Washington — In a detailed, nine-page complaint, a whistleblower said “senior White House officials” worked to “lock down” all records of a presidential phone call this summer, out of fear that “they had witnessed the president abuse his office for personal gain.” In that call, President Trump repeatedly urged Ukraine’s new president to investigate Joe Biden and his son.
The whistleblower said White House officials were “deeply disturbed” and were “directed” by White House lawyers to remove a transcript of the call from the regular computer system and place it instead in a separate system normally reserved for classified, sensitive information.
The whistleblower said aides saw this as an “abuse of the system,” but that it was “not the first time” they had done this to protect the president.
Former CIA acting director Michael Morell told CBS News if that allegation is true, that points to a cover-up. “The computer that the whistleblower says it was moved to, is for the most sensitive information in the United States government. It’s for CIA covert action information. There wasn’t anything close in the summary to (merit) putting it in there,” he said.
Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, told lawmakers on Thursday that he has no reason to doubt the whistleblower’s intentions. “I think the whistleblower did the right thing,” Maguire said.
“The allegation was determined to be urgent and credible by the inspector general, is that right?” asked Congressman Eric Swalwell.
“Yes, it was,” Maguire said.
“If there’s cover-up activity because the president is working improperly with a foreign government that can compromise America’s secrets, is that right?” Swalwell asked.
“Congressman, there’s an allegation of a cover-up,” Maguire said.
The call in question took place on July 25, just after Mr. Trump unexpectedly froze millions in aid to Ukraine. According to a summary of the call released Wednesday by the White House, Mr. Trump asked the president of Ukraine for a “favor,” to look into Biden and his son Hunter.
“Do you believe that it is okay for a president of the United States to pressure a foreign country into helping him or her win an election?” asked Congressman Denny Heck.
“It is unwarranted, unwelcome, it is bad for the nation to have outside interference, any foreign nation,” Maguire said.
“And by extension, it would be equally unacceptable to extort that assistance as well,” Heck said.
“All I know is I have the transcripts as you have,” Maguire said.
“I think it’s wrong. I think we all know it. It is illegal and it is wrong,” Heck said.
“It was referred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” Maguire said.
Republicans noted that the whistleblower, by his or her own admission, “was not a direct witness to most of the events described.”
But the acting director of national intelligence, chosen by the president himself, said some key details do check out.
“I would say that the whistleblower’s complaint is in alignment with what was released yesterday by the president,” Maguire said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Scott Pelley of “60 Minutes” that this incident is now the primary focus of the House impeachment inquiry. “We are at a different level of lawlessness that is self-evident to the American people,” Pelosi said.