WASHINGTON — The intelligence officer who filed a whistle-blower grievance about President Trump’s interactions with the chief of Ukraine raised alarms not solely about what the 2 males mentioned in a phone call, but additionally about how the White House dealt with data of the dialog, in accordance to two folks briefed on the grievance.
The whistle-blower, furthermore, recognized a number of White House officers as witnesses to potential presidential misconduct who may corroborate the grievance, the folks mentioned — including that the inspector basic for the intelligence neighborhood, Michael Atkinson, interviewed witnesses.
Mr. Atkinson finally concluded that there was cause to consider that the president might need illegally solicited a overseas marketing campaign contribution — and that his potential misconduct created a nationwide safety danger, in accordance to a newly disclosed Justice Department memo.
An early portrait of the intelligence officer started to take form on Wednesday because the White House launched a tough log of a July 25 cellphone name between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, the newest extraordinary revelation set off by the whistle-blower’s grievance.
This account relies on interviews with the 2 folks and with lawmakers who have been permitted to learn the grievance late within the day, in addition to on particulars revealed in a Justice Department memo explaining the Trump administration’s authorized rationale for withholding the whistle-blower’s allegations from Congress earlier than Mr. Trump relented this week. The White House didn’t reply to a request for remark.
Mr. Atkinson additionally discovered cause to consider that the whistle-blower won’t assist the re-election of Mr. Trump and made clear that the complainant was not able to straight hear to the decision or see the memo that reconstructed it earlier than it was made public, in accordance to the Justice Department memo, which referred solely to a single cellphone name between Mr. Trump and an unnamed overseas chief.
Instead, the officer heard concerning the name secondhand from unidentified White House officers who expressed concern that Mr. Trump had “abused his authority or acted unlawfully in connection with foreign diplomacy,” the memo mentioned. Still, Mr. Atkinson concluded after an investigation that the data within the grievance was credible.
In their first public feedback, legal professionals for the whistle-blower mentioned their consumer hoped to stay nameless however wished to proceed to cooperate with lawmakers conducting oversight.
Mr. Trump had brought up American help to Ukraine with Mr. Zelensky — with out mentioning that on the time he was blocking supply of a big army help bundle that Congress had permitted to assist it fend off Russian aggression — and steered that Ukraine may very well be doing extra to assist the United States, the reconstructed transcript of the decision indicated.
Mr. Trump then requested the Ukrainian president to examine former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his youthful son, Hunter Biden. Mr. Zelensky agreed to have his incoming high prosecutor achieve this, whereas asking whether or not the United States had data to share. A earlier high prosecutor in Ukraine said in May that the Bidens did nothing improper.
Mr. Trump additionally pressed Mr. Zelensky to “do us a favor, though”: to use Attorney General William P. Barr’s assist in opening an investigation of an organization concerned within the beginnings of the F.B.I. inquiry of Russia’s 2016 election interference. Both potential inquiries may benefit Mr. Trump politically.
But the 2 folks mentioned the whistle-blower grievance went past Mr. Trump’s feedback to Mr. Zelensky. It additionally dealt partly with the weird method by which White House officers dealt with inside data describing the decision. The atypical continuing heightened inside considerations concerning the content material of the decision, the 2 folks mentioned.
Bowing to stress, the Trump administration permitted members of the intelligence committees and congressional leaders to learn a duplicate of the grievance, which stays labeled, late on Wednesday.
Its allegations have been “deeply disturbing” and “very credible,” Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, mentioned after rising from reviewing the grievance.
After studying it, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee instructed reporters that it contained way more data that bolstered their mounting considerations. They may disclose little or no, however a number of of the lawmakers mentioned it mentioned different witnesses.
“It was very well written and certainly provides information for the committee to follow up with other witnesses and documents,” Mr. Schiff mentioned.
But the revelations that the whistle-blower had recognized White House witnesses dovetailed with new particulars within the Justice Department memo, which was signed by Steven A. Engel, the pinnacle of its Office of Legal Counsel.
