President Trump met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sept. 25.
Attorneys for CIA Officer Behind Trump Complaint Say They Now Represent ‘Multiple Whistleblowers’
le 7 October 2019
One attorney said a second whistleblower has come foward with firsthand knowledge of some of the allegations
WASHINGTON—At least one additional whistleblower with firsthand knowledge of the circumstances around President Trump’s July call with his Ukrainian counterpart has come forward, according to lawyers representing both the individual and the CIA officer whose initial complaint helped spark an impeachment inquiry.
The existence of a second whistleblower comes as Mr. Trump repeatedly has sought to attack the credibility and motive of the first individual, whose whistleblower complaint in August details efforts by the president to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival.
“I can confirm that my firm and my team represent multiple whistleblowers,” Andrew Bakaj, the lead attorney for the first whistleblower, wrote in a tweet. “No further comment at this time.”
Mark Zaid, another attorney representing the initial whistleblower, said that a second whistleblower, also an intelligence official, has come forward with information about some of the allegations described in the initial complaint.
That person has been interviewed by the intelligence community inspector general, Michael Atkinson, triggering whistleblower protections as provided by federal law, but hasn’t filed a separate formal whistleblower complaint, Mr. Zaid said. ABC reported on Sunday that the legal team was representing a second whistleblower. Mr. Atkinson’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Zaid wrote on Twitter that the second whistleblower “made a protected disclosure under the law and cannot be retaliated against.”
Asked to clarify if his team had been approached by one additional potential whistleblower or others as well, Mr. Zaid replied: “There are definitely multiple whistleblowers.” He offered no further comment.
In a statement Sunday, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said: “It doesn’t matter how many people decide to call themselves whistleblowers about the same telephone call—a call the president already made public—it doesn’t change the fact that he has done nothing wrong.”
The whistleblower complaint, released late last month after the Trump administration sought to block its transmission to Congress, alleges that the Republican president sought to use the powers of his office to push Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and that White House officials acted to conceal evidence of the president’s actions. It said it drew from testimonials of several unidentified U.S. officials who expressed concern about Mr. Trump’s conduct to the whistleblower.
During his July 25 phone conversation with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, Mr. Trump mentioned aid that the U.S. provides Ukraine, but he didn’t present it as an explicit quid pro quo for a probe of Mr. Biden and his son, according to a reconstructed White House transcript that the administration released after the controversy erupted. That call came more than a week after Mr. Trump asked his acting chief of staff to place a hold on the more than $391 million in aid to Ukraine, which Congress had approved.
Text messages among State Department officials released last week show some administration officials believed there was a link between the aid holdup and Mr. Trump’s interest in Kyiv launching new probes. The text messages revealed that administration officials sought to use a White House meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky as leverage to press the Ukrainian government to pursue an investigation into Mr. Biden and other matters.
As the complaint has created a political threat for Mr. Trump, he has repeatedly lashed out at the first whistleblower, a Central Intelligence Agency official, leading Democrats and some Republicans to defend the person and point out he is entitled to protection, including anonymity, provided under federal whistleblowing laws. A White House official said last week the White House hadn’t actively sought to learn the whistleblower’s identity and hadn’t contacted the intelligence community’s inspector general to ask for that information.
On Sunday, a group of about 90 former national-security officials who served under Democratic and Republican presidents, including Mr. Trump, released a public letter calling on the government and media to preserve the whistleblower’s anonymity, saying the individual used the channels created under federal law to register concerns of wrongdoing.
“A responsible whistleblower makes all Americans safer by ensuring that serious wrongdoing can be investigated and addressed, thus advancing the cause of national security to which we have devoted our careers,” the joint letter, whose signatories include former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, several former intelligence-agency chiefs and former ambassadors, states. “Being a responsible whistleblower means that, by law, one is protected from certain egregious forms of retaliation.”
The president’s close allies continued to defend his conduct on Sunday while seeking to discredit the appearance of additional whistleblowers.
“When it comes to ‘more whistleblowers coming forward’…I’ve seen this movie before — with Brett #Kavanaugh,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) tweeted, referring to multiple women who came forward last year with allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his Senate confirmation. “More and more doesn’t mean better or reliable.”
Mr. Trump and his allies also have attempted to portray the whistleblower complaint as a partisan plot by Democrats in Congress, federal officials and the whistleblower’s lawyers.
Mr. Bakaj, the whistleblower’s lead attorney and a former intelligence and Pentagon official, donated $100 in April—before the events alleged in the complaint took place—to a Democratic technology nonprofit, earmarking it for Mr. Biden’s campaign. He declined to comment about the donation.
Mr. Atkinson, the Trump-appointed intelligence community inspector general, said in his review of the complaint that he found some indications of possible political bias on the part of the first whistleblower, but he concluded the complaint was both urgent and credible.
House Intelligence Committee members are still trying to confidentially interview the first whistleblower, an interview that could happen as soon as this week, although discussions between the lawyers and committee staff are continuing.
Mr. Trump and his allies have said it is proper for him to ask foreign leaders to investigate corruption broadly. Democrats have cited the allegations as evidence that the president and his administration were willing to use the power of his office to persuade a foreign country to undertake a probe designed to damage a political opponent, thus helping his re-election campaign.
The text messages released last week indicate that U.S. officials coordinated with aides to the Ukrainian president and Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s private lawyer, on a draft statement in which Kyiv would announce an investigation into Mr. Biden and the 2016 U.S. election—at the same time as announcing a visit by the Ukrainian president to the White House.
The emergence of at least one additional whistleblower “demonstrates that there was a view by more than one civil servant that this behavior by the president was inappropriate, unprofessional and possibly impeachable,” said Bradley Moss, a whistleblower attorney who is a partner in Mr. Zaid’s firm but who isn’t involved in the Ukraine case. “More importantly, this ensures that the ultimate factual record will be more complete and comprehensive.”
Over the weekend, Mr. Trump criticized the few Republicans who have rebuked him, singling out Sen. Mitt Romney (R., Utah) as a “pompous ass” in a Twitter message. Mr. Romney last week called Mr. Trump’s pressure on Ukraine and his comments inviting China to undertake a probe “wrong and appalling.”
Other Republicans on Sunday largely demurred when asked on news programs about Mr. Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders.
“I don’t think he really meant ‘go investigate,’ ” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), in an interview on ABC. “Do you think China’s going to go investigate him?”
The White House didn’t respond to a question about whether Mr. Trump was serious when he said at the White House last week: “China should start an investigation into the Bidens.”
Republicans also played down the seriousness of Mr. Trump’s conversations with Mr. Zelensky.
“I do think it’s not unusual for foreign leaders when they talk to each other to say, ‘Here’s something I’d like you do for me,’ whether it’s a trade agreement or some other agreement,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R., Mo.) said on CBS.
Democrats said that Mr. Trump’s requests have focused mainly on Mr. Biden, a potential 2020 rival. “I’m sure presidents have in the past asked other leaders for favors,” Rep. Jim Himes (D., Conn.) told CBS. “Traditionally those favors have not been: ‘research my political opponent.’ ”
Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), asked about his comment in a Wall Street Journal article that he “winced” upon learning in August that military aid to Ukraine had been held up amid White House requests for a Ukrainian investigation, said on NBC: “I didn’t want those connected, and I supported the aid.”
Mr. Johnson in a combative interview also said Mr. Trump is entitled to an accounting of 2016 election interference, which led to investigations by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement that concluded that Russia interfered to help Mr. Trump win.