A second whistleblower has come forward with information about Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine as the US president faces an impeachment probe and an escalating political crisis.
Mark Zaid, an attorney specialising in national security issues, told US news channel ABC that the second whistleblower had first-hand knowledge of the allegations set out against Mr Trump and his officials in an original complaint that is at the centre of the impeachment probe.
On Twitter, Mr Zaid added that the second person had made “a protected disclosure under law”, and “cannot be retaliated against”. Mr Trump has called for the identity of the first whistleblower to be revealed.
Andrew Bakaj, another attorney who represents the original whistleblower, tweeted that his firm represents “multiple whistleblowers in connection to the underlying August 12, 2019, disclosure to the Intelligence Community Inspector General”.
The original seven-page whistleblower statement alleged that Mr Trump had pressured Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden, and the business dealings of his son Hunter. Officials then used a classified storage system to hide a transcript of a call between Mr Trump and Mr Zelensky, the whistleblower said.
A second complaint from an intelligence official could worsen Mr Trump’s political woes by adding credibility to the account of the first whistleblower, at a time when he is being investigated by House Democrats and facing unease from within his own Republican party.
Mr Trump has attracted fire from some Republicans after he suggested on Thursday that Beijing could investigate Mr Biden and his son’s business operations in China.
Susan Collins, the Republican senator from Maine, said on Saturday: “I thought the president made a big mistake by asking China to get involved in investigating a political opponent.”
“It’s completely inappropriate,” she was quoted as saying by the Bangor Daily News.
Mitt Romney, the Utah Republican senator who was the Republican presidential candidate in 2012, slammed the president’s appeal to China as “appalling”. Mr Trump responded in a Twitter tirade over the weekend, referring to Mr Romney as a “pompous ass.”
Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican senator widely seen as a future presidential contender, later criticised the president’s appeal to China in an interview with the Omaha World-Herald newspaper, while Texan Republican lawmaker Will Hurd said the appeal to a US “adversary” was “terrible”.
But most Republicans are refusing, at least publicly, to criticise the president. Speaking on ABC on Sunday, the top Republican on the House oversight committee — one of the three committees leading the impeachment probe — defended Mr Trump’s remarks on China by arguing that he had been “tougher on China than any other president”.
Jim Jordan said he did not believe Mr Trump “really meant” it when he called on Beijing to investigate the Bidens.
He alluded to remarks made by Florida Republican senator Marco Rubio, who said in a press conference on Friday that he did not know if Mr Trump’s request to China was real, and that the president could merely have been “needling the press, knowing you guys were going to get outraged by it.”
Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry issued subpoenas for documents to the White House on Friday. Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, and Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, have also received subpoenas in connection with the inquiry.
Mr Pompeo, who has been travelling in Europe for the past week, defended Mr Trump to reporters in a press conference in Greece on Saturday.
“It is not only appropriate, but it is our duty to investigate if we think there was interference in the election of 2016,” Mr Pompeo said in Athens. “I think everyone recognises that governments have an obligation — indeed, a duty — to ensure that elections happen with integrity, without interference from any government, whether that’s the Ukrainian government or any other. And so inquiries with respect to that are completely important.”
Lawmakers have asked five current and former state department officials to appear in deputations as part of the impeachment inquiry. Last week Mr Pompeo accused the committees of harassing his staff, a charge he repeated in Athens on Saturday.
Late on Thursday evening, House committees investigating Mr Trump released text messages exchanged between three US diplomats showing that they offered Mr Zelensky a White House meeting with Mr Trump on the condition that he investigated the Bidens.