How a CIA an­a­lyst sparked an in­quiry

One rel­a­tively ju­nior staffer acted on info many knew

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe and Paul Sonne

The lights are of­ten on late into the evening at CIA head­quar­ters, where a team of elite an­a­lysts works on clas­si­fied re­ports that in­flu­ence how the coun­try re­sponds to global crises.

In early Au­gust, one of those an­a­lysts was por­ing over notes of alarm­ing con­ver­sa­tions with White House of­fi­cials, re­view­ing de­tails from in­ter­a­gency memos on the U.S. re­la­tion­ship with Ukraine and scan­ning public state­ments by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

He wove this ma­te­rial into a nine-page memo out­lin­ing ev­i­dence that Trump had abused the pow­ers of his of­fice to try to co­erce Ukraine into help­ing him get re­elected. Then, on Aug. 12, the an­a­lyst hit “send.”

His de­ci­sion to re­port what he had learned to the U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity’s in­spec­tor gen­eral has trig­gered an im­peach­ment in­quiry that now im­per­ils Trump’s pres­i­dency.

As the im­peach­ment in­quiry en­tered a new phase of public hear­ings on Wed­nes­day, the out­lines of the case have been thor­oughly estab­lished: Trump, his per­sonal lawyer

Rudy Gi­u­liani and two diplo­mats are al­leged to have col­lab­o­rated to pres­sure Ukraine to pur­sue in­ves­ti­ga­tions to bol­ster Trump’s con­spir­acy the­o­ries about the 2016 elec­tion and dam­age the prospects of his po­ten­tial op­po­nent in next year’s elec­tion, for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den.

To ad­vance this hid­den agenda, Trump and his al­lies or­ches­trated the ouster of a U.S. am­bas­sador, the with­hold­ing of an Oval Of­fice meet­ing from Ukraine’s new pres­i­dent and the sus­pen­sion of hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in U.S. aid.

It is not clear whether any of this would have come to light were it not for the ac­tions of a rel­a­tively ju­nior CIA em­ployee, who is now the tar­get of al­most daily at­tacks by Trump and rightwing ef­forts to make his iden­tity widely public.

Dozens of se­nior of­fi­cials —in­clud­ing the na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, the sec­re­tary of state and the act­ing White House chief of staff — were ei­ther aware of or in­volved in the Ukraine scheme and failed to ex­pose or stop it.

Ul­ti­mately, it came down to a lone an­a­lyst, in a cu­bi­cle miles from the White House, draft­ing an un­prece­dented doc­u­ment in the de­tached man­ner he had learned in his CIA train­ing.

“In the course of my of­fi­cial du­ties,” he wrote, “I have re­ceived in­for­ma­tion from mul­ti­ple U.S. gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials that the Pres­i­dent of the United States is us­ing the power of his of­fice to so­licit in­ter­fer­ence from a for­eign coun­try in the 2020 U.S. elec­tion.”

This ar­ti­cle is based on in­ter­views with dozens of U.S. and Ukrainian of­fi­cials, the whistle­blower re­port, the White House call record and thou­sands of pages of im­peach­ment hear­ing tran­scripts. Many of­fi­cials and oth­ers spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity, cit­ing the sen­si­tiv­ity of the is­sue.

Cur­rent and for­mer of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with the an­a­lyst’s ac­tions said that he was daunted by the im­pli­ca­tions of his de­ci­sion, both for the coun­try and his ca­reer, and that he never con­tem­plated be­com­ing a whistle­blower un­til learn­ing about the na­ture of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Ze­len­skiy.

For the call, a hand­ful of na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cials mon­i­tored the con­ver­sa­tion from the Sit­u­a­tion Room.

No­tably miss­ing were na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser John Bolton, Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and Fiona Hill, Trump’s top ad­viser on Rus­sia and Ukraine, who had left her White House job days ear­lier.

The rough tran­script of that call, which was re­leased by the White House after the an­a­lyst’s con­cerns be­came public, shows Trump open­ing with con­grat­u­la­tions on Ukraine’s re­cent par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, then tran­si­tion­ing swiftly into ap­ply­ing pres­sure.

“I would like you to do us a fa­vor though,” Trump says, urg­ing Ze­len­skiy to or­der in­ves­ti­ga­tions into a base­less claim that Kyiv is hid­ing com­puter equip­ment that would sup­pos­edly prove it was Ukraine, and not Rus­sia, that hacked the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee’s net­work in 2016; and into a Ukrainian en­ergy com­pany, Burisma Hold­ings, that had em­ployed Bi­den’s son, Hunter.

