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FactCheck: Whistleblower complaint timeline

President Donald Trump has been accused in a whistleblower complaint of "using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election."

"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," the whistleblower complaint reads. "This interference includes, among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the President's main domestic political rivals. The President's personal lawyer, Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General [William] Barr appears to be involved as well."

The complaint — which was filed Aug. 12 but not released until Sept. 26 — is corroborated by a memo of a July 25 phone call that Trump placed to the recently elected president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky. The memo, which was released by the White House on Sept. 25, confimed that Trump asked Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

"There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great," Trump told Zelensky, according to the memo, which isn't a verbatim transcript, but rather the notes taken by assigned staff. "Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me." (As we've written, Biden's son wasn't being prosecuted, and Biden didn't brag about stopping "the prosecution.")  

Zelensky agreed, and Trump said he would have Giuliani and Barr call him.

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire called the complaint "unprecedented." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the president's actions unconstitutional, and has called for impeachment hearings. 

Here we list some of the key dates in the fast-moving, still-unfolding story.

2018

Jan. 23 — Biden boasts that he threatened Ukraine's then-president, Petro Poroshenko, and then-prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, to fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, who was widely viewed as ineffective at prosecuting corruption, or risk losing $1 billion in loan guarantees from the U.S. "I looked at them and said: I'm leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you're not getting the money," Biden says in remarks at an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations. "Well, son of a bitch. He got fired." Shokin was removed in March 2016.

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Late 2018 — Giuliani reportedly Skypes with Shokin, the former Ukraine prosecutor general. 

2019

January — Giuliani meets with Yuriy Lutsenko, the Ukraine prosecutor general. