- The intelligence whistleblower said White House officials took extreme steps to limit information about President Donald Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president from getting out.
- The whistleblower’s complaint spoke of a pattern of gatekeeping to protect President Donald Trump from facing criticism for the things he said.
- The document said the transcript was moved to a restricted computer system reserved for information with implications for national security — a standard the Ukraine call does not appear to have met.
- The whistleblower added that according to White House officials, this was “not the first time” officials tried to limit the information released from conversations with world leaders.
- A pattern of incidents like this could intensify the political firestorm surrounding Trump right now.
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White House officials took extreme steps to limit who could access details of what was supposed to be a routine call between President Donald Trump and the president of Ukraine, according to an intelligence community whistleblower and subsequent media reporting.
And, according to the whistleblower, this incident was part of a wider pattern, which could lead to even more ammunition as the House moves toward impeachment.
The complaint spoke of a pattern in the Trump White House of officials strictly gatekeeping critical diplomatic information to protect the president from the repercussions of things he said.
The issue came to the fore when the whistleblower — reportedly a CIA agent — detailed steps taken to prevent access to a transcript of a July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky.
In the call — described in a memo released this week by the White House — Trump asked for help in his reelection campaign, in the form of seeking to have Ukrainian officials pursue damaging information on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son’s role on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
Such a request is generally considered an illegal attempt to use the foreign policy powers of the presidency for personal gain — a concern made explicit by the whistleblower.
The complaint said that in the days after the call, as White House officials became increasingly concerned at its implications, that there was a concerted effort to limit the number of officials who could read it.
The document said the transcript was moved to a restricted computer system reserved for information with implications for national security — a standard the Ukraine call does not appear to have met.
“One White House official described this act as an abuse of this electronic system because the call not contain anything remotely sensitive from a national security perspective,” wrote the whistleblower in the letter to Congress.
And in the second appendix to the document, the whistleblower made clear that this is likely not a one-off.
The complaint said: “According to White House officials I spoke with, this was ‘not the first time’ under this Administration that a Presidential transcript was placed into this codeword-level system solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive — rather than national security sensitive — information.”
The reference recalled — albeit with more specificity — earlier attempts to limit the information released from conversations with world leaders, especially after embarrassing news cycles details calls from early in Trump’s presidency with the leaders of Mexico and Australia.
The matter also became public after revelations that President Trump had seized his translator’s notes from a one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin after their first meeting.
While the stakes here are different — hiding information is not in the same league as misusing the presidency for personal gain — a pattern of incidents like this could intensify the political firestorm in which Trump finds himself.