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Trump news: Intel chief admits Ukraine whistleblower complaint ‘unprecedented’ as details reveal White House tried to hide phone call record

Follow latest updates on Washington, as they happened

Clark Mindock
New York
,Chris Baynes
Thursday 26 September 2019 21:07 BST
Trump uses UN setting to attack critics in rambling speech: 'How can they impeach for that?'

A whistleblower complaint alleging Donald Trump sought to pressure the president of Ukraine in an official government call to investigate a key political rival has been made public, just days after the House opened a formal impeachment hearing against the president over those claims.

A redacted version of the document – which Democrats have described as “explosive” and “deeply disturbing” – was made public Thursday morning, and claims that the White House may have regularly moved records of the president’s calls into a keyword classified database for political reasons, instead of serious national security concerns.

Acting national intelligence director Joseph Maguire has testified to the House Intelligence Committee about his handling of the complaint, and has called the situation “unprecedented”.

As the impeachment calls have grown, polls show that the American people are hearing the message, with a significant growth in the number of Americans who say they support the measure since this weekend, according to Morning Consult.

Mr Trump has maintained that the whole thing is a witch hunt intended to undermine his presidency, and it appears as though the president can rely on his Republican colleagues in the Senate to thwart any effort to remove him from office — at least for now.

Elsewhere, the offices of Bernie Sanders were evacuated on Thursday afternoon after a suspicious package was found in Vermont. It was not immediately clear what the package was.

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Good morning and welcome to The Independent's live updates on Donald Trump's administration, on what promises to be a compelling day in already dramatic week in Washington.

We are expecting today to see the full details of a whistleblower complaint that has left the US president facing a formal impeachment probe.

Members of congress have already seen the document after it was declassified on Wednesday, and it does not sound good for Trump. Democrats who have read the complaint say it is "explosive", while even one Republican admitted it was "troubling".

Centre to all this is a phone call the president made to his Ukrainian counterpart earlier this year. As the transcript published yesterday shows, Trump pressured VolodymyrZelensky to investigative his political rival Joe Biden over unsubstantiated claims of corruption.

Chris Baynes26 September 2019 08:24

The contents of the whistleblower complaint about Donald Trump’s call to Ukrainian president are “deeply disturbing”, according to politicians who have read the document.

Senior members of the Senate and the House of Representatives received copies of the complaint, filed by a member of the US intelligence community, on Wednesday.

House Democrats emerging from the secure room in they read the complaint did not divulge details of the complaint but described it as troubling and urgent. 

Intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff said it "exposed serious wrongdoing" and "certainly provides information for the committee to follow up with other".

My colleague Andrew Buncombe has rounded up the initial reaction on Capitol Hill:

Chris Baynes26 September 2019 08:43

Republicans who have seen the whistleblower complaint have been, unsurprisingly, less damning in their assessment.

Most remained silent or defended the president as they left the secure reading rooms yesterday.

Missouri senator Roy Blunt said he was no more concerned than before he read the document.

John Ratcliffe said the transcript of Trump's call to the Ukrainian president was better evidence than "an accounting of the conversation from someone who wasn't there".

But at least one Republican admitted he was concerned by what he had read.

Nebraska senator Ben Sasse, who sits on the Senate intelligence committee, told reporters: "Republicans ought not to be rushing to circle the wagons and say there's no 'there there' when there's obviously a lot that's very troubling there."

However, he also said "Democrats ought not to be using the word impeach before they have the whistleblower complaint".

Chris Baynes26 September 2019 09:06

The whistleblower complaint reveals that multiple White House aides were involved in Trump's attempt to pressure Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden, one member of congress has told CNN's Jim Acosta:

Chris Baynes26 September 2019 09:11

The details of the Ukraine whistleblower complaint are "nothing short of explosive", according to one Democrat.

Jackie Speier, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told MSNBC she was "stunned by the breadth of the complaint and the details with which the whistleblower expressed concerns".

Chris Baynes26 September 2019 09:20

Members on both sides of congress are urging that the whistleblower complaint is released as soon as possible so the public can read it:

Chris Baynes26 September 2019 09:32

As details of the whistleblower report emerge, Donald Trump's top intelligence official is to be grilled by congress over the administration's handling of the complaint.

Acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, will testify to the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee this morning.

He is certain face questions about his initial refusal to share the complaint with congress, as was legally required after an inspector general's determination that it was urgent and credible.

Maguire, who has been in his position for less than two months, reportedly threatened to resign over concerns the White House may try to restrict his testimony to congress.

According to The Washington Post, which cited current and former US officials, made it clear to the Trump administration he was not willing to withhold information from the committee.

Both Maguire and the White House denied the newspaper's report.

Chris Baynes26 September 2019 09:45

It is worth reading the transcript of the phone call that triggered this furore. During Donald Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky's 30-minute conversation, there are multiple moments which have fuelled calls for the president's impeachment:

Chris Baynes26 September 2019 10:00

As the details of their July phone conversation dominate talk in Washington, Donald Trump and Ukranian president VolodymyrZelensky had their first official meeting yesterday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

They were, of course, asked about the call that has left the US president facing an impeachment probe.

My colleague Andrew Buncombe reports on how that played out:

Chris Baynes26 September 2019 11:05

Ukraine's president has said the transcript of his conversation with Donald Trump should not have been made public.

Volodymyr Zelensky told reporters at the UN General Assembly in New York: "I think such things, such conversations between heads of independent states, they shouldn't be published".

But he insisted he was "not afraid" of the release of the transcript, which was published by the White House yesterday.

He also played down talk of Ukraine investigating Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, describing it as "just one of "many cases that I talk about with leaders of other countries".

The transcript probably doesn't show Zelensky, a former comic actor who was elected in July with nearly 73 per cent of the vote, as he would wish to be seen at home.

He adopts a deferential and at times flattering tone towards Trump, parroting his language ("drain the swamp"), mentioning that he has stayed at Trump Tower in New York, and even suggesting the US presidential plane is "probably much better than mine".

Chris Baynes26 September 2019 11:28

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