The whistleblower complaint that set off an impeachment inquiry—only the third one is U.S. history—is now public. In it, the anonymous whistleblower, who is part of the U.S. intelligence community, says 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 interference includes among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the President’s main domestic political rivals.” That political rival is, of course, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, whose son Hunter had Ukrainian business interests.
The complaint doesn’t just allege that the president abused his powers to try to take down a political rival—it also describes activities of senior White House officials trying to cover up evidence of the president’s communications. Though the administration has gestured toward transparency by releasing a TELCON of the call (a summary based on the notes of officials), only after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry, the actual “word-for-word” transcript of the call itself was reportedly purged from more accessible locations, where it would customarily be stored, and moved to a system for classified, national security-related information.
According to the complaint, there were about a dozen officials listening to Trump’s conversation with Zelensky, and access to it hadn’t been restricted because the call was supposed to be “routine.” In other words, no one knew that Trump was going to allegedly push Zelensky to investigate the Bidens until Trump went for it. And some White House officials were “deeply disturbed by what had transpired on the call.” Others intervened after the call to “lock down” all records of it, especially the official word-for-word transcript. Per the complaint:
In an appendix, the whistleblower also alleges that officials have told them this is “not the first time” that a word-for-word transcript of a Trump conversation has been stored in a codeword-level system “solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive—rather than national security sensitive—information.” The whistleblower opened the complaint explaining that they were “deeply concerned that the actions describe” in the letter constitute “a serious or flagrant problem, abuse, or violation of law or Executive Order.”