The call is at the heart of the im­peach­ment in­quiry in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, ris­ing above all other al­le­ga­tions or ev­i­dence in sig­nif­i­cance, ac­cord­ing to se­nior of­fi­cials in the probe.

Sev­eral wit­nesses in the im­peach­ment in­quiry have said that Trump bears sig­nif­i­cant hos­til­ity to­ward Ukraine, stem­ming in part from the coun­try’s role in ex­pos­ing the fi­nan­cial cor­rup­tion of his 2016 cam­paign chair­man, Paul Manafort.

The “blame Ukraine” idea gained ad­di­tional trac­tion after Trump hired Gi­u­liani as his lawyer. The for­mer New York mayor be­gan scav­eng­ing the fac­tion­al­ized and of­ten con­spir­a­to­rial world of Kyiv pol­i­tics for ma­te­rial that might be used to con­struct an al­ter­nate sce­nario of what hap­pened in 2016 and help blunt the Mueller probe.

Gi­u­liani’s ac­tiv­i­ties be­came a source of con­cern to wary of­fi­cials at the White House and the State Depart­ment in the early months of 2019, wor­ries that in­ten­si­fied in May when U.S. Am­bas­sador Marie Yo­vanovitch was forced out of her po­si­tion in Kyiv over base­less al­le­ga­tions against her and Gi­u­liani seized on her ouster to de­clare that he would be push­ing a new agenda in the U.S. re­la­tion­ship with

Ukraine.

In May, Trump blocked a plan to send Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence to Ze­len­skiy’s in­au­gu­ra­tion and in­stead dis­patched a del­e­ga­tion that in­cluded En­ergy Sec­re­tary Rick Perry, U.S. spe­cial en­voy Kurt Volker and Gor­don Sond­land, a Trump megadonor with no diplo­matic ex­pe­ri­ence who had been named am­bas­sador to the Euro­pean Union.

The call ended at 9:33 a.m. Over the next 24 hours, a cli­mate of fear and sus­pi­cion de­scended on the

White House, as of­fi­cials who had ei­ther lis­tened to the call or learned about it in­di­rectly raised alarms with lawyers, se­nior of­fi­cials in­clud­ing Bolton, as well as peers from the State Depart­ment and the CIA.

The day after Trump’s con­ver­sa­tion with Ze­len­skiy, the CIA an­a­lyst spoke by phone with a highly ag­i­tated of­fi­cial at the White House. The of­fi­cial was “shaken by what had tran­spired and seemed keen to in­form a trusted col­league,” the an­a­lyst noted in a memo he wrote to record the con­ver­sa­tion.

The an­a­lyst ap­pears to have con­cluded al­most im­me­di­ately that he was ob­li­gated to act, but seemed un­sure about how.

The re­port he fi­nally sub­mit­ted re­veals as­pects of how he went about as­sem­bling this file. Though trig­gered by the July 25 call, he made clear that it drew on in­for­ma­tion that had been shared with him “over the past four months” from “more than half a dozen U.S. of­fi­cials.”

When the re­port was sub­mit­ted on Aug. 12, it trig­gered a con­sti­tu­tional clash. White House of­fi­cials fought for weeks to block the act­ing di­rec­tor of na­tional in­tel­li­gence from turn­ing the com­plaint over to rel­e­vant com­mit­tees in Congress, as re­quired by law.

But the ad­min­is­tra­tion re­lented un­der mount­ing pres­sure, in­clud­ing de­mands by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chair­man of the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, and press re­ports in­clud­ing a Sept. 18 story in The Wash­ing­ton Post re­veal­ing that the fo­cus of the com­plaint was a call that Trump had with a for­eign leader.

Trump has waged a cam­paign to im­pugn the mo­tives of the whistle­blower, at­tack­ing him more than 50 times on Twit­ter and de­mand­ing that his iden­tity be ex­posed.

But the events he set in mo­tion, and the ev­i­dence now driv­ing them, have moved be­yond the com­plaint he sub­mit­ted three months ago.

ANDREW HARNIK/AP

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has waged a cam­paign to im­pugn the mo­tives of the whistle­blower.

J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/AP

Mark Sandy, a ca­reer em­ployee in the White House Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get, ar­rives at the Capi­tol on Satur­day.

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