October 17, 2019
The cat is investigating who ate the canary. President Donald Trump has for weeks sought to unmask the whistle-blower who revealed his Ukraine dealings. Now, administration attorneys have begun a “fact-finding review” on the actions leading up to the current impeachment inquiry— and some White House denizens fear that it is really a hunt for a scapegoat, according to sources tapped by The New York Times.
Specifically, the news outlet reports, the legal investigators are seeking to understand White House officials’ actions around Trump’s July 25 call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, which is central to the whistle-blower’s allegation that the POTUS abused his power.
The lawyers are particularly interested in why one of their colleagues, National Security Council Legal Advisor John A. Eisenberg, placed a rough transcript of the call in a computer system typically reserved for the country’s most closely guarded secrets. The president later directed that a reconstructed transcript be released amid intensifying scrutiny from House Democrats.
According to the Times, “The review shows how quickly the impeachment inquiry escalated tensions in a West Wing already divided over the publication of the transcript, and it appears to be the latest example of administration officials rushing to protect themselves in the Ukraine scandal.”
For his own part, Eisenberg has reacted angrily to suggestions that he is under scrutiny, according to two people told of his response. He has said he limited access to the transcript over concerns about leaks, according to a person familiar with his actions. He declined through a National Security Council spokesman to comment.
It was not clear who sought the review. The Acting White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, is said to have encouraged it, and his aides are helping the White House Counsel’s Office, led by Pat Cipollone, sources said. Aides in the two offices have otherwise been at odds since the transcript was released, according to administration officials.
The existence of the review could threaten the president’s narrative that his call with Zelensky was “perfect.” Instead, the review underscores the evidence that he bent foreign policy to his personal advantage by pressing Zelensky to open investigations that could damage his political opponents.
Research contact: @nytimes