WASHINGTON — A second whistleblower has come forward to corroborate the original U.S. intelligence whistleblower complaint that triggered an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, said attorneys representing the pair of government officials on Sunday.
Attorney Mark Zaid on Twitter said the second whistleblower "has first hand knowledge" to support the allegations laid out in the original whistleblower complaint. The initial Aug. 12 complaint describes an effort by Trump to push Ukrainian officials to investigate Trump’s Democratic rivals days after he ordered the suspension of $400 million in U.S. military aid to Ukraine.
The original complaint, filed to the inspector general for the U.S. intelligence agencies, has been questioned by Trump and his supporters, who contend the complaint relies on information provided to the original whistleblower by White House officials rather than first hand accounts witnessed by the whistleblower. Zaid and other legal analysts have said there is no legal requirement that limits a whistleblower complaint to firsthand information, the law only requires a "reasonable belief" of impropriety for a complaint to be filed for further investigation.
The second whistleblower has already spoken with Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the U.S. intelligence community, with their firsthand account, Zaid told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Sunday.
"They also made a protected disclosure under the law and cannot be retaliated against," Zaid tweeted, shortly after Stephanopoulos announced the news of the second whistleblower on ABC's "This Week."
Andrew P. Bakaj, a former CIA analyst on the legal team representing the pair of whistleblowers, issued a second confirmation of the newest whistleblower.
"I can confirm that my firm and my team represent multiple whistleblowers in connection to the underlying August 12, 2019, disclosure to the Intelligence Community Inspector General," Bakaj said on Twitter.
The original complaint centered on Trump’s communication with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In a July 25 call with Zelensky, after the duo discussed U.S. military aid to Ukraine, Trump called on the newly elected leader for a “favor,” that included investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who previously sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company while his father was in office.
Ukraine’s current prosecutor has said there is no current investigation into the Bidens and has said there are no allegations of wrongdoing by the Bidens.
Trump has defended his call with Zelensky as “perfect” as congressional Democrats have argued the request was an illicit effort to involve a foreign government in the upcoming 2020 presidential election. The president, has since openly invited foreign powers to influence the 2020 Democratic primary, most recently calling on Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens during a question and answer session with the reporters on the White House South Lawn last Thursday.
The president in a series of Sunday morning tweets continued to take aim at Biden saying "I would LOVE running against" Biden while knocking his chances of winning the Democratic nomination. Trump tweeted that Biden "won't get to the starting gate." The former vice president has repeatedly topped Trump in head-to-head polls and has largely led the pack of 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls in national polling.
On the Sunday political talk show circuit, Trump's Republican allies defended the president's calls for Ukraine and China to investigate Biden, while congressional Democrats cast Trump's open request as further evidence of abuse of power.
Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, appearing on Fox News Channel, argued "there's nothing wrong with" Trump's request of Ukraine and China, adding that his client "has every right to ask countries to help us."
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (R-N.Y.), appearing on "This Week" argued the president's actions were “a matter of urgent national concern."
“The president betrayed his oath of office,” Jeffries said. “He’s engaged in serious wrongdoing.. That is textbook abuse of power that undermines our national security."
On Sunday the scrutiny over Trump’s communications with Ukraine included reports that Trump told House Republicans he called Zelensky after being pressed by Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
Department of Energy spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes, responding to reports of Trump’s claim first reported by Axios, said Perry “encouraged” Trump to contact Zelensky, but over energy issues.
“Secretary Perry absolutely supported and encouraged the president to speak to the new president of Ukraine to discuss matters related to their energy security and economic development," Hynes said.