Capitol Alert

‘Basically made up’: Tom McClintock dismisses whistleblower complaint, Trump impeachment

Republican Rep. Tom McClintock of Elk Grove has some choice words for House Democrats and their drive to impeach President Donald Trump.

It is “a lot of Never-Trumpers setting their hair on fire, which basically is situation normal,” McClintock said in an interview with Auburn’s KAHI radio station, which aired Thursday morning.

His thoughts on the the whistleblower report that pushed some once-skeptical Democrats to support impeachment?

“Nonsense,” the congressman called it.

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“I’ve read the transcript, I think everybody needs to read the transcript and see how unobjectionable the president’s conversation was,” said McClintock, who represents California’s 4th District, which stretches from Lake Tahoe down past Yosemite and includes the Sacramento suburbs of Roseville and Placerville. It is the most Republican-leaning congressional district in the state.

“This so-called whistleblower had never seen the conversation, never heard the conversation and the charges that were made to the inspector general simply aren’t supported by the conversation,” McClintock argued. “It was basically made up and the inspector general basically determined that this individual … had a political bias and a political motivation.”

The report from the Office of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, which was released by Congress Thursday morning, contradicts a number of those assertions.

“Although the ICIG’s preliminary review identified some indica of an arguable political bias on the part of the Complainant in favor of a rival political candidate, such evidence did not change my determination that the complaint relating to the urgent concern ‘appears credible,’ particularly given the other information the ICIG obtained during its initial review,” Inspector General Michael K. Atkinson writes.

As McClintock pointed out, the whistleblower acknowledged in the complaint submitted to Congress that he or she “was not a direct witness to most of the events described,” including the phone call between President Trump and the president of Ukraine that is now under scrutiny.

The whistleblower goes on to say that, “I found my colleagues’ accounts of these events to be credible because, in almost all cases, multiple officials recounted fact patterns that were consistent with one another.”

Perhaps more significantly, the details the whistleblower provided about the call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky matched closely with the excerpts of the call transcript that the White House released Wednesday.

In the radio interview, McClintock made the broader point — one that has often repeated by the president — that Trump’s request to the new Ukrainian head of state to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, was entirely justified.

“Now, there is very strong evidence that when he is vice president, Joe Biden threatened the Ukrainian government with the loss of more than a billion dollars in federal loan guarantees unless they fired the prosecutor who was investigating Biden’s son on corruption charges,” McClintock asserted.

“When the president asked the new Ukrainian president to look into this, it’s not only fully within his authority and responsibility I think he would be derelict in his duties if he didn’t.”

Multiple fact checkers, however, have debunked the allegation against Biden, a leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.

As the Washington Post pointed out earlier this week, the claim mixes up the timeline of events, among other things. Ukrainian Prosecutor Viktor Shokin had been “investigating a Ukrainian gas producer, Burisma Holdings, that had added Biden’s son Hunter to its board,” Post Fact Checker Glen Kessler writes. “But that investigation “had already been shelved when Biden acted” to pressure Ukraine to fire Shokin, “and may have even involved a side company, not Burisma.”

Shokin had also been under fire from other Western diplomats for failing to aggressively root out corruption in Ukraine.

To McClintock the president’s call with Ukraine is just a pretext for Democrats who have been calling for impeachment since “before Trump was even sworn in,” he said on the radio. Impeachment, he argued, “is reserved in the Constitution for treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors. This doesn’t even come close to that.”

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Emily Cadei works out of the McClatchy Washington bureau, where she covers national politics and writes the Impact2020 newsletter. A native of Sacramento, she has spent more than a decade in D.C. reporting on U.S. elections, Congress and foreign affairs for publications including Newsweek, Congressional Quarterly and Roll Call.