He argued that it was lawful for the performing director of nationwide intelligence, Joseph Maguire, to refuse to flip the whistle-blower grievance over to Congress — a stance that the Trump administration started to again off of as Democrats stepped up discuss of doubtlessly impeaching the president. Mr. Maguire was to testify concerning the grievance on Thursday.
After listening to concerning the July name, the intelligence officer agreed that Mr. Trump is perhaps “seeking to pressure that leader to take an action to help the president’s 2020 re-election campaign,” Mr. Engel wrote, and determined to inform Congress about it, utilizing a course of that protects intelligence whistle-blowers from reprisal.
That course of requires complaints to undergo the inspector basic and intelligence director. It says if the inspector basic deems a grievance to be credible and current an pressing concern, the intelligence director shall ship it to Congress inside seven days.
Mr. Atkinson decided that the grievance met the standards for an “urgent concern,” partly as a result of it fell inside Mr. Maguire’s “operational responsibility to prevent election interference.” But Mr. Engel disagreed, arguing that it didn’t heart on intelligence actions that Mr. Maguire supervises.
In explaining his interpretation of the whistle-blower legislation, Mr. Engel additionally famous that Mr. Atkinson had discovered unspecified indications of “an arguable political bias,” suggesting the whistle-blower favored a rival political candidate, the memo mentioned.
But Mr. Atkinson, a Trump appointee, nonetheless concluded that the allegations appeared to be credible and recognized two layers of concern.
The first concerned a attainable violation of prison legislation. Mr. Trump’s feedback to Mr. Zelensky “could be viewed as soliciting a foreign campaign contribution in violation of the campaign-finance laws,” Mr. Atkinson wrote, in accordance to the Justice Department memo.
(Mr. Engel, whereas saying the allegations didn’t match throughout the intelligence whistle-blower system that permits Congress to see complaints, mentioned such a grievance may as a substitute end in a prison referral. Mr. Maguire and Mr. Atkinson then made referrals, an official mentioned, however the Justice Department closed the matter with out fees.)
The second concern Mr. Atkinson recognized, in accordance to the Justice Department memo, was that Mr. Trump’s potential misconduct may expose him “to serious national security and counterintelligence risks.”
Mr. Engel didn’t elaborate, and it was not clear whether or not he was suggesting that Mr. Trump can be topic to extortion if overseas officers threatened to expose his purported misconduct or he was referring to another danger.
Both the reconstructed transcript and the Justice Department memo could also be incomplete. The transcript contained a footnote that mentioned it was not “verbatim,” and it contained ellipses.
And Mr. Engel’s memo, dated Sept. 24, mentioned in a footnote that it was a revision of an authentic from Sept. 3, and that the division had “changed the prior version to avoid references to certain details that remain classified.”
Lawyers for the whistle-blower expressed concern in an interview on Wednesday about officers disclosing their consumer’s id.
“Intelligence officers, by nature, are not people who want to be publicly known,” mentioned Andrew P. Bakaj, the lead lawyer for the whistle-blower. “If you are an intelligence officer through and through, you are doing this for national security.”
The feedback by Mr. Bakaj — who’s representing the officer at no cost together with two different legal professionals, Mark Zaid and Charles McCullough III — have been the primary, nevertheless restricted, to the press concerning the case. Coming ahead to the inspector basic was very dangerous, mentioned John Napier Tye, the founder of Whistleblower Aid, which is elevating cash to defray bills for the complainant.
“To have the president of the United States tweeting about you, casting aspersions, it is scary for anyone — it is very scary for anyone who works in the intelligence community,” Mr. Tye mentioned.
The authorized staff’s goal, Mr. Zaid mentioned, is to proceed to attempt to get details about the grievance lawfully to the congressional oversight committees. Mr. Zaid and Mr. Bakaj have sought permission from Mr. Maguire to be cleared to see the total grievance and signify their consumer earlier than the House Intelligence Committee.
Reporting was contributed by Katie Benner, Nicholas Fandos, Maggie Haberman and Mark Mazzetti.