Now, Trump has been caught using a secret computer system ― a private server, if you will ― to hide his election interference attempts.
“Republicans have made it very clear that secret servers are a criminal offense,” said Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic strategist who served on the Clinton campaign. “Will they apply the same rules to Trump that they apply to everyone else?”
An explosive letter from an unnamed intelligence official was released Thursday detailing attempts by the White House to cover up Trump’s wrongdoing.
On more than one occasion, White House officials put transcripts of Trump’s conversations into a “standalone computer system” that was meant for storing sensitive and classified intelligence information.
Officials were abusing that system, the letter says. They used it to protect politically sensitive conversations, rather than national security secrets. It’s the place they put the transcript of Trump’s conversation with the president of Ukraine when he asked for foreign help in going after former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
Hiding this transcript was deliberate. According to the whistleblower’s letter, White House officials said they were “directed” by White House lawyers to move it there, away from the regular computer system that holds other call transcripts that are distributed to Cabinet-level officials.
As secretary of state, Clinton used a private email account connected to a nongovernment server.
Clinton said it was for convenience, so that she wouldn’t have to carry around two phones ― one for government work and one for personal use. And her aides said she was careful about how she handled classified information. The setup, however, also gave her and her aides control over what materials were preserved for public records.
Clinton was not the first government official to use a personal email address for government work. But the issue dogged her relentlessly, pushed on by Trump and his conservative allies.
There’s no evidence that Clinton set up this system to deliberately hide wrongdoing. But according to the whistleblower, Trump’s White House used its second system for exactly those reasons.
The call at the center of this issue is Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25. According to both the whistleblower letter and a summary of the call released by the White House, Trump pressured Zelensky to have his government investigate Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who had served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company during President Barack Obama’s administration.
In the Aug. 12 complaint, the whistleblower wrote that there were White House officials who were “deeply disturbed” by the call, adding, “They told me that there was already a ‘discussion ongoing’ with White House lawyers about how to treat the call because of the likelihood, in the officials’ retelling, that they had witnessed the President abuse his office for personal gain.”
And if there were any doubt that the White House knew it was bad, officials moved the transcript to the secret system so that few people would ever know about it.
“In the days following the phone call, I learned from multiple U.S. officials that senior White House officials had intervened to ‘lock down’ all records of the phone call, especially the official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced ― as is customary ― by the White House Situation Room,” the whistleblower wrote. “This set of actions underscored to me that the White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call.”