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Second whistle-blower may be ready to emerge in Trump saga
[WASHINGTON] The lead attorney representing a US intelligence official who came forward with a complaint against Donald Trump says his firm is now representing "multiple whistle-blowers" in connection with the matter, a new twist in the impeachment inquiry of the president.
Andrew Bakaj's comment followed a report by ABC News on Sunday that a second individual has come forward with details about Mr Trump's efforts to get the Ukrainian government to dig up damaging information about a political rival, former Vice-President Joe Biden.
"My firm and my team represent multiple whistle-blowers in connection to the underlying August 12, 2019, disclosure to the Intelligence Community Inspector General," Mr Bakaj, of the law firm Compass Rose Legal Group PLLC, said on Twitter.
Mark Zaid, another attorney with Compass Rose, also confirmed the report of the second whistle-blower, who he said has "first hand knowledge" of the matters at hand and cannot be retaliated against.
The second whistle-blower hasn't yet communicated with the congressional committees conducting an impeachment investigation into Mr Trump, ABC News reported.
"It doesn't matter how many people decide to call themselves whistle-blowers about the same telephone call — a call the president already made public - it doesn't change the fact that he has done nothing wrong," White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said.
Mr Trump said on Twitter last week that he wants to "meet not only my accuser" but also "the person who illegally gave this information". He also suggested the people involved had been "spying" and threatened "big consequences".
The administration suffered a week of damaging developments that included Trump publicly calling on Ukraine and China to investigate Biden and his son - echoing Democrats' accusation that the president was leveraging his power to target a political opponent.
House impeachment investigators have subpoenaed the White House for documents on efforts by Mr Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to pressure Ukraine into opening a probe of the Bidens.
"The evidence of wrongdoing by Donald Trump is hiding in plain sight," Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, who is part of the House Democratic leadership, said Sunday on ABC's "This Week".
"The president's own words in the public domain has indicated that he doesn't think there's any problem in soliciting foreign interference."
Mr Trump claims that Mr Biden improperly helped his son Hunter profit from business deals in Ukraine and China. The allegations related to Ukraine have been discredited, and those related to China aren't supported by publicly known details. Mr Biden's 2020 presidential campaign has dismissed the allegations as without merit.
The existence of a potential second whistle-blower, who may have more direct knowledge of Mr Trump's interactions with Ukraine, was first reported Friday by the New York Times.
Mr Trump responded in a tweet on Saturday, saying the "Deep State" is "going to the bench" for reinforcements.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the whistle-blowers - whose identities are protected by law - should be interviewed in public and under oath, suggesting that he would subpoena them if necessary.
"I'm going to insist upon that the whistle-blower - one or two, whatever - they come forward, under oath, so the public can judge their credibility," Ms Graham said on Fox News's "Sunday Morning Futures".
One of Mr Trump's staunchest Republican allies, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, declined on Sunday to defend Mr Trump's suggestion, made to reporters outside the White House, that China investigate the Bidens. The president wasn't being serious, Mr Jordan said.
"I don't think he really meant go investigate" and nobody "really believes that the president of the United States thinks China's going to investigate," Mr Jordan said. "I think he's getting the press all spun up on all of this."
Mr Biden, whose status as the 2020 Democratic front-runner has slipped as Mr Trump and other Republicans look to flip the narrative on Ukraine, pushed back late Saturday. In a Washington Post opinion piece, Mr Biden said Mr Trump is pushing "debunked conspiracy theories and smears against me and my family."
"I will put the integrity of my whole career in public service to this nation up against Mr Trump's lack of integrity any day of the week," Mr Biden wrote. "It all comes down to the abuse of power. That is the defining characteristic of the Trump presidency.