Utah Republican Rep. Chris Stewart announced on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” and on social media late Wednesday that the explosive whistleblower complaint concerning President Trump’s July call with Ukraine’s leader has been declassified — and Stewart said that it doesn’t contain any damning information.
“I encourage you all to read it,” Stewart tweeted. The complaint was not immediately available to the public, but was expected to be released Thursday morning.
“It’s been declassified and it’s been released,” Stewart separately told anchor Laura Ingraham. “So it should be available for everyone to go and look at.”
Stewart added that he has personally viewed the complaint, and was initially “anxious” before he took a look — but now is “much more confident than I was this morning that this is going to go nowhere. … there are just no surprises there.”
TRUMP GOES ON THE OFFENSIVE, ALLEGES BIDEN CORRUPTION, SAYS DEMS THREATENED UKRAINE AID MULTIPLE TIMES
He continued, “The entirety of it is focused on this one thing, and that’s the transcript of one phone call, the transcript that was released this morning.”
The major development came hours before Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire was set to testify before Congress on Thursday. Fox News is told there was serious conversation among lawmakers as to how far Maguire could go in an open session at the hearing. One source tells Fox News the administration may have declassified the document so it could be discussed publicly during the hearing.
On Wednesday, Maguire flatly contradicted a report in The Washington Post, and asserted that he never considered resigning over the whistleblower matter or for any other reason.
A bipartisan select group of intelligence committee lawmakers in the House and Senate, who have been demanding details of the whistleblower’s complaint, were granted access to the document in a secure and classified setting earlier Wednesday ahead of Maguire’s testimony.
Earlier in the day, the White House released a declassified transcript of Trump’s July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, showing Trump sought a review of former Vice President Joe Biden’s efforts to have Ukraine’s former top prosecutor fired.
Joe Biden has acknowledged on camera that, when he was vice president, he successfully pressured Ukraine to fire that prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was investigating the natural gas firm Burisma Holdings — where Hunter Biden had a highly lucrative role on the board despite limited relevant expertise. Shokin himself had been widely accused of corruption, while critics charged that Hunter Biden might have been essentially selling access to his father, who had pushed Ukraine to increase its natural gas production.
Trump made the request on the call only after Zelensky first mentioned Ukraine’s corruption issues, and after Trump separately requested as a “favor” that Ukraine help investigate foreign interference in the 2016 elections, including the hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) server involving the data security company CrowdStrike.
Multiple news outlets, including The New York Times, CNN, and The Washington Post, inaccurately reported that the “favor” related specifically to investigating Biden.
“I guarantee as the President of Ukraine that all the investigations will be done openly and candidly,” Zelensky said in the transcript. That prompted Trump to remark, “Good, because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good. … he was shut down and that’s really unfair. … The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you ·can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.”
The transcript did not demonstrate that Trump leveraged military aid to Ukraine to obtain a “promise” on a Biden investigation, as a widely cited report in The Washington Post had claimed.
READ THE FULL TRANSCRIPT OF THE TRUMP PHONE CALL
Meanwhile, lawyers for the whistleblower – a member of the intelligence community – confirmed to Fox News on Wednesday that the whistleblower wanted to testify before Congress and was waiting on possible guidance from Maguire.
The lawyers also confirmed to Fox News they had worked with a nonprofit to establish a GoFundMe page seeking to raise an initial $100,000 for the whistleblower’s legal defense.
The whirlwind turn of events came as President Trump has continued his efforts to turn the tables on Democrats.
WHISTLEBLOWER SETS UP GOFUNDME, WANTS $100G
At a press conference in New York on Wednesday, Trump specifically called attention to a little-discussed CNN report from May, which described how Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez, Dick Durbin, and Patrick Leahy pushed Ukraine’s top prosecutor not to close four investigations perceived as critical to then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe — and, by Democrats’ current logic, seemingly implied that their support for U.S. aid to Ukraine was at stake.
“The Democrats have done what they’re accusing me of doing,” Trump said.
The Democratic senators wrote in a letter to Ukraine’s leader at the time: “In four short years, Ukraine has made significant progress in building [democratic] institutions despite ongoing military, economic, and political pressure from Moscow. We have supported [the] capacity-building process and are disappointed that some in Kyiv appear to have cast aside these [democratic] principles to avoid the ire of President Trump.”
