How the White House, DOJ learned about whistle­blower

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD -

WASH­ING­TON — The White House and the Jus­tice Depart­ment learned about a CIA of­fi­cer’s con­cerns about Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump around the same time the in­di­vid­ual filed a whistle­blower com­plaint that is now at the cen­ter of an im­peach­ment in­quiry, ac­cord­ing to a U.S. of­fi­cial and an­other per­son fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter.

The de­tails help flesh out the time­line of how alarm bells about Trump’s call with the Ukraine leader, in which he pressed for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of a po­lit­i­cal ri­val, re­ver­ber­ated across the U.S. gov­ern­ment and in­side the up­per ranks of its in­tel­li­gence and law en­force­ment agen­cies. The de­tails are fu­el­ing ob­jec­tions by Demo­cratic law­mak­ers that the ad­min­is­tra­tion stonewalle­d them for weeks about the phone call and took mea­sures to sup­press it from be­com­ing public.

The in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial ini­tially filed a com­plaint about Trump’s Ukraine deal­ings with the CIA, which then alerted the White House and the Jus­tice Depart­ment. On Aug. 12, the of­fi­cial raised a sep­a­rate flag, this time with the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity’s in­spec­tor gen­eral, a process that granted the in­di­vid­ual more le­gal whistle­blower pro­tec­tion.

At that time, the com­plaint filed with the in­spec­tor gen­eral — the re­port that was the fo­cus of House hear­ings this week — re­mained pri­vate.

But in­for­ma­tion about the whistle­blower was al­ready mak­ing its way through the ad­min­is­tra­tion. On Aug. 14, A White House lawyer, John Eisen­berg, and a CIA of­fi­cial alerted the head of the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s na­tional se­cu­rity di­vi­sion about the orig­i­nal com­plaint to the CIA.

John De­mers, who has led the na­tional se­cu­rity di­vi­sion for the past year and a half and was a se­nior of­fi­cial at the depart­ment dur­ing the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, went to the White House the next day to re­view ma­te­ri­als as­so­ci­ated with the call.

In the fol­low­ing weeks, De­mers had dis­cus­sions with other Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cials about how to han­dle the CIA com­plaint, ac­cord­ing to the per­son fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter. It was dur­ing that pe­riod that the Jus­tice Depart­ment also re­ceived a no­ti­fi­ca­tion from the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity’s in­spec­tor gen­eral about the whistle­blower com­plaint.

The time­line raises ques­tions about how the White House and the Jus­tice Depart­ment han­dled that sec­ond com­plaint. The ad­min­is­tra­tion ini­tially blocked Congress from view­ing it, and only re­leased a redacted ver­sion of the re­port to law­mak­ers this week af­ter the House im­peach­ment in­quiry had be­gun.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment said At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr was first no­ti­fied of Trump’s Ukraine call in late Au­gust, weeks af­ter it hap­pened, when the depart­ment learned that the in­spec­tor gen­eral be­lieved the con­ver­sa­tion could have amounted to a fed­eral cam­paign fi­nance crime.

The at­tor­ney gen­eral is ref­er­enced re­peat­edly in the call. The pres­i­dent presses Ukraine’s leader to work with Barr and Trump’s per­sonal lawyer Rudy Gi­u­liani to in­ves­ti­gate cor­rup­tion ac­cu­sa­tions, re­peated with no ev­i­dence, against Demo­cratic ri­val Joe Bi­den. The Jus­tice Depart­ment has said Trump has never dis­cussed the mat­ter with Barr.

Jus­tice Depart­ment pros­e­cu­tors re­viewed a rough tran­script of the Trump-Ukraine call and de­ter­mined that no crime was com­mit­ted.

The House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee re­leased the whistle­blower’s com­plaint Thurs­day.

CAR­OLYN KASTER/AP

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