You can read the whistleblower letter here. And you should. A couple of salient points beyond what we already knew:
1. The whistleblower characterized multiple witnesses to the call saying “they had witnessed the President abuse his office for personal gain.”
2. The storage of the call was handled differently from that of other calls, for no apparent legitimate reason.
That sounds cover-uppy, but I doubt Trump ordered it. I don’t think he thinks he did anything wrong. In his mind, everyone in the world exists to serve him personally. The Attorney General, the Director of the FBI, leaders of other countries … everyone.
Meanwhile, as Attorney General Barr is mentioned in the letter as being named by Trump in the Ukraine call as one of the people the Ukraine president should speak with, the question again arises: has Donald Trump asked Bill Barr to investigate Joe Biden?
I think he has. If Trump asked Ukraine to investigate Biden, why wouldn’t he ask Bill Barr? He thinks the position of Attorney General exists to serve his personal interests; we know that from his endless ranting about Sessions’s recusal. Then there’s this:
This moment between Senator Kamala Harris and Attorney General William Barr from May is resurfacing after President Trump released transcripts of a July phone call between him and Ukraine's president. pic.twitter.com/C420H8UJSs
— azcentral (@azcentral) September 25, 2019
Barr says “they have not asked me to open an investigation” but he curiously emphasizes the word “asked” and he’s clearly dancing around something he doesn’t want to talk about. What is it? Here is a statement issued yesterday by a spokesman for the Department of Justice:
The Attorney General was first notified of the President’s conversation with Ukrainian President Zelensky several weeks after the call took place, when the Department of Justice learned of a potential referral. The President has not spoken with the Attorney General about having Ukraine investigate anything relating to former Vice President Biden or his son. The President has not asked the Attorney General to contact Ukraine — on this or any other matter. The Attorney General has not communicated with Ukraine — on this or any other subject. Nor has the Attorney General discussed this matter, or anything relating to Ukraine, with Rudy Giuliani.
A Department of Justice team led by U.S. Attorney John Durham is separately exploring the extent to which a number of countries, including Ukraine, played a role in the counterintelligence investigation directed at the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. While the Attorney General has yet to contact Ukraine in connection with this investigation, certain Ukrainians who are not members of the government have volunteered information to Mr. Durham, which he is evaluating.
I did not know until I read that statement that Durham’s mandate included looking into whether Ukraine was involved in a counterintelligence investigation of Trump’s campaign. Is this broad enough to encompass an investigation of Joe Biden? I don’t think it should be, but maybe the investigators are treating it that way.
Note well what the statement does not say, though. It does not say Donald Trump did not ask Bill Barr to investigate Joe Biden. Again: If Trump asked Ukraine to investigate Biden, why wouldn’t he ask Bill Barr to do the same thing?
One final bit of news that shows how important the Biden issue was for Trump: discussion of Biden was a precondition for the call taking place to begin with:
But after weeks of discussions with American officials, Ukrainian officials came to understand there was a condition for any meeting with Trump, the former adviser said.
“Ukrainian officials were asking for a meeting with Trump for along time. As I remember, it was a clear fact that Trump wants to meet only if Biden case will be included,” said Serhiy Leshchenko, an anti-corruption advocate and former member of Ukraine’s Parliament, who had been a former adviser to Zelenskiy but has recently been distanced from the administration. “This issue was raised many times. I know that Ukrainian officials understood.”
Asked if it had been understood as a condition, Leshchenko said, “Yes.”
But I was told the mention of Biden was an afterthought!
The whistleblower’s letter provides many fertile avenues for investigation. This is not going away any time soon. That I can tell you!
UPDATE: Looks like the ABC News story was garbage.
[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]