A second whistleblower with direct knowledge of an alleged plot by Donald Trump to extort Ukraine into producing dirt on his Democratic 2020 election rival Joe Biden has stepped forward, according to Mark Zaid, a lawyer for the first whistleblower in the case.
Zaid told ABC News on Sunday that he was representing a second whistleblower, described as a member of the intelligence community, in the case that has sparked an impeachment inquiry by the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill.
Zaid said he did not know whether his second client was the same “second whistleblower” whose existence was first reported by the New York Times on Saturday.
A colleague of Zaid’s, Andrew Bakaj, confirmed the news Sunday morning on Twitter: “I can confirm that my firm and my team represent multiple whistleblowers in connection to the underlying 12 August disclosure to the Intelligence Community Inspector General. No further comment at this time.”
An account by a second whistleblower reinforcing the original whistleblower complaint, made public two weeks ago, could accelerate the impeachment inquiry against Trump, announced by House speaker Nancy Pelosi on 24 September. The first complaint helped Democrats in Congress focus their inquiry on US and Ukrainian diplomats who helped arrange a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelinskiy.
The testimony by one of those diplomats, the former US special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, on Thursday led to the disclosure of six pages of text messages among diplomats and a Ukrainian presidential aid that captured a long-running conversation about how to procure a “deliverable” in extending a White House invitation to Zelenskiy.
The second whistleblower has spoken with the inspector general of the intelligence community, Zaid said. By becoming an official whistleblower, the individual would receive protections under federal law against retaliation by the president or anyone else.
A complaint submitted to the inspector general by the first whistleblower was made public two weeks ago. The complaint included a description of a phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy that to a high degree matched a summary of the call released by the White House a day earlier.
Trump and his defenders have attacked the first whistleblower by saying that the individual did not have direct knowledge of the conversations he or she was describing, and by saying, misleadingly, that the whistleblower had not accurately described the phone call, which Trump has said was “perfect” and “beautiful”.
As news emerged on Saturday that a second whistleblower was preparing to step forward, Trump kept up those lines of attack.
“The first so-called second hand information ‘Whistleblower’ got my phone conversation almost completely wrong,” the president tweeted, “so now word is they are going to the bench and another ‘Whistleblower’ is coming in from the Deep State, also with second hand info. Meet with Shifty. Keep them coming!”
“Shifty” is Trump’s smear for Representative Adam Schiff, the chairman of the intelligence committee, which is heading up the impeachment inquiry.
Trump, who often spends time over the weekend at one of his golf resorts, planned to stay at the White House all day on Sunday, Bloomberg News reported.