America has been consumed with the Trump-Ukraine story over the last week for good reason. First journalists reported that President Trump had attempted to coerce Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky into fabricating some dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden's family by threatening to withhold some $400 million in military aid, which prompted Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to grudgingly support an impeachment inquiry. Then the White House released a memorandum describing the call between Zelensky and Trump which largely confirmed the story, and despite several substantial omissions, had Trump implying a quid pro quo of good treatment from the U.S. government in return for investigating Biden.
And now we've got the whistleblower complaint, released Thursday morning, that set off this whole cycle of reporting. It confirms the broad outlines of the story and alleges even more abuses of power, by Trump and his cronies alike. Short of loudly confessing to everything on television (which I would not rule out, he's done it before), Trump could scarcely look more guilty.
To start with, the complaint — dated August 12 — again confirms the broad outline of the story. "I have received information from multiple U.S. government officials 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," it reads. That includes "pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the president’s main domestic political rivals."
Trump's top toadies, Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General Barr, are also directly implicated: "The President’s personal lawyer, Mr. Rudolph W. Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General (William P.) Barr appears to be involved as well." The complaint says Trump named them as his "personal envoys on these matters[.]"
Now, Giuliani already confessed to this on CNN, but Barr has not. This casts a pall on the entire Department of Justice, and not just from the allegation that Barr has been Trump's personal bag man on Ukraine. The complaint also proves the Office of Legal Counsel (a shop within the DOJ) lied about the complaint's contents when it attempted to stop it from being released to the House Intelligence Committee by asserting it wasn't an "urgent" matter and casts enormous doubt on the DOJ decision to not investigate Trump over this story.
Attorney General Barr has almost certainly been abusing his authority to protect Trump at every turn in this scandal, just like he did when he lied outright about the contents of the Mueller Report — and possibly lied to Congress when he was asked if Trump had directed him to conduct political investigations and dissembled furiously.
The complaint adds further new allegations that White House staff recognized that Trump's comments were extremely bad and executed a cover-up by moving the transcript of the call from the typical storage medium to a much more highly-classified one: "I learned from multiple U.S. officials that senior White House officials had intervened to 'lock down' all records of the phone call, especially the word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced — as is customary — by the White House Situation Room," it reads. "White House officials told me they were 'directed' by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system in which such transcripts are typically stored … Instead, the transcript was loaded into a separate electronic system that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature." One official told the whistleblower this was an abuse of the system "because the call did not contain anything remotely sensitive from a national security perspective."
It is basically impossible to believe this could be anything aside from an attempt to hide damning evidence of Trump's criminality by stuffing it into the code-word classification system. In Trump World, it's almost always just as bad as it looks, if not worse.
It is vital for any impeachment inquiry to get to the bottom of this — starting with obtaining the actual transcript of Trump's call with Zelensky, not just the memo released on Wednesday. As once was said, so shall it be said again: Release the tapes!