The senators called for the top prosecutor to “reverse course and halt any efforts to impede cooperation with this important investigation.”
The Post’s Marc Thiessen initially flagged the letter on Tuesday, calling it evidence of a “double standard” among Democrats.
“Senator Chris Murphy literally threatened the president of Ukraine that if he doesn’t do things right, they won’t have Democrat support in Congress,” Trump added.
That was a reference to the Connecticut Democrat’s comments at a bipartisan meeting in Kiev earlier this month when Murphy called U.S. aid the “most important asset” of Ukraine — then issued a warning.
“I told Zelensky that he should not insert himself or his government into American politics,” Murphy said, according to The Hill. “I cautioned him that complying with the demands of the President’s campaign representatives to investigate a political rival of the President would gravely damage the U.S.-Ukraine relationship. There are few things that Republicans and Democrats agree on in Washington these days, and support for Ukraine is one of them.”
Responding to Trump’s statements, Murphy said that “in the meeting Republican Senator Ron Johnson and I had with President Zelensky three weeks ago, I made it clear to him that Ukraine should not become involved in the 2020 election and that his government should communicate with the State Department, not the president’s campaign. I still believe this to be true.”
Trump’s comments came shortly after he wrapped up a joint media appearance with Zelensky — who flatly told reporters that he did not feel “pushed” to investigate Joe Biden.
“We had a great phone call,” Zelensky said earlier, as he sat across from Trump. “It was normal.”
In colorful language, Trump told reporters that the evidence clearly showed Democrats were disingenuously attacking him for political gain.
“We have the greatest economy we’ve ever had,” the president said. “When you see little [House Intelligence Committee Chair] Adam Schiff go out and lie and lie and stand at the mic, smart guy by the way. … Then he goes into a room with [House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry] Nadler, and they must laugh their asses off.”
“They must laugh their asses off.”
Not all Democrats in the House have been on board with impeachment. 2020 presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, said Wednesday that the Ukraine transcript did not present a “compelling” reason to impeach the president.
Taking the fight to the Democrats over the scores of Democrats who do support an impeachment inquiry could pay dividends for Republicans ahead of next year’s elections. The National Republican Congressional Committee indicated Wednesday that its fundraising was up 608 percent after Democrats’ impeachment push.
And the Trump reelection campaign and GOP announced they had raised a combined $5 million in just 24 hours.
Trump on Wednesday also called for transparency “from Joe Biden and his son Hunter on the millions of dollars that have been quickly and easily taken out of Ukraine and China.”
After Trump spoke, political scientist Ian Bremmer said the real scandal wasn’t Biden’s pressure to get rid of Ukraine’s prosecutor, but Hunter Biden’s lucrative business work in Ukraine.
Hunter Biden took a key position at Burisma shortly after Joe Biden visited Ukraine in 2014 and pushed officials there to greatly increase natural gas production. Hunter made tens of thousands of dollars a month but had no relevant credentials.
“Impossible to justify $50k/month for Hunter Biden serving on a Ukrainian energy board w zero expertise unless he promised to sell access,” Bremmer wrote.
“That’s a problem for the Vice President, but completely unrelated to Biden urging Ukraine President to fire his Special Prosecutor,” Bremmer continued. “[The prosecutor] was corrupt, refused to investigate anyone, and who Dems and GOP agreed needed to go.”
Also during the day, the Justice Department – in a new letter from the Office of Legal Counsel obtained by Fox News –pushed back on the claim that the whistleblower brought out something of “urgent concern” that would have to be turned over to Congress.
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The letter also said the intelligence community inspector general found “some indicia of an arguable political bias on the part of the complainant in favor of a rival political candidate,” but still said the allegations “appeared credible.” Fox News previously reported that, according to a source, the individual also did not have “firsthand knowledge” of the phone call.
Sources, meanwhile, said the original allegations spoke to a possible campaign finance violation, but the DOJ concluded that Trump’s request for an investigation did not qualify as a “thing of value” for his campaign – and therefore did not constitute a criminal violation.
Fox News’ Alex Pappas, Ed Henry, Jake Gibson, Catherine Herridge, Kevin Corke and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.