A second whistleblower has come forward with first-hand knowledge of United States President Donald Trump’s attempts to get his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate political rival Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, lawyers for the intelligence official informed Sunday.
“I can confirm that my firm and my team represent multiple whistleblowers in connection to the underlying August 12, 2019, disclosure to the Intelligence Community Inspector General,” attorney Andrew Bakaj tweeted, yet declined further comment.
Lawyer Mark Zaid said the person, also an intelligence official, has direct knowledge of some of the allegations involving the initial whistleblower complaint, which triggered impeachment proceedings against the Republican president.
The complaint, filed with the inspector general on Aug. 12, cited information received from half a dozen U.S. officials expressing concern that Trump was using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country as he seeks re-election to a second term in 2020.
The emergence of a second protected witness complicates efforts by Trump and his Republican supporters to dismiss the complaint as politically motivated hearsay and may strengthen the Democrats’ case against him.
This comes as the initial whistleblower from within the U.S. intelligence community lodged a complaint with an internal watchdog about Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
The call, which was later released by the White House, confirmed that the U.S. president asked Zelenskiy to investigate his political rival in coordination with the U.S. attorney general and Trump’s personal lawyer, which in turn occurred after Trump had ordered a freeze of nearly US$400 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine, which the administration only later released.
Trump has denied he did this to get leverage or blackmail Zelenskiy.
“What those notes reflect is a classic Mafia-like shakedown of a foreign leader,” said Democrat Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee after the summary was released.
Following the scandal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry of Trump, adding the “the actions revealed the dishonorable fact of the President’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.”
Under the U.S. Constitution, the House has the power to impeach a president for “high crimes and misdemeanors” and the Senate then holds a trial on whether to remove the president from office. No president has ever been removed from office through impeachment. Democrats currently control the House and Republicans control the Senate.