When Did Trump Learn About The Whistleblower? A New Report Puts Holes Into Defenses Of The President
President Donald Trump was first notified about a whistleblower complaint involving a controversial conversation he had with a foreign leader in late August, which puts into doubt for some the way he behaved in conversations during that time.
The whistleblower’s complaint to the inspector general of the intelligence community was brought about due to a phone call Trump had with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which it appears that Trump had requested that Ukraine investigate a political rival of his that would benefit him in the 2020 presidential election. It also appeared to the whistleblower that Trump was withholding military assistance to Kyiv in order to compel them to open up those investigations.
The president’s lawyers came to him in late August to describe the complaint to him, the New York Times reported, as well as to discuss whether legally they had to release the aid to Ukraine, which had been doled out by Congress several months prior.
The revelation that Trump knew about the complaint in August puts holes in at least two defenses the White House was attempting to tout. First, it now appears to some observers that the administration only decided to release the military aid after learning about the whistleblower.
“Trump only released the aid because he got caught,” said Sean Eldridge, head of the progressive group Stand Up America, according to reporting from Raw Story.
Second, conversations after he had learned about the whistleblower, which previously were used to defend his actions, now seem circumspect.
For instance, Gordon Sondland, the current ambassador to the European Union, testified last week to investigators in the impeachment inquiry that he had called Trump to confront him about the meaning behind the aid being held up. The president explicitly told him, “I want nothing, I want no quid pro quo.”
Could explain why Trump got so angry and said “no quid pro quo” unprompted to Sondland on that early September phone call. https://t.co/quUtUhx7kl
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) November 27, 2019
The administration (as well as Trump specifically) has been using that line from Sondland as proof that the president wasn’t seeking anything, CNN reported. Yet now the conversation appears to be in reaction to Sondland’s questioning and the possibility that Trump was defending against the whistleblower’s accusations. In essence, what was being billed as an unprompted response by the commander-in-chief now seems suspicious.
On a separate call in early September, Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, reached out to Trump to discuss the hold. Johnson asked if he could tell Ukraine officials that the hold was ending soon, to which Trump said no. When the senator asked if there was a reason for the hold that Trump wasn’t telling him, the president responded by cursing at him, Johnson said.
“Without hesitation, President Trump immediately denied such an arrangement existed,” Johnson said, per reporting from NBC 15 in Madison. But the president’s next words now sound worrisome or suspicious, in light of the latest reporting.
“No way. I would never do that. Who told you that?” Johnson explained Trump said to him.
Again, that sort of response raises an eyebrow or two when one considers the latest developments regarding when Trump first learned of the whistleblower.
The public revelation of a whistleblower complaint in mid-September was what originally led Democrats in Congress to supporting an impeachment inquiry into Trump’s actions, particularly as it dealt with allegedly seeking a quid pro quo, which some lawmakers, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, are now describing as a bribe offered to Ukraine by Trump.