Drew Angerer/Getty Images
President Donald Trump's aides tried to hold off a phone call between him and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25 because they were concerned he would use it to pressure Zelensky to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, The Washington Post reported.
White House national security officials are said to have been concerned Trump and his loyalists were ready to "use US leverage with the new leader of Ukraine for Trump's political gain."
The phone call is now at the center of an unprecedented whistleblower complaint that a US intelligence filed against Trump in August, according to multiple reports.
The White House reportedly decided to release the whistleblower's complaint to Congress this week after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump on Tuesday. Trump will also release a transcript of his phone call with Zelensky.
President Donald Trump's advisers tried to hold off a July 25 phone call between him and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky because they were terrified Trump would use it to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has publicly and privately called for Ukraine to investigate the 2020 Democratic frontrunner.
The Post cited several officials who said there were a number of tense meetings between national security officials at the White House leading up to Trump's July 25 call with Zelensky. Among their chief concerns, the report said, was that Trump and his loyalists looked like they were ready to "use US leverage with the new leader of Ukraine for Trump's political gain," The Post said.
As their fears mounted, the report said some senior White House officials secretly tried to put off the phone call with Zelensky because they were worried Trump would use it to press the case for investigating Biden and Hunter, over their dealings in Ukraine.
The intelligence community inspector general, Michael Atkinson, determined after a preliminary review that the complaint was "credible" and "urgent," which should have triggered a federal statute requiring the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to turn the complaint over to congressional intelligence committees.
But the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, overruled Atkinson after consulting with the Justice Department and determined that the complaint did not meet the definition of "urgent concern" under the law because it related to an individual who is outside the DNI's purview. The decision was backed by White House counsel Pat Cipollone.
But the tide appears to have changed since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry against Trump on Tuesday, because Politico reported afterward that the White House is now preparing to release the complaint to Congress by the end of the week. Trump also announced earlier on Tuesday that he would release a full transcript of his phone call with Zelensky.
The shift indicates the seriousness with which the White House apparently views the impeachment proceedings, even as Trump decries them as a continuation of the "witch hunt" against him and his presidency. The White House's decision also came after the Senate unanimously voted in favor of a resolution calling for the complaint to be turned over to congressional intelligence committees.
House Democrats have long been at war over whether to impeach Trump. But the unprecedented nature of his alleged request to Zelensky — asking a foreign country to manufacture dirt on a political opponent ahead of an election — set off alarms among Democrats and the national-security apparatus, and dozens of House Democrats came out in favor of impeachment in recent days as details continued to spill out about the phone call.
The timing of Trump's alleged request also raised eyebrows. Specifically, Trump slammed the brakes on a nearly $400 million military aid package to Ukraine roughly one week before the phone call, The Washington Post reported. He released the aid on September 12, one day after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff requested a full, unredacted version of the whistleblower's complaint from Maguire.