The carefully constructed complaint shows that this coercion was not limited to one phone call but consisted of a series of acts over time. It reports that White House officials understood Mr. Trump’s behavior to be improper and tried to conceal the wrongdoing. And we learn that the Justice Department has been more deeply involved in the affair than it had previously acknowledged.
The complaint significantly bolsters the case that the quid pro quo of the July 25 phone call was a promise by Mr. Zelensky to investigate Mr. Biden in exchange for an invitation to meet Mr. Trump at the White House. As we previously wrote, obtaining a meeting with Mr. Trump was a top priority for Mr. Zelensky, a neophyte politician, following his inauguration in May. He needed to show that he had U.S. support as Ukraine faced continuing military and political pressure from Russia.
According to the whistleblower, “Multiple U.S. officials told me that the Ukrainian leadership was led to believe that a meeting or phone call between the President and President Zelenskyy would depend on whether Zelenskyy showed willingness to ‘play ball’ on the issues that had been publicly aired” by Mr. Giuliani and one of his Ukraine allies, a corrupt former prosecutor who had fed him false stories about Mr. Biden and the disclosure of illegal payments to Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign manager.
The whistleblower also says Mr. Trump downgraded the delegation to Mr. Zelensky’s inauguration, ordering Vice President Pence not to attend, and “made clear” to U.S. officials that Mr. Trump “did not want to meet with Mr. Zelenskyy until he saw how Zelenskyy ‘chose to act’ in office.”
The rough transcript of the July 25 call clearly shows what this pressure produced. Mr. Zelensky raises the subject of a visit to the United States, then reiterates that “we will be very serious about the case and will work on the investigation.” Mr. Trump responds: “Good. Well, thank you very much and I appreciate that. I will tell Rudy and Attorney General [William] Barr to call. Thank you. Whenever you would like to come to the White House, feel free to call.”
Quid. Pro. Quo.
As the whistleblower describes it, White House and State Department officials did their best to hide or smooth over Mr. Trump’s improper behavior. They placed the rough transcript of the call into a computer system “reserved for codeword-level intelligence information, such as covert action.” Apparently, other such transcripts have been similarly — and improperly — stashed there. Meanwhile, State’s envoys met with Mr. Zelensky and advised him on “how to ‘navigate’ the demands that the President had made.”
Mr. Barr denies that he played any role in this affair. But Justice now acknowledges that it advised intelligence officials not to forward the whistleblower memo to Congress even though Mr. Barr is mentioned in it and material from Ukraine — evidently solicited by Mr. Giuliani — is being reviewed by John Durham, the U.S. attorney Mr. Barr appointed to investigate the origins of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In short, Mr. Trump’s abuse of power had a host of enablers. Congress should hold them all to account.