/Trump-Ukraine call was abuse of power say former NatSec officials

Trump-Ukraine call was abuse of power say former NatSec officials


  • Around 300 former national security officials, White House staffers, and other ex-officials signed a letter describing President Donald Trump’s actions in a call with Ukraine as “an unconscionable abuse of power.”
  • They said Trump, in a contentious call with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky, “appears to have leveraged the authority and resources of the highest office in the land to invite foreign interference into our democratic processes.”
  • A White House memo describing the call shows that Trump asked Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son.
  • The letter was co-ordinated by National Security Action, a pressure group which has long criticized Trump. Its signatories include many officials who served under Democrat presidents, but also former Republican-era officials.
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Around 300 former national security officials, ambassadors, and ex-White House staff have signed a letter that says President Donald Trump appears to have committed “an unconscionable abuse of power” in a call with the leader of Ukraine, and applauds the launch of impeachment proceedings against him.

The statement is signed by former intelligence officers, ambassadors, secretaries of state, major generals, chiefs of staff, and advisors from the country’s leading defense and security bodies including the CIA, Department of Defense, and the State Department.

It was organized by National Security Action, a pressure that says it opposes Trump’s “reckless leadership.”

The statement says that the many signatories have “long been concerned with President Trump’s actions and their implications for our safety and security.”

It notes that some have spoken against Trump before, while others were publicly doing so for the first time in the letter.

Read more: The US’s top intelligence watchdog found Trump’s conduct so alarming it could expose him to blackmail

The document says that new revelations that Trump asked Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden — an election rival — means Trump “appears to have leveraged the authority and resources of the highest office in the land to invite foreign interference into our democratic processes.”

“That would constitute an unconscionable abuse of power.”

CIA

The CIA logo.
Saul Loeb/AFP

The roughly signatories, which take up 13 pages of the document, include former officials from:

  • Department of Defense
  • CIA
  • Office of the Director of National Intelligence
  • White House
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • National Security Council
  • Department of Justice
  • State Department
  • House Armed Services Committee
  • Navy
  • Army
  • USAID
  • FEMA
  • Marine Corps
  • International Rescue Committee
  • Treasury Department
  • Department of the Air Force
  • Office of Naval Intelligence
  • Defense Intelligence Agency
  • National Counterterrorism Center

Many signatories are people who served under Democratic presidents, especially Barack Obama.

But the statement emphasizes that it is made up of people who “worked across administrations of both parties to uphold and advance those national interests.” 

Among those who signed are Nancy McEldowney, former ambassador to Bulgaria under President George W. Bush, and Matthew Olsen, who led the Justice Department’s national security division under Bush and the National Counterterrorism Center under Obama.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy zelensky trump whistleblower

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky meets US President Donald Trump at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on September 25, 2019.
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

“Having worked across administrations of both parties to uphold and advance those national interests, we consider the President’s actions to be a profound national security concern,” they said.

Some of its members have previously spoken out, the statement said, but “many of us have eschewed politics throughout our careers and, as a result, have not weighed in publicly.”

The statement was released in response to an explosive whistleblower complaint that forced the White House to release a memo of Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president, which reveals that Trump asked Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, his 2020 rival, and interfere with the Russia probe. 

Read more: A timeline of Trump’s campaign to pressure Ukraine’s president into investigating Joe Biden

The complaint, from an anonymous intelligence officer, also alleged that White House officials were alarmed by Trump’s comments in the call, prompting them to try and “lock down” the statement and store it in a secure system typically only used for national security issues.

Democrats launched a formal impeachment inquiry in response.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., addresses reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019, as Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire appears before the House Intelligence Committee about a secret whistleblower complaint involving President Donald Trump. Pelosi committed Tuesday to launching a formal impeachment inquiry against Trump. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi addresses reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019, as Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire appears before the House Intelligence Committee about a secret whistleblower complaint involving President Donald Trump.
Associated Press

The National Security Action statement said that they do not want to “prejudge the totality of the facts of Congress’ deliberative process” but that “there is no escaping that what we already know is serious enough to merit impeachment proceedings.”

Read more: Trump is facing the biggest firestorm of his presidency because his own White House staffers blew the whistle on him

It said that “all of us recognize the imperative of formal impeachment proceedings to ascertain additional facts and weigh the consequences of what we have learned and what may yet still emerge.”

“We applaud those Members of Congress, including Speaker Pelosi, who have now started us down that necessary path.”

It said that Trump using the office of the president to encourage foreign election interference “would represent an effort to subordinate America’s national interests—and those of our closest allies and partners—to the President’s personal political interest.”

Read more: Trump officials were reportedly so alarmed by his Ukraine call that the transcript had to be printed out and passed around by hand

“The introduction of any other considerations of the President debases our democracy, has the potential to make us more vulnerable to threats, and sends a message to leaders around the world that America’s foreign policy can be dangerously corrupted by catering to a single individual.”

“If we fail to speak up—and act—now our foreign policy and national security will officially be on offer to those who can most effectively fulfill the President’s personal prerogatives.

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