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President Donald Trump claimed Wednesday that the intelligence community whistleblower whose complaint led to an impeachment inquiry has ties to his Democratic “opponents,” a charge met with pushback from the still-anonymous person’s lawyer.

“The Whistleblower’s facts have been so incorrect about my ‘no pressure’ conversation with the Ukrainian President, and now the conflict of interest and involvement with a Democrat Candidate, that he or she should be exposed and questioned properly. This is no Whistleblower,” Trump said in a tweet Wednesday morning.

“The Whistleblower’s lawyer is a big Democrat. The Whistleblower has ties to one of my DEMOCRAT OPPONENTS. Why does the ICIG allow this scam to continue?” he continued.

Trump and some Republican allies, including Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, have previously said the identity of the whistleblower whose complaint galvanized an impeachment inquiry should be made public, even though whistleblower laws protect requests for confidentiality.

Mark Zaid, an attorney for the whistleblower, called the identity of his client “irrelevant” — but responded Wednesday evening to what he said were “ongoing efforts to mischaracterize whistleblower #1’s alleged ‘bias’ in order to detract from the substance of the complaint.”

Beyond Zaid’s comments — and what Inspector General of the Intelligence Community Michael Atkinson wrote in a letter released to the public on Sept. 26 — not much else is known about the still-anonymous person who wrote the complaint. That letter, addressed to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire and dated Aug. 26, raised the appearance of bias.

What the letter said about the whistleblower’s politics

Atkinson wrote to Maguire that he considered an “indicia of an arguable political bias on the part of the Complainant in favor of a rival political candidate” in considering the complaint’s credibility.

But Atkinson, a Trump appointee, determined that this did not change the facts surrounding the issue, “particularly given the other information the ICIG obtained during its preliminary review” of the complaint. He concluded the complaint was “credible” and of “urgent concern.”

While a Congressional investigation is ongoing, Atkinson is the first person who will have had a chance to evaluate the complaint. Attorneys who represent whistleblowers told NBC News last week that once a complaint is filed, the internal watchdog is charged with reviewing its credibility, which might mean reviewing documents and interviewing witnesses to check for corroborating information.

Trump’s allegations

Trump’s tweets Wednesday also alleged “involvement with a Democratic candidate,” citing media reports not confirmed by NBC News.

Zaid, responding Wednesday, said the whistleblower “never worked for or advised a political candidate, campaign, or party,” and had spent their government career in apolitical roles in the executive branch.

“In these positions our client has come into contact with presidential candidates from both parties in their roles as elected officials—not as candidates,” Zaid said, adding that the whistleblower “voluntarily provided relevant career information” to help Atkinson vet his complaint.

Testifying to Congress, Acting Director of the National Intelligence Joseph Maguire said he had “every reason to believe that they have done everything by the book and followed the law.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who helped write the whistleblower protection laws, agreed, breaking with many in his party to admonish politicians and media commentators “for uninformed speculation” wielded by “a partisan weapon.”

But some of Trump’s allies have made it clear they are not satisfied.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., wrote a stinging letter to Atkinson Wednesday, demanding details on the “arguable political bias” he’d referenced in his August letter to Maguire.

“This information is urgently relevant for the American people and their elected representatives to evaluate the complainant’s credibility and to determine whether the House’s so-called impeachment inquiry has been, in reality, a well-coordinated partisan attack from the beginning,” Cotton wrote.

Trump’s other claims

There’s no evidence that the whistleblower complaint was “so incorrect,” as Trump said, and in fact many of the allegations have been corroborated publicly since his complaint. A White House summary of Trump’s July call with Ukraine’s president at the center of report confirmed much of the whistleblower’s account, even though the whistleblower was not on the call himself.

“I would say the whistleblower’s complaint is in alignment with what was released yesterday by the president,” Maguire told Congress during testimony on Sept. 26.

A second whistleblower came forward with information about Trump’s call with the president of Ukraine earlier this month. Zaid said that the second whistleblower “has first-hand knowledge” of the events.

Trump also claimed that Zaid is a “big Democrat;” Zaid wrote on Twitter that he is a registered political Independent who has represented members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. He added that he represented the Republican National Committee in a suit involving Hillary Clinton emails.



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Politics

George Kent tells lawmakers he was told to ‘lay low’ after raising concerns about Giuliani

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WASHINGTON — State Department official George Kent told lawmakers in a closed-door deposition Tuesday that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney appointed three other Trump administration officials to spearhead the president’s efforts in Ukraine.

According to Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who was present for the deposition, Kent testified that Mulvaney oversaw a meeting where he sidelined State Department officials and tapped three political appointees — Energy Secretary Rick Perry, European Ambassador Gordon Sondland and special envoy Kurt Volker — to oversee Ukraine policy for the United States.

Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state who worked on Ukraine and five other countries, told congressional investigators that the trio called themselves “the three amigos” and elbowed all the other officials at State out of the way, according to Connolly.

This not the first time Mulvaney was mentioned in depositions as part of the impeachment inquiry. President Donald Trump’s former Russia adviser Fiona Hill testified that then-national security adviser John Bolton said he wanted nothing to do with Mulvaney and Giuliani’s objectives in Ukraine, which Bolton said amounted to a “drug deal.”

Just weeks before the May 23 meeting, Marie Yovanovich was told that she was being recalled as the ambassador to Ukraine despite being told that she had done nothing wrong, according to her congressional testimony last week.

According to Connolly, Kent also testified that after the May 23 meeting, he was told to “lay low” by a superior when he raised concerns about Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who was working to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden.

“The way I took it,” Connolly told NBC News, was that Kent “had just finished describing how he had told people that this is wrong, that Giuliani is out of control.”

Kent also said, according to Connolly, that the Trump allies who pushed for Ukraine to investigate corruption made it clear that “POTUS” wanted cooperation from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and the Ukrainian government.

Kent, who attended meetings and receptions with Zelenskiy and his advisers, said that Sondland and Volker floated the idea of a meeting with Trump, according to Connolly. Text messages between Volker and Sondland released this month also show that Zeleneskiy’s cooperation was expected in order to meet with Trump.

Volker testified behind closed doors last week that Trump wanted the Ukrainian government to investigate corruption in Ukraine but that there was “no quid pro quo” for military and security aid, which the administration had put on hold for nearly four months. Sondland is expected to testify under subpoena on Thursday.

During his nearly 10 hours of testimony, Kent also told members of Congress and their staff that Burisma, the energy company where Hunter Biden was a board member, was corrupt, according to a separate person who was present in the room. Kent said he told the Obama administration in 2016 that they should not hold an event with Burisma because of the company’s extensive corruption in Ukraine.

Kent was called in to testify because he raised the alarm about the disinformation campaign that Giuliani and his associates pushed regarding Ukraine, according to a emails included in the packet that the Intelligence Community’s Inspector General Michael Atkinson provided to Congress, obtained by NBC News. He sent a series of emails to colleagues alerting them of the “fake news driven smear out of Ukraine.”



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At debate, Democrats agree: Trump is a 'corrupt president'

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At the fourth Democratic presidential debate, 2020 hopefuls Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris and Tom Steyer take aim at Republican President Trump.

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Buttigieg and Gabbard, both veterans, spar on Syria policy

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Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, both veterans, disagree on U.S. involvement in Syria during the fourth Democratic presidential debate.

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