruption in his own office and among the political elite.” The prosecutor’s name was Viktor Shokin.
The prosecutor was voted out. The Times reported that Hunter Biden “had a stake in the outcome,” because, at the time, he was a board member for “an energy company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch” who had been a target of the fired prosecutor.
The Times described Hunter as a “Yale-educated lawyer” who had served on Amtrak’s board and boards for nonprofit organizations but didn’t have experience in Ukraine. He was paid “as much as $50,000 per month” some months for his work for Burisma Holdings, The Times reported.
The Times claimed that Hunter and his partners “were part of a broad effort by Burisma to bring in well-connected Democrats” during “the period” that the company faced probes in the Ukraine and from Obama administration officials.
The newspaper quoted Hunter Biden as saying, “I have had no role whatsoever in relation to any investigation of Burisma, or any of its officers. I explicitly limited my role to focus on corporate governance best practices to facilitate Burisma’s desire to expand globally.”
NBC News reported that the elder Biden’s role in Ukraine involved leading “the U.S. diplomatic efforts to bolster the country’s fledgling democracy and root out corruption after mass protests ousted the country’s pro-Russia president, Viktor Yanukovych.” According to NBC, Burisma, for which Hunter is no longer on the board, “had ties to Yanukovych,” raising conflict of interest concerns that the Obama White House denied. It was argued that the prosecutor was hesitant to go after any prominent members of the Yanukovych regime.
However, Bloomberg has reported that the prosecutor’s investigation into Burisma was dormant for some time before Joe Biden made his comments about Ukraine. According to Bloomberg, Joe Biden stated his comments against the prosecutor derived from U.S. frustrations that the prosecutor was soft on corruption.
In May 2019, Ukraine’s then prosecutor general “said there was no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe or Hunter Biden,” BBC reported.
This plays into accusations that President Trump, in a call to the president of Ukraine, urged him to investigate Biden’s son and Biden. Trump released a memorandum of the call on September 25, 2019 with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky. The passage about Hunter Biden says:
Trump: Good because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that. The other thing, There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me.
I wanted to tell you about the prosecutor. First of all, I understand and I’m knowledgeable about the situation. Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament, the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate, who will be approved, by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September. He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue. The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case. On top of that, I would kindly ask you if you have any additional information that you can provide to us, it would be very helpful for the investigation to make sure that we administer justice in our country with regard to the Ambassador to the United States from Ukraine as far as I recall her name was Ivanovich. It was great that you were the first one who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100%. Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous President and she was on his side. She would not accept me as a new President well enough.
Read the full memorandum here.
Trump told reporters of that call, according to NBC: “What Joe Biden did for his son, that’s something they should be looking at.” Trump also said, NBC reported: “He said, ‘I’m not going to give billions of dollars to Ukraine unless they remove this prosecutor.’ And they removed the prosecutor supposedly in one hour,” Trump claimed, referring to Biden. “And the prosecutor was prosecuting the company of the son and the son. He just shouldn’t have said that. Now, as far as my conversation, it was perfect. It was a perfect conversation.”
There have also been accusations that Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani pressured Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, and there is an anonymous whistleblower’s complaint that hasn’t been made public.
Biden has previously spoken about his actions in Ukraine. “I remember going over (to Ukraine), convincing our team … that we should be providing for loan guarantees. … And I was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from (then Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko) and from (then-Prime Minister Arseniy) Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor (Shokin). And they didn’t…” he said during an event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations in 2018.
“They were walking out to a press conference. I said, nah, … we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, ‘You have no authority. You’re not the president.’ … I said, call him. I said, I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said, you’re not getting the billion. … I looked at them and said, ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’ Well, son of a bitch. He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”
According to John Solomon, writing for The Hill: “U.S. banking records show Hunter Biden’s American-based firm, Rosemont Seneca Partners LLC, received regular transfers into one of its accounts — usually more than $166,000 a month — from Burisma from spring 2014 through fall 2015, during a period when Vice President Biden was the main U.S. official dealing with Ukraine and its tense relations with Russia.”
Solomon added that Shokin “told me in written answers to questions that, before he was fired as general prosecutor, he had made ‘specific plans’ for the investigation that ‘included interrogations and other crime-investigation procedures into all members of the executive board, including Hunter Biden.’”
Politifact concluded: “Vice President Joe Biden did urge Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor, with the threat of withholding U.S. aid. But that was the position of the wider U.S. government, as well as other international institutions. We found no evidence to support the idea that Joe Biden advocated with his son’s interests in mind, as the message suggests. It’s not even clear that the company was actively under investigation or that a change in prosecutors benefited it.”