WASHINGTON — A White House official who listened to President Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine’s leader described it as “crazy,” “frightening,” and “completely lacking in substance related to national security,” according to a memo written by the whistle-blower at the center of the Ukraine scandal, a CIA officer who spoke to the White House official.
The White House official was “visibly shaken by what had transpired,” the CIA officer wrote in his memo, one day after Trump pressured President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine in a July 25 phone call to open investigations that would benefit him politically.
A palpable sense of concern had already taken hold among at least some in the White House that the call had veered well outside the bounds of traditional diplomacy, the officer wrote.
“The official stated that there was already a conversation underway with White House lawyers about how to handle the discussion because, in the official’s view, the president had clearly committed a criminal act by urging a foreign power to investigate a US person for the purposes of advancing his own reelection bid in 2020,” the CIA officer wrote.
The document provides a rare glimpse into at least one of the communications with a White House official that helped prompt the whistle-blower’s formal complaint to the intelligence community’s inspector general detailing a broad pressure campaign on Ukraine. The complaint and a reconstructed transcript released by the White House formed the basis of the House impeachment inquiry into Trump.
The inspector general, Michael Atkinson, handed the two-page memo over to Congress last week. A person familiar with its contents described it to The New York Times. Fox News first reported details from it. Neither a lawyer for the whistle-blower nor a spokeswoman for Atkinson immediately responded to requests for comment.
The whistle-blower, who had no firsthand knowledge of the events he described, wrote in his complaint that he spoke to “multiple U.S. government officials” who said that Trump was “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.”
It was not clear whether the White House official he spoke to on July 26 was the second whistle-blower, who has also provided information to Atkinson, or a different person. Neither whistle-blower’s name has been made public.
Little, if any, of the whistle-blower’s complaint has been disproved, though Trump has sought to discredit him because his account was secondhand. The White House transcript largely affirmed his account of the call, and Atkinson deemed his complaint credible, saying he interviewed others who corroborated it.
The White House official “seemed keen to inform a trusted colleague within the national security apparatus about the call,” the CIA officer wrote in his July 26 memo.
Much of the whistle-blower’s memo also comports with the existing public record of the call between Trump and Zelenskiy. The CIA officer noted that he spoke to the White House official for only a few minutes, “and as a result, I only received highlights.”
The memo detailed key aspects of the conversation, including Trump’s request for investigations into former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and a conspiracy theory about Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election.