A second whistleblower has come forward in the impeachment case against US President Donald Trump, according to a lawyer representing the original whistleblower.
Mark Zaid – who filed a formal complaint with the inspector general last month, triggering the impeachment inquiry says the second whistleblower, who also works in intelligence, had not filed a complaint with the inspector general but had “firsthand knowledge that supported” the original whistleblower.
The original whistleblower complained that Trump was “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country” in the 2020 US election.
Trump and his supporters have rejected the accusations that he did anything improper.
However as more evidence emerges of his alleged abuse of power extorting Ukranian help to dig up dirt on a political opponent’s family, Trump’s excuses appear to be all over the place.
So far the Republican party is continuing to defend the president. Trump blamed his outgoing energy secretary, Rick Perry. He is reported by Axios to have told Republicans that his phone call to the Ukraine was done at the bidding of Rick Perry.
Trump is “taking you all down with him”
“Not a lot of people know this but, I didn’t even want to make the call,” Trump was quoted as saying. “The only reason I made the call was because Rick asked me to.”
A spokesperson for Rick Perry said that while he had asked Donald Trump to speak with Ukraine about natural gas he had not asked the president to bring up Joe Biden or his son Hunter Biden.
“Lesson to all of you Trump aides,” tweeted Neera Tanden, president of the liberal Center for American Progress, “he’s taking you all down with him so you might as well get off the boat while you can.”
Earlier, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said his department intended to follow the law in the House impeachment investigation and vigorously defended Donald Trump, dismissing questions about the president’s attempts to push Ukraine and China to investigate a Democratic political rival.
The Trump administration and House Democrats often disagree about what the law requires, leaving open the question of how Mr Pompeo may interpret Democrats’ demands for key information about Mr Trump’s handling of Ukraine.
Mr Pompeo, speaking on Saturday in Greece, said the State Department sent a letter to Congress on Friday night as its initial response to the document request, and added: “We’ll obviously do all the things that we’re required to do by law.”
He is allowing Democrats to interview a series of witnesses next week, among them Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, who is another key figure in the probe.
The administration has struggled to come up with a unified response to the quickly progressing investigation. And Donald Trump’s tweets about the Democrats have become more hysterical.
Democrats have warned that defying their demands will in itself be considered “evidence of obstruction” and a potentially impeachable offence.
As for Mr Trump, rather than visiting his nearby golf course in Sterling, Virginia, for a second day, he stayed at the White House, where he tweeted and retweeted, with the Bidens a main target.
“The great scam is revealed!”
“The great Scam is being revealed!” Trump wrote at one point, continuing to paint himself as the victim of a “deep state” and hostile Democrats, even after publicly calling on another foreign government, China, last week to investigate Mr Biden.
“In my experience, asking a foreign government to manufacture lies about your domestic political opponent is not “done all the time.”” tweeted Joe Biden, responding to the heated attacks from Donald Trump as he deflects from the content of his telephone call to the Ukranian premier in which he brought up the prosecution of Biden’s son Hunter.
Additional details about Mr Trump’s July 25 call with Mr Zelenskiy also emerged on Sunday.
Shaylyn Hynes, a spokeswoman for Energy Secretary Rick Perry, said Mr Perry had encouraged Mr Trump to speak with the Ukrainian leader, but on energy and economic issues.
Ms Hynes said Mr Perry’s interest in Ukraine was part of US efforts to boost Western energy ties to Eastern Europe.
Meanwhile, Mr Pompeo has become a key figure in the Democrats’ investigation.
He was on the line during the July phone call in which Mr Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter – sparking a whistleblower complaint and now the impeachment inquiry.
Mr Pompeo had initially tried to delay a handful of current and former officials’ co-operation with the inquiry and accused Democrats of trying to “bully” his staff.
On Saturday, Mr Pompeo did not back off in his defence of Mr Trump’s call with Ukraine.
“There has been some suggestion somehow that it would be inappropriate for the United States government to engage in that activity and I see it just precisely the opposite,” he said.
Donald Trump’s contradictory statements
Mr Trump has offered a series of contradictory statements when it comes to the Democrats’ subpoena of White House records.
Asked on Wednesday whether the White House intended to comply, Mr Trump told reporters “I always cooperate”, even as he dismissed the inquiry as “a hoax”.
But a day later he had a different answer for the same question, saying he would instead leave the matter to his lawyers.
“That’s up to them to decide,” he said.
“But the whole investigation is crumbling.”
By Friday, however, the president confirmed reports that the White House was preparing a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, arguing that Congress cannot undertake an impeachment investigation without first having a vote to authorise it.
Ms Pelosi has insisted the House is well within its rules to conduct oversight of the executive branch under the Constitution regardless.
It was unclear on Saturday when or if that letter would be sent.