Second Whistleblower In The Ukraine Affair Comes Forward

Oct 7, 2019
Originally published on October 7, 2019 6:59 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Over the weekend, we learned that a second whistleblower has come forward in the Ukraine affair. The anonymous individual is said to have firsthand knowledge of President Trump's dealings with Ukraine. NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas is here in the studio with more. Hey there, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Hello there.

KELLY: So whistleblower number two - what do we know about this person?

LUCAS: A lot remains a mystery, to be honest. The individual has been described as an intelligence official but remains, as you said, anonymous. He or she is being represented by the same legal team as the whistleblower who submitted the initial formal complaint to the Intelligence Committee inspector general, and it's that complaint, of course, that kicked off this whole Trump-Ukraine affair.

One of the lawyers on the legal team, Mark Zaid, says this second individual has spoken with the inspector general. That means that this person now qualifies for whistleblower legal protections under the law. Zaid says this individual has not filed a formal complaint, which means that he or she is almost more like a fact witness at this point who can possibly corroborate material in the initial whistleblower complaint.

KELLY: OK. That's an important point, though - that they have not filed a formal complaint, so that's not going to be the next document that drops into our lap. Still, this is the emergence of a second whistleblower - potentially very good news for Democrats and their impeachment inquiry, no?

LUCAS: Right. This could be a significant boost. Remember, one of the lines of attack that we've heard from the president and his allies is that the initial whistleblower does not have firsthand knowledge of the events described. They've said that despite the fact that the whistleblower's account of the phone call between President Trump and the Ukrainian president matches the account released by the White House. If this second whistleblower has, as it has been said, firsthand knowledge of some of the events mentioned in the complaint, that could significantly bolster the case against Trump, and House Democrats are definitely going to want to talk to this person as part of their ongoing impeachment inquiry.

KELLY: All right. Let me loop you back now to where things stand with the original whistleblower. There have been efforts underway to get this person to testify before lawmakers, before the committees who are doing the impeachment inquiry. Where does that stand?

LUCAS: The whistleblower still has not met with lawmakers or staff from those committees. The whistleblower's lawyers had been waiting for interim security clearances from the government so that they can accompany their client in any interviews or meetings with Congress. I'm told that those interim security clearances have come through, that they came through and took effect today, so that's a step forward. A source tells me that talks on setting up meetings with congressional committees are still taking place at this point, and there is no date set as of yet.

KELLY: Another front to ask you about, Ryan, which is - three House committees today subpoenaed the Pentagon and the White House budget office. Do we know what they were subpoenaing, what they want?

LUCAS: Well, the House Intelligence, the House Oversight and the House Foreign Affairs Committees have been busy in the past week or so issuing subpoenas, all as part of this impeachment inquiry. They've already subpoenaed the White House and the State Department, as well as President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

KELLY: Right.

LUCAS: Today's subpoenas to the Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget are the latest on that front. These new subpoenas are not for testimony. They are for documents. The committees are demanding records that would shed light on why the White House withheld some $400 million in military aid to Ukraine and the timeline for that decision. Remember, one of the things that House Democrats are investigating is whether Trump held back aid to Ukraine as leverage to get the Ukrainian government to agree to investigate Joe Biden.

KELLY: The so-called quid pro quo, which is...

LUCAS: Exactly, and lawmakers have given the Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget until October 15th - so just over a week - to provide the relevant documents. But the next step in the impeachment inquiry is not these documents. It's tomorrow on Capitol Hill. That is when one of the key figures so far in this affair, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, is expected to testify behind closed doors.

KELLY: All right. We shall watch for that tomorrow. That's NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas. Thank you, Ryan.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.