FBI has sought to speak with the whistleblower whose complaint sparked impeachment inquiry

Kristine Phillips and Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — The FBI has sought to speak with the whistleblower whose complaint concerning President Donald Trump's call to the president of Ukraine has sparked a fast-moving impeachment inquiry, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The FBI has contacted one of the whistleblower's attorneys at least twice to follow up on the whistleblower's complaint, which was referred to the Justice Department, this person said. The FBI has not talked to the whistleblower, and the request for an interview does not indicate the whistleblower is under investigation, this person added. 

It's not clear why the FBI wanted to talk to the whistleblower after Justice Department prosecutors concluded the complaint did not warrant further action. But the request suggests the FBI may still have some questions, including how the whistleblower learned the information detailed in the complaint or who else investigators can talk to, this person said. 

Andrew Bakaj, an attorney for the whistleblower, declined to comment. The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Yahoo News first reported that the FBI tried to speak with the whistleblower.

In the complaint, the whistleblower, who has not been identified publicly, alleged the president "used the power of his office" to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election. This effort involved pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the family of former Vice President Joe Biden, according to the complaint. 

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The president and his congressional allies have tried to learn the identity of the whistleblower, an employee in the intelligence community. Bakaj has said death threats have been directed at the whistleblower and attorneys, prompting them to take security measures. 

The whistleblower detailed efforts by senior White House officials to "lock down" access to records of a July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky, in which Trump urged his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate Biden, a contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. 

The intelligence community's inspector general, who determined the whistleblower's allegations appeared credible, referred the complaint to the Justice Department in August.

Prosecutors reviewed a summary of the July 25 call for evidence of a potential crime, but conducted no interviews to learn why the whistleblower took the extraordinary step of bringing his concerns to the inspector general of the nation's intelligence agencies. 

The Justice Department's prosecutors concluded nothing on the call violated campaign finance laws. 

It is illegal for a political candidate to solicit or receive anything of value from a foreign source. Justice Department officials said they decided not to move forward with a campaign finance inquiry because they concluded the president's request for an investigation had no quantifiable value.

"The department's Criminal Division reviewed the official record of the call and determined, based on the facts and applicable law, that there was no campaign finance violation and no further action was warranted," the Justice Department said in a statement in September.

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The department, citing an opinion by its Office of Legal Counsel, concluded the whistleblower's complaint did not have to be shared with Congress, setting up a showdown between the two branches of government. 

Since then, the whistleblower's complaint has been corroborated by testimony suggesting Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, worked to secure Ukraine not against Russian aggression, but as part of the president's reelection strategy.

Witnesses have testified in private and public hearings that the White House dangled a state visit and congressionally approved military aid to pressure Zelensky to announce investigations that would help Trump politically. 

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council aide who listened to the call between Trump and Zelensky, testified Tuesday that he believed Trump's request for an investigation was "inappropriate."

Gordon Sondland, Trump's ambassador to the European Union, testified Wednesday that he worked with Giuliani on the pressure campaign "at the express direction of the president."

Contributing: Bart Jansen, Christal Hayes, Deirdre Shesgreen, Dennis Wagner

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Whistleblower: FBI has sought interview amid impeachment inquiry