There are at least two things going on in what we might call the whistleblower saga. I got confused by them last night, so let me try to clarify them for myself and whomever else might be confused.
A whistleblower submitted a complaint to the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG), which the ICIG was then required by law to pass on to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees. Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire intercepted the complaint and stonewalled when Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed the document and him to appear before the committee. (Lawfare) Later reports were that the complaint was against something that President Donald Trump did and that multiple actions were included in it.
More specifically, a telephone conversation that included a promise to a foreign leader was said to be part of it. Initial speculation centered around Vladimir Putin and possible sharing of information about agents inside Russia. Then we were told that the country involved was Ukraine and its new president, Volodymyr Zelensky.
There was a great scramble to find recent news about Trump’s interactions with Ukraine, and a timeline suggested that Trump had withheld aid that Congress had voted for Ukraine until Zelensky agreed to find (or manufacture) dirt on the business dealings of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. And there seems to have been an additional $140 million that went to Ukraine later.
In a wild interview with Chris Cuomo, Rudy Giuliani, the President’s lawyer, admitted that he had asked Ukrainian officials to investigate the Bidens. Trump initially tweeted a number of contradictory things about his conversation with Zelensky. On Sunday, he admitted that he had asked Zelensky to look into the Bidens.
This is where the story bifurcates. On the one hand, we have the whistleblower complaint, about which we know little. The reports of a promise and multiple interactions seem not to fit with what Giuliani and Trump have admitted to. The Acting DNI continues to (probably illegally) stonewall Congress.
On the other, we have the admission of the President and his lawyer that they were engaged in strongarming the new president of Ukraine to help them with Trump’s re-election campaign. This is clearly a misuse of power, a high crime or misdemeanor, suitable for a charge in impeachment. This is what the news has been running with.
Both stories are important, and different from each other. Trump’s Ukraine blackmail/ extortion/ soliciting campaign assistance from a foreign country did not come directly from the whistleblower complaint. It came from Trump and Giuliani’s admissions in response to speculation about what that complaint contained. Trump has (sorta, in his confusing way) offered a transcript of the telephone conversation, maybe redacted.
That’s not enough. The stories have become separate, but they are related at a fundamental level that has to do with Trump’s corruption. Congress must continue to investigate the whistleblower complaint and include the Ukraine connection.
Trump loves to confuse things, and that’s what he’s doing now. We’ve got to keep things clear in our minds.