A report published Tuesday in the New York Times revealed stunning details from a memo written by the whistleblower who sparked the Ukraine scandal that is likely to lead to President Donald Trump’s impeachment.
The memo, first reported by Fox News, says that the still-anonymous whistleblower documented a conversation with a White House official on July 26, the day after Trump’s now-infamous call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In that call, Trump asked Zelensky to investigate the origins of the Russia investigation from 2016 and to probe former Vice President Joe Biden, along with his son Hunter — who previously served on the board of an oil company in Ukraine.
Fox News reported that the memo documents the White House official calling the conversation “crazy” and “frightening.” The memo also said the call was “completely lacking in substance related to national security.” The whistleblower reportedly wrote that the discussion with the official “only lasted a few minutes, and as a result, I only received highlights” of the Trump-Zelensky conversation.
But the Times report reveals further, even more damning details, which Fox News appears to have omitted — despite suggestions it had access to the full memo. The Times reported that the whistleblower wrote:
The official stated that there was already a conversation underway with White House lawyers about how to handle the discussion because, in the official’s view, the president had clearly committed a criminal act by urging a foreign power to investigate a U.S. person for the purposes of advancing his own re-election bid in 2020.
Fox claimed that the memo said Trump didn’t raise the issue of “security assistance” with Zelensky — that is, military aid approved by Congress that the president had already delayed. There is now substantial evidence that the stalled aid was part of an effort by Trump to extort Ukraine into going after Biden in a nefarious quid pro quo. But though Fox said that allegations of “a quid pro quo were central to the complaint,” this is not so — the central claim of the complaint is that Trump was “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.”
On Tuesday, CNN published a separate report, not referring to the whistleblower’s memo, that documented widespread fear in the White House about Trump actions after the July 25 call:
In the hours and days after the Ukrainian President signed-off — “Thank you Mr. President, bye-bye” — nervous word spread among national security aides about the contents of the July 25 call, an early show of worry that Trump’s request for an investigation into Joe Biden was far from the “perfect” conversation he now insists transpired.
The scramble and fallout from the call, described by six people familiar with it, parallels and expands upon details described in the whistleblower complaint. The anxiety and internal concern reflect a phone conversation that deeply troubled national security professionals, even as Trump now insists there was nothing wrong with how he conducted himself. And it shows an ultimately unsuccessful effort to contain the tumult by the administration’s lawyers.
At least one National Security Council official alerted the White House’s national security lawyers about the concerns, three sources familiar with the matter said, a detail that had not been previously disclosed. Those same lawyers would later order the transcript of the call moved to a highly classified server typically reserved for code-word classified material.