Two new reports published on Tuesday shed light on the alarm raised in the White House by President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has prompted two whistleblower complaints, a House impeachment investigation and widespread concern across party lines.
The intelligence official who filed the first of the complaints wrote in a two-page memo that a White House official was “visibly shaken” after listening in on the call, according to ABC News.
“The official, who listened to the entirety of the phone call, was visibly shaken by what had transpired and seemed keen to inform a trusted colleague within the U.S. national security apparatus about the call,” the whistleblower wrote in the memo.
The memo noted that the official “described the call as ‘crazy,’ ‘frightening,’ and completely lacking in substance related to national security.”
The official also told the whistleblower that he or she suspected the administration was taking unusual steps to restrict access to documents pertaining to the call. Subsequent reports have indicated the White House did take “remarkable steps” to prevent Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders from being made available to White House officials.
According to the second Tuesday report, at least one National Security Council official and a number of White House aides and lawyers were alarmed after the call and were aware that it might have overstepped the bounds of normal foreign policy.
Trump had ordered that almost $400 million in military aid for Ukraine be withheld roughly a week before his phone call with Zelensky. During the conversation, Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate unsubstantiated allegations that Biden used his power as vice president during the Obama administration to kill an investigation into a gas company for which his son worked.
A National Security Council official alerted White House lawyers about concerns over potential fallout from the call, CNN reported, citing three sources familiar with the matter.
As concern mounted at the White House, national security lawyers initially moved to block access to a transcript of the call by storing it in a code-word classified server, a move usually reserved for the most sensitive materials pertaining to national security.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing in his negotiations with Ukraine, calling all his conversations with the country’s leaders “perfect.” The president also dismissed the first whistleblower’s complaint because he said it contained only secondhand knowledge.
A second whistleblower who is believed to have firsthand knowledge of the allegations has since come forward to speak with the intelligence community’s inspector general.