A senior Trump administration official acknowledged Friday that White House lawyers directed moving the transcript of President Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to a highly secure system.
Other details about what efforts were taken to move the records are not immediately known, beyond the allegations contained in the whistleblower complaint about that call.
The whistleblower complaint, which was declassified by the Trump administration and released to the public on Thursday by the House Intelligence Committee, alleges that White House officials said they were “directed” by White House attorneys to remove the transcript of the call from the computer system where they are normally kept.
The whistleblower alleged that the transcript was kept on a different system normally used for classified information. The whistleblower also said that, according to White House officials, it was “not the first time” a presidential transcript was placed into this system in order to protect politically sensitive information and not national security-sensitive information. The complaint alleged that the White House tried to “restrict access” to records of the call.
“In the days following the phone call, I learned from multiple U.S. officials that senior White House officials had intervened to ‘lock down’ all records of the phone call, especially the official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced—as customary—by the White House Situation Room,” the whistleblower stated.
The White House released an unclassified version of that transcript of the call on Wednesday. The memo, which does not reflect a “verbatim transcript” but is based on “notes and recollections” of those memorializing the call, shows Trump seeking assistance in investigating the Bidens.
“The other thing, there is a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great,” he said. “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it…sounds horrible to me.”
This refers to Joe Biden, while vice president, urging Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor Viktor Shokin who was investigating the natural gas firm Burisma Holdings—where his son, Hunter Biden, was on the board. Biden allies maintain that corruption concerns prompted his intervention.
But the whistleblower’s complaint alleges that Trump was soliciting foreign assistance to help in the 2020 campaign. The whistleblower acknowledged in the complaint, though, that the concerns were based on second-hand information.
The White House lawyers’ directive to move the transcript has been characterized by top Democrats as a “cover-up.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who was prompted by Ukraine developments this week to announce a formal impeachment inquiry into the president, called the move a “cover-up” and said it would be part of the impeachment inquiry.
Meanwhile, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow downplayed the importance of the record-keeping details.
“A cover-up? Think about that for a moment," Sekulow said on “Fox & Friends” Friday. "The White House secured a call with the president of Ukraine? It’s so secret and such a cover-up, here’s the documents. This is nonsense.”
Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.