Congress is determined to get access to Donald Trump’s calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other world leaders, the US House Intelligence Committee’s chairman said on Sunday, citing concerns that the Republican president may have jeopardized national security.
I think the paramount need here is to protect the national security of the United States and see whether in the conversations with other world leaders – and in particular with Putin – that the president was also undermining our security in a way that he thought would personally benefit his campaign, Democrat Adam Schiff said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
The Democratic-led House last week launched an official impeachment inquiry into Trump in the aftermath of a whistleblower complaint from an individual within the US intelligence community that Trump solicited interference by Ukraine in the 2020 election for his own political benefit.
The whistleblower’s complaint cited a telephone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, a leader among Democratic candidates seeking to challenge Trump in 2020, and his son Hunter. Hunter Biden sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
Trump, in a series of Twitter posts on Sunday evening, said he wanted to meet the whistleblower, who he called my accuser, as well as the person who illegally gave this information to the whistleblower.
Was this person SPYING on the US President? Big Consequences! wrote Trump, who added without providing evidence, I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason.
….In addition, I want to meet not only my accuser, who presented SECOND & THIRD HAND INFORMATION, but also the person who illegally gave this information, which was largely incorrect, to the Whistleblower. Was this person SPYING on the U.S. President? Big Consequences!
Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 29, 2019
The whistleblower’s identity has not been made public.
Trump’s July 25 phone call came shortly after the United States froze nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine, prompting concern that the president was using the taxpayer money approved by Congress as leverage for his personal political gain.
The complaint said White House lawyers directed that an electronic summary of the call be moved from the place where such things are usually kept to a separate electronic system reserved for classified and especially sensitive material – a move Democrats have called part of a cover-up.
If those conversations with Putin or with other world leaders are sequestered in that same electronic file that is meant for covert action, not meant for this, if there’s an effort to hide those and cover those up, yes we’re determined to find out, Schiff said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
Schiff did not say whether he plans to subpoena that information. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
The intelligence committee has reached an agreement with the whistleblower to appear before the panel, Schiff told ABC’s This Week. Schiff said he hoped the whistleblower would appear very soon.
Mark Zaid, a lawyer for the whistleblower, wrote on Twitter that the legal team was working with both parties in Congress and we understand all agree protecting whistleblower’s identity is paramount. Zaid said no agreement has been reached and no date has been set for the whistleblower’s contact with Congress.
NEWS ALERT: Re: whistleblower testimony
We continue to work w/both parties in House & Senate and we understand all agree that protecting whistleblower’s identity is paramount. Discussions continue to occur to coordinate & finalize logistics but no date/time has yet been set.
Mark S. Zaid (@MarkSZaidEsq) September 29, 2019
In addition, a letter from Andrew Bakaj, another lawyer for the whistleblower, informed Joseph Maguire, the top US intelligence official, of serious concerns about the individual’s safety after receiving threats, and expressed appreciation for appropriate resources provided by Maguire’s office.
The Ukraine scandal arose just months after Special Counsel Robert Mueller finished an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election that concluded that Moscow waged a campaign of hacking and propaganda to boost Trump’s candidacy. Mueller’s investigative report, released in redacted form in April, laid out numerous contacts between Russian officials and Trump’s campaign, but found insufficient evidence to determine that a criminal conspiracy had taken place.