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What Ukraine Learned From Declassified Whistleblower Complaint
26 September, 2019
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U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. EPA-EFE/SHAWN THEW; EPA-EFE/STEPAN FRANKO

Following the declassification of the whistleblower complaint, which accused U.S. President Donald Trump of applying pressure on his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy in order to promote his political interests, new details emerge about alleged actions by the U.S. government. 

Hromadske takes a look at what the whistleblower's complaint uncovered.

Burisma Case

The declassified document claims that the Ukrainian leadership was made aware that Zelenskyy's chances of having a meeting or phone call with Trump would depend on whether he showed willingness to "play ball" on issues that advanced Trump's political interests, mainly the investigation of the Burisma case in Ukraine.

Burisma is a Ukrainian gas company where Hunter Biden, the son of Trump's likely rival in the 2020 U.S. presidential election Joe Biden, held a well-paid position until recently. It was reportedly featured in an investigation by a former Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin who resigned in 2016 following months of strong criticism from Ukraine's most well-known anti-corruption crusaders. U.S. President Trump believes that Shokin's quitting (although voluntary, but under pressure from many, including Biden himself) was"really unfair," the rough transcript of his July 25 call with Zelenskyy reads. 

READ MORE: Oliver Bullough Talks Giuliani, Biden, and Burisma

However, there is no evidence that Shokin was seriously investigating Burisma. In fact, Shokin was criticized by many anti-corruption activists for covering up for corruption cases and hampering reforms.

Manipulation Attempts? 

The appendix to the document also suggests that Trump may have used pressure on Zelenskyy even as far back as in May when the former comedian was inaugurated as the President of Ukraine. According to the appendix, Trump told U.S. Vice President Mike Pence to cancel his visit to attend the May 20 inauguration just six days before the event.

"According to [U.S.] officials, it was already 'made clear' to them [in May] that the President did not want to meet with Mr. Zelenskyy until he saw how Zelenskyy 'chose to act'," the whistleblower wrote adding, however, that he does not know whether this was connected to the request that Zelenskyy "plays ball" on the Burisma case. 

READ MORE: What Trump’s New Scandal Means for Ukraine

Another point in the appendix suggests that Trump may have tried to manipulate Zelenskyy when he instructed to suspend all U.S. security assistance to Ukraine without other governmental bodies' awareness in July.

"Neither [the Office of Management and Budget], nor the [National Security Council] staff knew why this instruction had been issued," the appendix reads. 

Concerns About the Call

According to the complaint's text, the U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker and the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, made attempts to minimize the damage to U.S. national security that came as a result of Trump's actions before and after the call.

READ MORE: Ukraine's Zelenskyy Denies Singling Out "Biden Case"

A day after the call, on July 26, Volker and Sondland met with Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian political figures in Kyiv to advise them on "how to navigate" Trump's demands. While in the lead up to the phone conversation,  in mid-May, the U.S. ambassadors spoke with Trump's lawyer and central figure in the alleged scandal, Rudolph Giuliani, to "contain the damage" to U.S. national security. Volker and Sondland also spoke with Ukraine's new administration to help them "understand and respond to the differing messages they were receiving from official U.S. channels on the one hand, and from Mr. Giuliani on the other," the complaint reads.

But Volker and Sondland seem to be not the only officials who were disturbed by Trump's and his lawyer's behavior. According to the anonymous whistleblower, a number of White House officials who listened to the July 25 call were "deeply disturbed by what had transpired in the phone call" and consulted lawyers about how to treat the information they heard.

Attempts to Hide the Transcript

The document also states that Trump's government made multiple attempts to hide the transcript of the July 25 call between him and Zelenskyy, despite the call being treated as "routine" earlier.

According to the anonymous whistleblower, they were told by multiple U.S. officials that there were attempts by senior White House officials to "lock down all records of the phone call, especially the official word-for-word transcript of that call" produced by the White House Situation Room.

READ MORE: What the White House Memo Reveals About the Zelenskyy/Trump Phone Call

/By Maria Romanenko