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US lawmakers see 'troubling' whistleblower complaint that led to calls for Trump's impeachment

Acting director of national intelligence Joseph McGuire is to testify on Capitol Hill later today.
Sep 26th 2019, 8:41 AM 11,260 28

A WHISTLEBLOWER COMPLAINT, which includes allegations about US President Trump’s conduct, was hand-delivered to Capitol Hill and reviewed by lawmakers, US media has reported. 

Few details have been released about the complaint but it is believed to concern not only Trump’s call with Zelensky but also the way that records of the conversation were handled by White House staff, the New York Times reported. 

Trump denied claims he abused his office by repeatedly urging President Volodymyr Zelensky to probe his 2020 rival Joe Biden – as confirmed in a call transcript released by the White House yesterday.

Top Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer told reporters after reading the whistleblower complaint that “it’s very troubling” – an assessment echoed by Republican Senator Ben Sasse, who said that “there’s obviously lots that’s very troubling there.”

The next episode in the impeachment drama is set for later today when acting director of national intelligence Joseph McGuire testifies on Capitol Hill. 

“They are getting hit hard on this witch hunt because when they look at the information, it’s a joke,” said Trump, his first news conference since Democrats launched an official impeachment inquiry.

Impeachment for that? When you have a wonderful meeting or you have a wonderful phone conversation?

A more defiant Trump had earlier insisted he exerted “no pressure” on Kiev – a claim echoed by Zelensky, who appeared side-by-side with the US leader at a long-planned meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

PastedImage-41909 Source: JoeBiden/Twitter

Trump and his allies claimed the 25 July call contained no evidence of a quid pro quo pressuring Zelensky to probe the president’s top Democratic rival for the White House.

Democrats meanwhile held it up as a smoking gun.

“This is how a mafia boss talks,” said senior lawmaker Adam Schiff. 

‘What have you done for us? We’ve done so much for you but there’s not much reciprocity. I have a favor to ask you.’

“And what is that favour? Of course, the favour is to investigate his political rival, to investigate the Bidens,” Schiff said. 

The call summary – which is not a verbatim transcript – shows Trump saying US Attorney General Bill Barr and the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani would be in touch about probing the Ukraine-related activities of Biden and his son.

In announcing the impeachment probe, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump’s actions amounted to a betrayal of his oath of office and of national security.

news-ukraine-call-transcript Page 5 of the five-page transcript of President Donald Trump's July 25, 2019 call with the Ukraine President Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

‘A nothing call’ 

As Barack Obama’s vice president, Biden and other Western leaders pressured Ukraine to get rid of the country’s top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, because he was seen as not tough enough on corruption.

“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,” Trump told Zelensky in the call.

Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me.

The transcript did not show Trump explicitly tying aid to Ukraine to Zelensky probing Biden, which has fed the calls to impeach him.

But the two did discuss a major aid package, which had been frozen by Trump at the time and was only released in recent weeks.

The memo also shows Trump asking Zelensky for a “favour” on an issue unconnected to Biden – just after noting that the US had been “very, very good to Ukraine.”

Analysts noted that the transcript uses ellipses – denoting words or entire passages are missing – on three occasions, all when Trump is making requests of Zelensky.

Others pointed out that it was supposed to summarize a 30-minute call, yet the transcript runs to around just 12 minutes.

“There was no pressure whatsoever,” Trump told reporters earlier Wednesday, saying Democrats had built up the exchange as the “call from hell” but that “it turned out to be a nothing call.”

Zelensky insisted meanwhile that he had not been “pushed” by Trump during the controversial call.

Democrats made clear the White House’s release of the call record would not satisfy their investigation into whether the US leader broke the law, and the complaint has now been reviewed by lawmakers.

Additional reporting by © AFP 2019  

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Adam Daly

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