The intelligence community inspector general (ICIG) found that the Ukraine whistleblower exhibited “arguable political bias” but said the allegations included in his complaint were nevertheless worthy of investigation, according to a Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel opinion released Wednesday.
“Although the ICIG’s preliminary review found ‘some indica of an arguable political bias on the part of the Complainant in favor of a rival political candidate,’ the ICIG concluded that the complaint’s allegations nonetheless appeared credible,” the OLC opinion read.
The ICIG determined that the whistleblower’s complaint, which alleged that Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky included a request for an illegal campaign contribution, represented an “urgent concern,” and should therefore be shared with the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
“Statements made by the president during the call could be viewed as soliciting a foreign campaign contribution in violation of campaign-finance laws,” the inspector general found.
But the Justice Department overruled the ICIG’s determination, finding that the complaint was not “urgent” because it did not relate to “the funding, administration, or operation of an intelligence activity,”and therefore did not have to be released to the congressional intelligence committees.
The White House on Wednesday released a partial transcript of the controversial July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The transcript confirmed that Trump asked Zelensky to help investigate former vice president Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, over allegations that the former vice president used his position to help a Ukrainian energy company avoid a corruption probe soon after Hunter was appointed to its board of directors.
The whistleblower complaint was made by an anonymous member of the intelligence community who did not have direct knowledge of the call but instead relied on “hearsay” gleaned from White House officials, according to the OLC opinion. The unnamed whistleblower is scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday.
“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,” Trump told Zelensky over the phone. “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.”
Zelensky responded by assuring Trump that a new prosecutor would investigate the situation.
“He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue,” the Ukrainian president said, adding that he hopes the investigation will restore “honesty.”
According to the whistleblower, Zelensky’s offer to investigate Biden may represent a campaign finance law violation because foreign nationals are prohibited from contributing to American political campaigns in any way, including by conducting opposition research on rival candidates.
Trump on Tuesday admitted to temporarily withholding nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine intended to protect against Russian aggression, but said he did so because he wished other countries to contribute to Ukraine as well.
The Justice Department previously declined to investigate the phone call, saying no campaign finance violation occurred and “no further action was warranted.”