In the days since an anonymous whistleblower complaint was made public accusing him of wrongdoing, President Trump has lashed out at his accuser and other insiders who provided the accuser with information, suggesting they were improperly spying on what was a “perfect” call between him and the Ukrainian president. But a timeline provided by U.S. officials familiar with the matter shows that multiple senior government officials appointed by Trump found the whistleblower’s complaints credible, troubling, and worthy of further inquiry starting soon after the president’s July phone call.
While that timeline and the CIA general counsel’s contact with the DOJ has been previously disclosed, it has not been reported that the CIA’s top lawyer intended the call to be to make a criminal referral about the president’s conduct, acting under rules set forth in a memo governing how intelligence agencies should report allegations of federal crimes.
The fact that she and other top Trump administration political appointees saw potential misconduct in the whistleblower’s early account of alleged presidential abuses puts a new spotlight on the Justice Department’s later decision to decline to open a criminal investigation — a decision that the Justice Department said publicly was based purely on an analysis of whether the president committed a campaign finance law violation.
“They didn’t do any of the sort of bread and butter type investigatory steps that would flush out what potential crimes may have been committed,” said Berit Berger, a former federal prosecutor who heads the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity at Columbia Law School. “I don’t understand the rationale for that and it’s just so contrary to how normal prosecutors work. We have started investigations on far less.”