There's another scandal roiling Donald Trump's presidency. On Sept. 18, The Washington Post broke the news that an anonymous U.S. intelligence official had reportedly filed a formal whistleblower complaint with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — a complaint that reportedly directly involves President Trump. The next day, on Sept. 19, the Post revealed that the reported whistleblower complaint about Trump supposedly involves Ukraine, further deepening the mystery around the complaint. In a press conference on Sept. 20, the president called the reported complaint "ridiculous" and suggested that whoever filed the complaint was "partisan."
According to The Washington Post, the unnamed whistleblower filed the reported complaint following a call that Trump reportedly had with a foreign leader, during which Trump allegedly made a troubling "promise." The day after the Post broke the original story about the complaint, CNN and The New York Times both reported that the whistleblower may have been concerned about more than one alleged interaction that Trump had with a foreign leader. These reports immediately prompted speculation about the other country involved in the reported complaint, and concern that Trump was potentially mishandling sensitive information. According to CNN, the reported whistleblower complaint is also paving the way for another contentious showdown between Congress, the president, and the intelligence community.
The controversial nature of the reported whistleblower complaint was further amplified by the documented interaction that Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in late July. During that call, Trump reportedly told Zelensky that Ukraine should investigate corruption in order to improve its own reputation, per The New York Times. Also over the summer, Rudy Giuliani — Trump's former personal lawyer — allegedly urged the Ukrainian government to investigate Trump's political opponents, including 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden. The Washington Post reported earlier this month that Trump may have withheld military aid from Ukraine in order to convince Zelensky's new government to investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. Elite Daily has reached out to Biden for comment on Giuliani's reported actions.
In a Sept. 19 interview with CNN, Giuliani denied having contacted Ukrainian officials, but then seemingly contradicted himself when he admitted that he had asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden. “So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?” CNN's Chris Cuomo asked Giuliani, repeating his original question. Giuliani replied, “Of course I did." Giuliani later tweeted out, "A President telling a Pres-elect of a well known corrupt country he better investigate corruption that affects US is doing his job." Representatives for Giuliani did not immediately respond to Elite Daily's request for additional comment.
On Sept. 20, Trump responded to the reported whistleblower complaint in an Oval Office press conference by describing the story as "ridiculous," CNN reported. According to Politico, Trump also referred to the intelligence official who filed the reported complaint as "partisan," despite acknowledging that he didn't actually know who the whistleblower was. Additionally, Trump told reporters "it doesn't matter what I discussed" with the foreign leader in question, claiming that his interactions with foreign leaders are "always appropriate."
When reporters asked Trump whether he had discussed Biden during his July call with Zelensky, Trump didn't confirm or deny having done so. However, he did tell reporters that "somebody ought to look into Joe Biden's statement" about Ukraine, seeming to echo Giuliani's earlier calls for Ukraine to investigate Biden. Trump then appeared to reference Biden's 2016 statement, in which he admitted to having threatened the Ukrainian government in order to get the country's top prosecutor fired. That same prosecutor was pushing an investigation into the gas company for which Biden's son Hunter was serving on the board. Elite Daily has reached out to Biden for comment on Trump's remarks. In response to a media inquiry, the White House redirected Elite Daily to Trump's comments to reporters in the Oval Office.
It is still unclear precisely what transpired in the interaction — or interactions — that prompted the filing of the reported whistleblower complaint. According to CNN, Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is legally obligated to turn over such complaints to both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees within a week of the complaints being filed. In this particular case, he has not yet complied. Elite Daily reached out to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) for comment but did not immediately hear back.
CNN also reported that the White House and the Justice Department both advised ODNI to refrain from sharing the whistleblower complaint with Congress, on the grounds that the reported complaint is not governed by the same laws that usually address intelligence whistleblowers. According to The New York Times, Jason Klitenic — ODNI's general counsel — concluded that only complaints pertaining to the funding, administration, or operation of an intelligence agency are required to be handed over to the Congress. As a result, Congressional Democrats are threatening legal action to obtain the full whistleblower complaint, per The Washington Post. Elite Daily has reached out to ODNI for comment, but did not immediately hear back.
Although the exact contents of the reported whistleblower complaint are not yet known, it has become clear that the complaint could have a significant impact on Trump's reelection bid in 2020. Trump's comments about Biden in particular have prompted speculation that the current administration is trying to get Ukraine to meddle in the 2020 presidential election. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the speculation.
After what happened in 2016, with Russia's alleged interference in the presidential election, it's unclear if Trump can withstand such allegations through another presidential bid. This election cycle is off to quite a start.