I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Friday, September 27, 2019. 39 days until Election Day 2019. 129 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 403 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whistleblower: White House tried to "lock down" records of explosive Ukraine call
A roundup of the latest news on the intensifying impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump:
Whistleblower complaint released: "The whistleblower complaint at the heart of the burgeoning controversy over President Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president claims not only that Trump misused his office for personal gain and endangered national security, but also that unidentified White House officials tried to keep it a secret even within the government."
"In seven stark, carefully worded pages, the unidentified whistleblower alleged that the commander in chief pushed his foreign counterpart to investigate Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, and that senior White House officials then tried to 'lock down' records related to the matter."
"The pressure on the Ukrainian leader was applied in a phone call July 25 between Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky, the whistleblower alleged, an exchange that turned so politically problematic that White House lawyers directed other officials to remove the electronic transcript of the conversation from the computer system where it was stored."
"The transcript, the whistleblower alleged, was then loaded onto a separate system meant for highly classified information. And according to White House officials who informed the whistleblower, that was 'not the first time' a transcript was put there because of concerns about politics rather than national security, the complaint alleged." (The Washington Post)
--- Key quotes from the complaint: "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 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."
..."In the days following the phone call, I leamed 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 WhiteHouse Situation Room. This set of actions underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call."
--- Top quote from Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, who testified before lawmakers on Thursday: "I am aware that this is unprecedented. This has never happened before. This is a unique situation."
More information on the whistleblower: "The White House learned that a C.I.A. officer had lodged allegations against President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine even as the officer’s whistle-blower complaint was moving through a process meant to protect him against reprisals, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday."
"The officer first shared information about potential abuse of power and a White House cover-up with the C.I.A.’s top lawyer through an anonymous process, some of the people said. The lawyer shared the officer’s concerns with White House and Justice Department officials, following policy. Around the same time, the officer separately filed the whistle-blower complaint." (The New York Times)
More information on the computer system used to "lock down" records of the call: "A highly secure computer system where aides to President Trump reportedly stashed the details of his call with Ukraine’s leader is so secretive that even top White House national-security aides don’t have regular access, according to former officials familiar with its operation."
"It is the most tightly controlled of at least four different computer systems used by the National Security Council staff, they said, and contains the most precious of American secrets: U.S. covert actions in other countries and counterintelligence probes aimed at finding spies within." (The Wall Street Journal)
--- "Effort to shield Trump’s call with Ukrainian leader was part of broader secrecy effort" (The Washington Post)
Trump likens whistleblower to a "spy" at private event: "President Trump expressed disgust Thursday morning with the explosive whistleblower complaint, slamming the intelligence officer and the White House aides who helped him as 'almost a spy' and suggested it was treason."
..."'Basically, that person never saw the report, never saw the call, he never saw the call — heard something and decided that he or she, or whoever the hell they saw — they’re almost a spy,' Trump said."
"'I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy,' he continued. 'You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.'" (Los Angeles Times)
Lawmakers respond: "Pelosi says Trump engaged in 'cover-up' to hide Ukraine call records" (Politico)... "Everyone In Washington Is Reading the Whistleblower Complaint — Except Senate Republicans" (The Wall Street Journal)
Inside the White House: "White House officials were scrambling Thursday to figure out how to counter the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry, with one source familiar with the situation describing a sense of 'total panic' over the past week at the lack of a plan to address the new reality."
"There appears to be rising 'anxiety, unease, and concern' — as one person close to the White House described the mood in the West Wing — that the whistleblower’s allegations could seriously wound the president and some of those around him. 'There’s not a lot of confidence that there’s no there there,' this person said." (NBC News)
--- "Lewandowski may lead White House impeachment team" (CNN)
--- "All the president’s loyalists: Impeachment net snares Trump’s top advisers" (Politico)
More impeachment news: "Democrats eye quick impeachment probe of Trump as freshmen push for focus on Ukraine" (The Washington Post)... "Polls show support for impeachment rising amid Trump-Ukraine scandal" (Axios)... "Two Republican governors say they support impeachment inquiry of Trump" (The Washington Post)
Refugee cap: "President Trump has decided to slash the American refugee program by almost half, greatly dimming the United States’ role in accepting persecuted refugees from most parts of the world, the State Department announced Thursday."
"The administration said it would accept 18,000 refugees during the next 12 months, down from the current limit of 30,000 and a fraction of the 110,000 President Barack Obama said should be allowed into the United States in 2016, his final year in office." (The New York Times)
Warren edges Biden in new 2020 polls: "A new national survey shows Elizabeth Warren now sitting atop the 2020 Democratic field, further cementing her ascendancy in the party’s presidential primary after a pair of polls reported her leading in the first two primary states."
"Twenty-seven percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents polled by Quinnipiac University said they favor Warren, according to a survey released Wednesday morning. Twenty-five percent said they prefer former Vice President Joe Biden."
..."Warren also bested Biden in a poll released Saturday of likely Iowa caucus-goers, 22 percent to 20 percent, as well as in a poll released Tuesday of likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire, 27 percent to 25 percent. The two candidates were statistically tied in both surveys." (Politico)
Continuing resolution passes: "The Senate on Thursday cleared a spending bill that will fund the government through Nov. 21, giving lawmakers and the White House more time to reach agreement on the annual appropriations process. The vote was 82-15, with all of the ‘no’ votes coming from Republicans." (Roll Call)
Eugene Scalia confirmed: "The Republican-led Senate on Thursday confirmed lawyer Eugene Scalia, a son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, as President Donald Trump’s new labor secretary."
"The Senate voted along party lines, 53-44, to approve Scalia’s nomination. Republicans said his background in labor and employment law made him qualified for the post. Democrats said Scalia fought for corporations and against workers and was the wrong candidate for Cabinet post." (The Associated Press)
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Today at the White House
--- At 12 p.m., President Trump participates in a call with Jewish leaders to mark Rosh Hashanah. At 3:30 p.m., he receives his daily intelligence briefing. At 6:30 p.m., he delivers remarks at the Hispanic Heritage Month reception.
--- Vice President Mike Pence is in Indianapolis, Indiana, today. At 3 p.m., he tours the NeuroDiagnostic Institute and Advanced Treatment Center. At 3:30 p.m., he participates in a roundtable discussion at the institute. The vice president will then return to Washington, D.C.
Today in Congress
--- The Senate is on recess until October 15.
--- The House convenes at 9 a.m. today. The chamber will vote on S.J.Res. 54, a Senate-passed resolution overturning President Trump's February declaration of a national emergency on the southern border. The House will also vote on H.R. 3722, the Joint Task Force to Combat Opioid Trafficking Act of 2019.
Today on the trail
--- Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Las Vegas, Nevada, attending a community event and a fundraiser.
--- Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) attends the New Jersey Democratic State Committee annual conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He will participate in a panel with other members of the New Jersey congressional delegation and address the conference.
--- Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) holds fundraisers in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Houston, Texas.
--- South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg participates in the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, Texas. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) will also participate in the festival on Saturday.
--- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) participates in a gun safety roundtable in Seattle, Washington, with state Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D-WA) and other officials and activists.
--- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) holds a town hall in Hollis, New Hampshire.
--- Spiritual author Marianne Williamson makes three campaign stops at yoga and wellness centers in Las Vegas, Nevada.
--- Entrepreneur Andrew Yang campaigns in New Hampshire, participating in events in Portsmouth, Brentwood, Durham, and Nashua.
*All times Eastern