"In the course of my official duties, I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election."
So begins the explosive whistleblower complaint at the center of the growing scandal involving President Donald Trump and Ukraine that was made public Thursday.
The 9-page document centers on Trump's conversations and actions regarding Ukraine, including a 30-minute phone call between the president and Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which Trump asked the Ukrainian leader to further probe the Biden family's business dealings.
One of the more damning allegations in the report is that White House officials moved to "lock down" the transcript of the politically damaging phone call by deliberately misplacing it in a highly-classified database.
The allegation that this was "not the first time" the administration has misused the classified system to bury "politically sensitive" information has raised alarm bells among national security experts and former government officials familiar with the secret, electronic system.
White House officials were urgently trying to figure out how to counter the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry, with one source familiar with the situation describing a sense of "total panic" over the past week at the lack of a plan to address the new reality.
There appears to be rising "anxiety, unease and concern" — as one person close to the White House described the mood in the West Wing — that the whistleblower’s allegations could seriously wound the president and some of those around him.
"There’s not a lot of confidence that there's no there there," this person said.
While Congress is set to depart on a two-week recess Friday, the Intelligence Committee plans to keep pushing ahead.
“We’ll be working through the recess,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the Intelligence Committee told reporters Thursday. “I think the complaint gives us a pretty good roadmap of allegations that we need to investigate.”
"I want to know who's the person, who's the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy," Trump said at a private event for staff members at the United States Mission to the United Nations on Thursday, according to an audio recording of his remarks obtained by The Los Angeles Times.
"You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now."
A U.S. official with knowledge of Trump’s remarks at the event told NBC News Trump also ripped the press as "scum."
Diplomats present for the remarks were taken aback to hear such explicitly political comments and attacks on the president's perceived enemies during an event for government workers, the official told NBC News.
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