The whistle-blower whose complaint about President Trump’s effort to press Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden jump-started impeachment efforts has been revealed to be a CIA officer who has been detailed to the White House.
The agent, identified as a man, has returned to working at the CIA, the New York Times reported.
The paper included an explanation from its executive editor about why it published the information. The whistle-blower’s lawyer, Andrew Bakaj, called it ‘deeply concerning and reckless, as it can place the individual in harm’s way’ and declared his client’s right to remain anonymous.
Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire said during House testimony Thursday that he would protect the whistle-blower from any reprisals, and said his decision to come forward through channels was the ‘right thing to do.’
Numerous officials from the Pentagon and other agencies cycle through the White House on ‘detail,’ lending their expertise to political appointees. The whistle-blower’s complaint, which was declassified Thursday, reveals detailed understanding of the competing and rotating factions within in Ukrainian politics.
In addition to pointing to his expertise, the whistle-blower complaint reveals his access to information. Although he wasn’t on the infamous Ukraine call itself, he was able to obtain information about it, about Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s outreach to top Ukrainian officials, to information about a cancelled trip by Vice President Mike Pence to Ukraine, and about the president’s alleged conditions for meeting with and speaking to the Ukrainian president.
The information about the whistle-blower’s identity came as Trump unloaded on U.S. government officials who the whistle-blower alleges told of an ‘abuse of power’ inside the White House – comparing them to spies and hinting at their execution.
He said the ‘person’ was ‘close to a spy’ – although the complaint mentions about a dozen sources.
Said Trump: ‘I want to know who’s the person who gave the whistle-blower the information because that’s close to a spy,’ the New York Times reported about the closed-door meeting.
The president made the explosive comments hours after the declassification of a whistle-blower’s complaint sent political tremors through the Capitol.
The president continued: ‘You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.’
A few attendees could be heard guffawing at the remark, according to a recording posted by the LA Times.
‘Basically, that person never saw the report, never saw the call, he never saw the call — something and decided that he or she, or whoever the hell they saw — they’re almost a spy,’ Trump can be heard saying.
Trump’s comments came as Maguire, told the House Intelligence Committee the whistle-blower acted in good faith.
Trump and his White House are accused in the whistle-blower complaint of abusing his power to force Ukraine’s president to investigate Joe Biden – then running a cover-up using a highly-classified computer system to ‘lock down’ the call.
The seven-page document was declassified overnight after lawmakers had viewed it, hours after the transcript of the call between Donald Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky was published was published by the Department of Justice.
It levels a series of charges at Donald Trump and the White House including that:
- Trump ‘is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election’;
- His personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani is accused of being ‘a central figure,’ and the attorney general Bill Barr ‘appears to be involved as well’;
- The call between Trump and Zelensky saw the president try to ‘advance his personal interests’;
- White House lawyers feared the officials who listened to the call ‘witnessed the President abuse his office for personal gain’;
- White House lawyers tried to ‘lock down’ the call by restricting the official transcript’s distribution and placing it in a classified computer system usually used for ‘covert action’ without justification;
- One White House official ‘described the act as abuse,’ the whistle-blower said;
- Other ‘politically sensitive – rather than national security sensitive’ calls between Trump and foreign leaders have been dealt with in the same way;
- There are more notes of the call – not just the transcript which was published Wednesday;
- That ‘multiple U.S. officials’ expressed concern about Rudy Giuliani being involved in Ukraine;
- That attorney-general William Barr ‘appears to be involved as well.’
The disclosure of the complaint, just a day after the release of a transcript of Trump’s phone call with Zelensky, set off immediate reverberations.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the effort to ‘lock down’ the Ukraine call shows ‘this is a cover-up.’
After coming out this week to say the House was undertaking an impeachment investigation, Pelosi said the president ‘betrayed his oath of office, our national security and the integrity’ of U.S. elections.
Giuliani told CNN from his room at the Trump International Hotel he had ‘no knowledge of any of that crap.’
The former New York mayor denied the whistle-blower’s claim that two State Department officials spoke to him to ‘contain the damage’ of his Ukraine dealings, and indicated his text messages with special U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker would establish he wasn’t freelancing.
I spoke to the State Department during the course of this situation, I told you, at least 10 times, and I met with them,’ he said, adding he had a ‘nice little trail’ of texts to back up his claims.
The letter does not disclose the whistle-blower’s identity but makes clear that they are a senior figure – they disclose that they were provided a ‘readout’ of the call.
They say that they were not one of the officials who listened in to Trump’s call but says: ‘Multiple White House officials with direct knowledge of the call informed me that, after an initial exchange of pleasantries, the President used the remainder of the call to advance his personal interests.’
But the explosive core of the charge against Trump is less likely to be about Ukraine but about a wide-ranging cover-up. Before the publication of the report, Trump had unleashed a fusillade of angry tweets – including one saying that if he was impeached, the markets would crash.