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5 things to know about the whistle-blower complaint

A redacted version of the whistle-blower complaint at the center of the Trump impeachment probe, released by the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday.Wayne Partlow/AP/Associated Press

Here are five things to know about the whistle-blower complaint at the heart of the Trump-Ukraine scandal:

1. The complaint overall tracks closely with media reports on the scandal and with the ‘rough transcript’ released by the White House of President Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

“In the course of my official duties, 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,” the whistle-blower wrote in the complaint dated Aug. 12.

“This interference includes, among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the President’s main domestic political rivals. 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 whistle-blower said.

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2. The complaint raises new questions about how records of Trump’s call with Zelensky were handled

A July 25 phone call between Zelensky and Trump is at the center of the scandal — and is featured in the complaint.

How the call was handled raises further questions.

“In the days following the phone call, 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. This set of actions underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call,” the whistle-blower wrote.

The whistle-blower, whose name has not been released, said he or she was told by White House officials that officials had been “directed” to remove the electronic trancript of the call from the computer system where it would normally be stored and loaded onto a separate system “otherwise used to store and handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature.”

The whistle-blower also said he or she did not know whether similar measures were taken for other records, such as contemporaneous handwritten notes taken by those who listened in to the call.

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3. Many people have pieces of the story — and some weren’t happy about Trump’s actions

The whistle-blower reported “more than half a dozen U.S. officials have informed me of various facts related to this effort.” The whistle-blower said he or she was not a direct witness to most of the events but found colleagues’ accounts to be credible “because, in almost all cases, multiple officials recounted fact patterns that were consistent with one another.”

He or she also said “multiple White House officials with direct knowledge” of the Zelensky call told him or her about it and they were not happy about it.

“The White House officials who told me this information were deeply disturbed by what had transpired in the phone call. They told me that there was already a ‘discussion ongoing’ with White House lawyers about how to treat the call because of the likelihood, in the officials’ retelling, that they had witnessed the President abuse his office for personal gain,” the whistle-blower said.

The whistle-blower said he or she believed there were about a dozen White House officials who listened to the call, including a mixture of policy officials and duty officers in the White House Situation Room. He or she said that, in addition to White House personnel, T. Ulrich Brechbuhl of the State Department, listened in.

He or she also said, “I was not the only non-White House official to receive a readout of the call. Based on my understanding, multiple State Department and Intelligence Community officials were also briefed on the contents of the call as outlined above.”

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4. Rudy Giuliani has a supporting role in the complaint

“Starting in mid-May, I heard from multiple US officials that they were deeply concerned by what they viewed as Mr. Giuliani’s circumvention of national security decisionmaking processes to engage with Ukrainian officials and relay messages back and forth between Kyiv and the President,” the whistle-blower said.

Officials also told the whistle-blower that State Department officials, including two ambassadors “had spoken with Mr. Giuliani in an attempt to ‘contain the damage’ to US. national security.”

The whistle-blower reported that the ambassadors “met with members of the new Ukrainian administration and, in addition to discussing policy matters, sought to help Ukrainian leaders understand and respond to the differing messages they were receiving from official US channels on the one hand and from Mr. Giuliani on the other.”

5. There are other threads to follow

■In an appendix, the whistle-blower said the transcript of the phone call was placed into a standalone computer system “reserved for codeword-level intelligence information, such as covert action.”

“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 whistle-blower said.

■The whistle-blower also said in the appendix he or she would like to “expand upon two issues ... that might have a connection with the overall effort to pressure the Ukrainian leadership.”

One was the cancellation of a trip by Vice President Mike Pence to attend Zelensky’s May 20 inauguration. The whistle-blower said US officials told him or her it was “’made clear’ to them that the President did not want to meet with Mr. Zelensky until he saw how Zelensky ‘chose to act’ in office.”

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The whistle-blower also noted the mysterious mid-July cutoff of US military assistance to Ukraine.

“Neither [Office of Management and Budget] nor [National Security Council Staff] knew why this instruction had been issued.” The whistle-blower said that in interagency meetings later in July, OMB officials “again stated explicitly that the instruction to suspend this assistance had come directly from the President, but they still were unaware of a policy rationale.”