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Whistle-blower complaint shows concern Trump abused power to 'solicit interference'

By
Daniel Uria & Clyde Hughes & Danielle Haynes
Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire takes the oath prior to testifying before the House intelligence committee at a hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday on a whistle-blower complaint of alleged misconduct by President Donald Trump. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI
Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire takes the oath prior to testifying before the House intelligence committee at a hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday on a whistle-blower complaint of alleged misconduct by President Donald Trump. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 26 (UPI) -- The House intelligence committee on Thursday released a whistle-blower complaint against President Donald Trump that's at the center of a congressional impeachment investigation.

The nine-page complaint, submitted by an unidentified intelligence official, addresses Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which the president pressed the Kiev leader to investigate the son of 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, "as a favor."

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The complaint says White House officials were concerned enough about the contents of the phone call that they moved to "lock down" the record of the communication. The whistle-blower was concerned Trump was "using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country," it states.

"The interference includes, among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the president's main domestic political rivals," the complaint states. "The president's personal lawyer, Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General [William] Barr appears to be involved as well."

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The complaint was released shortly before acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire appeared before the House intelligence committee to discuss the handling of the complaint. While he acknowledged the phone call is "bad for the nation," Maguire didn't specify whether it was illegal.

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"It is unwarranted, it is unwelcome, it is bad for the nation to have outside interference," he said when asked by Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., if it's OK for any president to "pressure a foreign government for help to win an election."

"I think it's beyond unacceptable, director," Heck answered, to which Maguire said, "Yes, sir."

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Some critics have questioned whether the whistle-blower broke the law with the complaint, but Maguire said during the hearing he believes the intelligence official did not violate the law and acted in good faith.

Trump, though, said he wants to know who provided the details of the phone call to the whistle-blower, calling the person or persons "close to a spy." He made the remarks before staff at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, unnamed sources present during the meeting told The New York Times.

He described the whistle-blower as "crooked."

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"I want to know who's the person who gave the whistle-blower the information because that's close to a spy," Trump said. "You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now."

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The intelligence director also told the panel he doesn't know if Giuliani, whose role in the Ukraine matter is unclear, has a security clearance.

"In order to be able to handle sensitive information, whether it be diplomatic or intelligence, one must be vetted," he said at the start of the hearing.

Maguire also promised that the whistle-blower will be able to testify fully and freely about the complaint, and said the person did the right thing by reporting it.

"This complaint is a roadmap for our investigation, and provides significant information for the committee to follow up on with other witnesses and documents," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a statement earlier Thursday.

"We will do everything in our power to protect this whistle-blower, and every whistle-blower, who comes forward."

Last week, Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson appeared before the committee to discuss the whistle-blower complaint in a closed session. It was Atkinson who first received the complaint and thought it serious enough to report to Congress.

Schiff released the text of a seven-page letter Thursday, dated Aug. 26, from Atkinson to Maguire -- that said the complainant didn't directly witness Trump's conversation with Zelensky, but established that the complainant's concerns were "credible" through additional information gathered during a preliminary review.

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"Among other things, during the call, the president 'sought to pressure the Ukrainian leader to take actions to help the president's 2020 reelection bid,'" Atkinson wrote.

He added that although he found information about the complainant that could indicate some "arguable political bias," he said that "did not change my determination that the complaint relating to the urgent concern 'appears credible,' particularly given the other information ICIG obtained during the preliminary review."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered an official impeachment investigation this week after Trump acknowledged withholding tens of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine. Pelosi said Trump "seriously" violated the U.S. Constitution by pushing Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden, who worked for a Ukrainian gas company between 2014 and early this year.

Trump and Giuliani have said they encouraged Ukraine in other conversations to investigate the Bidens for supposedly pressuring Ukraine to fire Kiev Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, who was investigating the gas company Hunter Biden worked for.

After the public hearing, Maguire had a closed-door briefing with members of the Senate intelligence committee.

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