The White House is preparing to release to Congress by the end of the week both the whistleblower complaint and the Inspector General report that are at the center of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, according to a senior administration official, reversing its position after withholding the documents from lawmakers.
The move shows the level of seriousness with which the administration is now approaching the House‘s new impeachment proceedings, even as President Donald Trump publicly tried to minimize the inquiry as a “witch hunt” or “presidential harassment,” or a move that will help him win his 2020 reelection campaign.
The administration official stressed the decision and timing could change over the next few days, but as of Tuesday evening the White House was planning give the information to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The format of presentation, or process of viewing the documents,remained up in the air. The president has agreed to the move, the official added.
The White House’s decision to give lawmakers any information on the whistleblower complaint marks a major change of strategy for the administration, which originally seemed intent on keeping the complaint private. Acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire, so far, has declined to turn over the complaint to congressional intelligence committees as required by law. The White House counsel’s office and Justice Department have spent the last few days reviewing whistleblower laws.
This stonewalling, combined with the president’s July call with the president of Ukraine, prompted House Democrats to launch an impeachment inquiry on Tuesday. Democrats felt like they finally had the right material to do so after months of launching various investigations into Trump’s business dealings and his administration’s policy decisions.
Trump already promised to release on Wednesday a transcript of his call with the president of Ukraine, during which he asked the foreign leader to investigate the business dealings of Hunter Biden, son of potential Democratic opponent Joe Biden.
“You will see it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call. No pressure and, unlike Joe Biden and his son, NO quid pro quo! This is nothing more than a continuation of the Greatest and most Destructive Witch Hunt of all time,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday between meetings with foreign leaders at the United Nations.
But liberal lawyers and Democratic lawmakers say that only the whistleblower complaint can fully lay out the allegations against the president.
The three lawyers for the whistleblower, Andrew P. Bakaj, I. Charles McCullough, III and Mark Zaid, praised the White House’s decision to release the whistleblower complaint Congress.
The release of the call transcript, which is squarely in the administration’s control, will likely come out first. The administration could use the sequencing of the release of information to its advantage by setting out the best possible story line for Trump early on, just as it did with the release of the Mueller report.
Meanwhile, the whistleblower’s legal team has been in touch with the House and Senate Intelligence Committees about potentially providing testimony. The whistleblower filed the complaint to the Intelligence Community’s Inspector General in early August.
A White House spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.