The Thursday morning release of the official whistleblower complaint at the heart of a controversy which has triggered an official impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump intensified concern among Democrats and outside critics who say the complaint goes beyond a single phone call by alleging a wider White House conspiracy to cover it up.
“Sounds like the cover-up and the crime are both impeachable,” tweeted Sludge reporter Alex Kotch.
As Common Dreams reported, the scandal stems from a July phone call between Trump and Zelensky in which Trump asked the Ukrainian president for a “favor” — to investigate Biden’s son Hunter’s employment by Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings from 2014 to 2019. A memorandum of a condensed version of the conversation was released Wednesday.
During a Thursday hearing of the House Intelligence Committee featuring Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) said that the complaint indicates that the cover-up is aimed at concealing the knowing criminal behavior of the administration.
“The whistleblower complaint has exposed a criminal effort to extort political dirty work from a foreign government, and a massive cover-up orchestrated by the White House,” said Castro.
The complaint alleges that, after the call, White House officials moved to put a word-for-word transcript of the conversation into a server separate from the normal one reserved for such matters.
“In the days following the phone call, I learned from multiple U.S. officials that senior White House officials had intervened to ‘lock down’ all records of the phone call, especially the official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced — as is customary — by the White House situation room,” the whistleblower writes in the complaint.
Particularly, the complaint claims, intervention came from the administration’s legal counsel.
“White House officials told me they were ‘directed’ by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system in which such transcripts are typically stored for coordination, finalization and distribution to Cabinet-level officials,” says the whistleblower.
Specifically implicated in the complaint are the president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General William Barr.
“They knew the President had violated his oath of office,” said Rep. Val Demings (D-Fl.).
The cover-up is “as bad, if not worse, than Watergate,” Mother Jones writer Ari Berman said.
“Instead of hiring burglars to investigate political rival Trump asked a foreign government to do it for him and then tried to cover it up,” said Berman.
New Yorker writer Susan B. Glasser wrote Thursday that the phone call is part of a pattern of behavior:
The Ukraine scandal is, among many other things, a portrait of American foreign policy gone terribly wrong, hijacked by a President who has shredded the vast U.S. national-security apparatus in favor of a rogue operation looking out for his own interests and overseen by his personal agent, Rudy Giuliani. To anyone who has been paying attention, this has been the President’s approach to foreign policy from the start: it has been all Trump, all the time.
Trump’s pattern of behavior, and the current scandal being simply a part of it, was a point that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also made in a statement Thursday.
“This whistleblower complaint is only the tip of an iceberg of corrupt, illegal, and immoral behavior by this president,” said Sanders. “What the House must do is thoroughly investigate Trump’s cover-up of this call and his other attempts to use government resources to help his re-election campaign. The public deserves to have full transparency regarding Trump’s abuse of office.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said on Twitter that Congress must act as soon as possible to stop the president from continuing to use “the Oval Office as his campaign office.”
“We cannot let the occupant make a mockery of our Constitution any longer,” said Omar. “Congress must cancel the upcoming recess so we can finally impeach this president.”