White House Whistle-Blower Seeks Protection As Pelosi Orders Impeachment Probe Of Trump
By RFE/RL September 25, 2019
WASHINGTON -- Lawyers are seeking guidance on how to protect a whistle-blower if that person wants to meet with congressional intelligence committees regarding a complaint that at least partly involves U.S. President Donald Trump's interactions with Ukraine's president.
The two attorneys say their client, a member of the U.S. intelligence community, is waiting for a "timely response" from Joseph Maguire, the acting director of National Intelligence, the AP reported on September 24.
Maguire has determined the whistle-blower's complaint – which was lodged with the inspector general for the intelligence community – could not be forwarded to Congress.
However, the Trump administration said on the same day that the White House is preparing to release the complaint to Congress by the end of the week.
Adam Schiff, chairman of the House of Representatives' intelligence committee, also said testimony could be "as soon as this week."
The news comes as Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, has ordered a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump related to the whistle-blower.
"The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law," Pelosi said in a televised address on September 24.
"Therefore, today I'm announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry," she said.
Trump responded with four social media posts in the span of nine minutes, calling Pelosi's inquiry "a total Witch Hunt!" as well as "presidential harassment!"
Pelosi cited the administration's refusal to turn over a whistle-blower complaint, as required by law, that reportedly expresses alarm over promises made by Trump during a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on July 25.
She called reports indicating that Trump pressured Ukraine's leader to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's family "a betrayal of our national security" and a "betrayal of our election."
In an interview with Voice of America at the United Nations, Zelenskiy on September 24 didn't elaborate about being pressured, saying "we are an independent country, we are ready for everything."
Zelenskiy is expected to meet with Trump on September 25 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who didn't support Pelosi's formal inquiry, said her actions "do not speak for America when it comes to this issue…She cannot unilaterally decide we're in an impeachment inquiry."
The action by Pelosi, if it leads to formal proceedings against the president, would mark only the third time in U.S. history that a president was subject to impeachment.
Under the constitution, the president can be removed from office for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
Articles of impeachments are generally initiated in the House Judiciary Committee before being passed on to the full House for a vote.
But a trial is held in the Senate where that chamber's lawmakers act as jurors and the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court presides during proceedings in which House members act as prosecutors.
A conviction and removal from office are unlikely because Trump's Republican Party controls the Senate.
Pelosi has come under pressure from many Democratic lawmakers and presidential candidates for her apparent reluctance to call for an impeachment of the president. Many experts said she feared such a move, with almost no chance of success in the Senate, could fire up Trump supporters ahead of the 2020 elections.
Pelosi would appear to have enough votes in the Democratic-led House to move on to actual impeachment proceedings, although many of her fellow party members have also expressed caution about such a dramatic move.
Two presidents -- Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 -- have been subject to impeachment proceedings, with both being acquitted in the Senate. The House approved articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon in 1974, but he resigned before proceedings began – the only resignation in U.S. presidential history.
As calls for resignation mounted by Democrats, Trump earlier on September 24 said his administration would release the "complete, fully declassified and unredacted" transcript of the controversial July phone call in which he asked to investigate a political rival.
"You will see it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call. No pressure," he wrote in a tweet.
The Republican-controlled Senate on September 24 approved a nonbinding resolution that calls on the Trump administration to provide the House and Senate intelligence committees a copy of the whistle-blower's complaint involving the president.
U.S. media have reported that an intelligence community whistle-blower had filed a complaint in August after becoming alarmed at Trump's alleged attempt to pressure Zelenskiy in a July 25 phone call.
Trump earlier in the day confirmed he told staff to freeze almost $400 million in aid to Ukraine just ahead of the phone call with Zelenskiy in which he allegedly pressured the Ukrainian leader to investigate former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who previously had business dealings in Ukraine.
There is no evidence that Biden, one of the top candidates for the Democratic nomination to challenge Trump in the 2020 election, did anything illegal related to Ukraine.
Speaking to reporters at the United Nations, Trump said he made the move to combat corruption and push European nations -- singling out France and Germany by name -- to "put up money" to help Ukraine.
"As far as withholding funds, those funds were paid," Trump said, calling allegations that he pressured Zelenskiy "ridiculous."
Since 2014, the EU and European financial institutions have mobilized a package of more than 15 billion euros ($16.5 billion) in grants and loans to support Ukraine's reform process, according to the bloc.
With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, The Washington Post, CNN, dpa, and RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service
Copyright (c) 2019. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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