WASHINGTON – Lawmakers got their first chance on Wednesday to read the whistleblower complaint at the center of the worsening controversy over President Donald Trump requesting Ukraine’s help against a political foe, outlining allegations that members of both parties found troubling.
Democrats quickly characterized the accusations outlined in the complaint as “deeply disturbing” and said it only energized their efforts to investigate Trump’s conduct further. Republicans, meanwhile, did not want to entertain questions about the contents of the report, though some urged caution and admitted the allegations were concerning.
“I found the allegations deeply disturbing. I also found them very credible,” Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff said after reading the report. He added that the complaint “was an urgent matter and is an urgent matter.”
Schiff, D-Calif., said he found the complaint to be “well-written” and called it a “travesty” that it was withheld from Congress for so long, as it was filed Aug. 12. He would not detail the contents of the complaint, nor the subject of it.
Throughout Tuesday afternoon, members of the House Intelligence Committee descended down a spiral, marble staircase one-by-one to view the whistleblower complaint. They viewed the document in a private room located behind two oak doors marked with red signs reading “Restricted Area.”
Senators on the Intelligence Committee gathered around the same time in a room in the basement of the Capitol. After reading the complaint, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and a member of the committee, said there were perhaps “two conflicting views” of the report within the intelligence community and he was “looking forward” to hearing from both the acting intelligence chief and its watchdog on Thursday.
“There was a classified and unclassified portion,” he said, not elaborating on the length or contents of the complaint. Blunt said his level of concern was unchanged after reading the report. “It’s no higher than it was before.”
Other Republicans saw things differently. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., told reporters after viewing the complaint “there’s obviously lots that’s very troubling there.”
He said both Democrats and his Republican colleagues needed to slow down and refrain from playing politics.
”Republicans ought not to be rushing to circle the wagons to say there’s no ‘there there’ when there’s obviously lots that’s very troubling there,” Sasse said. He added that the Trump administration shouldn’t be “attacking the whistleblower as some talking points suggest” they would.
The anonymous whistleblower complaint from an intelligence official, which was initially withheld from Congress by acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, is at the center of the worsening scandal involving Trump’s interactions with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Maguire argued that the complaint did not address concerns of a member of the intelligence community so disclosing it to Congress was not required, even though the intelligence community’s Inspector General Michael Atkinson found the complaint to be urgent.
Democrats have accused the president of abusing his power by pressuring Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival, former vice president Joe Biden, during a July phone call with Zelensky. The allegations spurred House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to officially announce the House would pursue an inquiry into the impeachment of Trump, uniting her caucus after months of investigations into the president.
While Democrats and Republicans have disagreed on such a move, members of both parties agreed the complaint should be made available to the public.
“I believe strongly in transparency and it should be immediately declassified and made public for the American people to read,” Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik wrote on Twitter.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed, saying “the public has a right to read the whistleblower’s complaint for themselves” and it should be made available “immediately.”
“All I’ll tell you is this. Two things: Number one, having read the documents in there, I’m even more worried about what happened than when I read the memorandum of the conversation,” the New York Democrat said. “There are so many facts that have to be examined. It’s very troubling.”
Other Democrats agreed. After reading the complaint, House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., said “the materials I saw today, you know, only, I would say, corroborate, you know, their concerns that this is credible and urgent.”
“I’ll just say what it relates to is serious, urgent and credible, and we should hear from the whistleblower,” he said. Swalwell added that the complaint offered “new leads, new witnesses, new materials to follow and pursue.”
Earlier Wednesday, the White House released a summary of the phone conversation between Trump and Zelensky.
“The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great,” Trump says in the summary. “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it... It sounds horrible to me.”
Read more at USAToday.com.