By Doina Chiacu and Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A second whistleblower has come forward about President Donald Trump’s attempts to get the Ukrainian president to investigate a political rival, lawyers for the official said on Sunday.
Lawyer Mark Zaid said the person, also an intelligence official, has first-hand knowledge of some of the allegations involving the initial whistleblower complaint, which triggered impeachment proceedings against the Republican president.
The second official has been interviewed by the intelligence community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson, Zaid said.
The first whistleblower complaint, filed with the inspector general on Aug. 12, cited information received from half a dozen U.S. officials expressing concern that Trump was using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country as he seeks re-election a second term in 2020.
It also alleged that Trump leveraged $400 million in aid to secure a promise from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate a Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter Biden, who served as a director on a Ukrainian energy company.
“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,” Andrew Bakaj, a second lawyer, said on Twitter.
Mark Zaid said on Twitter that the second whistleblower “also made a protected disclosure under the law and cannot be retaliated against.” He told ABC News earlier the second official has been interviewed by the inspector general.
Confirmation of a second whistleblower followed stirrings of discontent within Trump’s own Republican Party after he called on China on Friday to investigate Biden’s son, who had business dealings in China.
Republican U.S. Senators Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse and Susan Collins expressed concerns about Trump reaching out to foreign countries to help him in his 2020 re-election bid.
However, other Republicans stood firmly in support of Trump on Sunday, echoing the president’s insistence that the call was not significant.
Trump railed against the “do-nothing” Democrats’ impeachment on Sunday on Twitter with a string of retweets from supporters, touting his high approval ratings among Republicans and reprising his criticism of Romney.
The telephone call with Zelenskiy, a summary of which was released by the White House, and the whistleblower complaint prompted House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to launch an impeachment inquiry on Sept. 24. She said Trump’s attempts to solicit foreign interference jeopardized U.S. election integrity and threatened national security.
Democrats said any finding that Trump withheld taxpayer money, already approved by Congress to help Ukraine, in exchange for a favor from Zelenkiy would strengthen the case against him.
Trump has maintained there was no “quid pro quo” in his request of the Ukrainian president, but text messages released by congressional committees leading the inquiry showed otherwise.
The committees released the texts involving Trump’s Ukraine envoy, Kurt Volker, after he testified behind closed doors on Thursday.
The committees this week expect to hear from another U.S. diplomat, Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, a committee official confirmed on Sunday. Sondland worked closely with Volker and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani on the Ukraine effort.
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Sandra Maler)