The whistleblower memo to the heads of congressional intelligence committees released Thursday morning outlines a concerted effort by the White House to cover up President Trump’s July 25 phone conversation with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. Many of the details of Trump’s attempts to pressure the newly elected president have trickled out in media reports over the past week, including the withholding of military aid to Ukraine and the factual details of the phone call between Trump and Zelensky where Trump hints at a thinly veiled quid pro quo. The Aug. 12 memo to Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff provides new details and context to Trump’s effort to get Kyev to investigate his political rival Joe Biden, but the most damning revelations revolve around what the administration did after the call.
“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 memo reads. “The 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 Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General Barr appears to be involved as well.”
In the memo, the whistleblower acknowledges to not have been personally on the Trump-Zelensky call but provides extensive detail of numerous conversations with administration officials on the call—and beyond—that indicate the White House knew the content of the call was explosive. Trump officials then took extraordinary measures to conceal it. The document says the whistleblower spoke with “more than a half dozen U.S. officials” about the incident and that there were “approximately a dozen” U.S. officials on the call in question. The whistleblower got a readout of the call, according to the memo.
“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 whistleblower writes. “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 official 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 memo goes on to describe the active measures taken by White House officials to ensure what was said during the call didn’t get out. “White House officials told me that they were ‘directed’ by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system in which such transcripts are typically stored for coordination, finalization, and distribution to Cabinet-level officials,” the memo says. “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 White House official described this act as an abuse of this electronic system because the call did not contain anything remotely sensitive from a national security perspective.”
Support our 2020 coverage
Slate is covering the election issues that matter to you. Support our work with a Slate Plus membership. You’ll also get a suite of great benefits.Join Slate Plus