2nd whistle­blower may give House Democrats fresh in­for­ma­tion

The Saline Courier - - NEWS -

WASHINGTON — House Democrats lead­ing an im­peach­ment in­quiry of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s deal­ings with Ukraine may have fresh in­for­ma­tion to work with af­ter a new whistle­blower stepped for­ward with what the per­son’s lawyer said was first­hand knowl­edge of key events.

With Congress out for an­other week and many Repub­li­cans ret­i­cent to speak out, a text from at­tor­ney

Mark Zaid that a sec­ond in­di­vid­ual had emerged and could cor­rob­o­rate the orig­i­nal whistle­blower’s com­plaint gripped Washington and po­ten­tially height­ened the stakes for Trump.

Zaid, who rep­re­sents both whistle­blow­ers, told The Associated Press that the new whistle­blower works in the in­tel­li­gence field and has spo­ken to the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity’s in­ter­nal watch­dog.

The orig­i­nal whistle­blower, a CIA of­fi­cer, filed a for­mal com­plaint with the in­spec­tor gen­eral in Au­gust that trig­gered the im­peach­ment in­quiry. The doc­u­ment al­leged that Trump had used a July tele­phone call with Ukraine Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Ze­len­skiy to in­ves­ti­gate a po­lit­i­cal ri­val, Joe Bi­den, and his son Hunter, prompt­ing a White House cover-up.

The push came even though there was no ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing by the for­mer vice pres­i­dent or his son, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas com­pany. Trump and his sup­port­ers deny that he did any­thing im­proper, but the White House has strug­gled to come up with a uni­fied re­sponse.

A sec­ond whistle­blower with di­rect knowl­edge could un­der­mine ef­forts by Trump and his al­lies to dis­credit the orig­i­nal com­plaint. They have called it po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated, claimed it was filed im­prop­erly and dis­missed it as un­re­li­able be­cause it was based on sec­ond­hand or third­hand in­for­ma­tion.

A rough tran­script of Trump’s call with Ze­len­skiy, re­leased by the White House, has al­ready cor­rob­o­rated the com­plaint’s cen­tral claim that Trump sought to pres­sure Ukraine on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Text mes­sages from State Depart­ment of­fi­cials re­vealed other de­tails, in­clud­ing that Ukraine was promised a visit with Trump if the govern­ment would agree to in­ves­ti­gate the 2016 elec­tion and a Ukrainian gas com­pany tied to Bi­den’s son — the out­line of a po­ten­tial quid pro quo.

Rep. Jim Himes, D-conn., a mem­ber of the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, said word of a sec­ond whistle­blower in­di­cates a larger shift in­side the govern­ment.

“The pres­i­dent’s real prob­lem is that his be­hav­ior has fi­nally got­ten to a place where peo­ple are say­ing, ‘Enough,’” Himes said.

Democrats have ze­roed in on the State Depart­ment in the open­ing phase of their im­peach­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The In­tel­li­gence, Over­sight and For­eign Af­fairs com­mit­tees have al­ready in­ter­viewed Kurt Volker, a for­mer spe­cial en­voy to Ukraine who pro­vided the text mes­sages, and least two other wit­nesses are set for de­po­si­tions this week: Gor­don Sond­land, the U.S. am­bas­sador to the Euro­pean Union, and Marie Yo­vanovitch, who was abruptly ousted as the U.S. am­bas­sador to Ukraine in May.

Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C., one of Trump’s most vo­cal back­ers, pro­vided per­haps the strong­est de­fense of the Repub­li­can pres­i­dent. He said there was nothing wrong with Trump’s July con­ver­sa­tion with Ze­len­skiy and said the ac­cu­sa­tions look like a “po­lit­i­cal setup.”

As for Trump, rather than vis­it­ing his nearby golf course in Ster­ling, Vir­ginia, for a sec­ond day, he stayed at the White House on Sun­day, where he tweeted and retweeted, with the Bi­dens a main tar­get.

“The great Scam is be­ing re­vealed!” Trump wrote at one point, con­tin­u­ing to paint him­self as the vic­tim of a “deep state” and hos­tile Democrats.

Aside from Trump’s at­tempt to pres­sure Ze­len­skiy, the

July call has raised ques­tions about whether Trump held back near $400 mil­lion in crit­i­cal Amer­i­can mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine as lever­age for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas com­pany.

Hunter Bi­den served on the board of Burisma at the same time his fa­ther was lead­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s diplo­matic deal­ings with Ukraine. Though the tim­ing raised con­cerns among anti-cor­rup­tion ad­vo­cates, there has been no ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing by ei­ther Bi­den.

Joe Bi­den, a lead­ing can­di­date for the 2020 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, wrote in The Washington Post that he had a mes­sage for Trump and “those who fa­cil­i­tate his abuses of power . ... Please know that I’m not go­ing any­where. You won’t de­stroy me, and you won’t de­stroy my fam­ily.”

Ad­di­tional de­tails about the ori­gins of Trump’s July 25 call with Ze­len­skiy have emerged over the week­end.

En­ergy Sec­re­tary Rick

Perry had en­cour­aged Trump to speak with the Ukrainian leader, but on en­ergy and eco­nomic issues, ac­cord­ing to spokes­woman Shay­lyn Hynes. She said Perry’s in­ter­est in Ukraine is part of U.S. ef­forts to boost Western en­ergy ties to East­ern Europe.

Trump, who has re­peat­edly has de­scribed his con­ver­sa­tion with Ze­len­skiy as “per­fect,” told House Repub­li­cans on Fri­day night that it was Perry who teed up the July call, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with Trump’s com­ments who was granted anonymity to dis­cuss them. The per­son said Trump did not sug­gest that Perry had any­thing to do with the pres­sure to in­ves­ti­gate the Bi­dens.

Himes ap­peared on CBS’ “Face the Na­tion” while Gra­ham spoke on Fox News Chan­nel’s “Sun­day Morn­ing Fu­tures.”

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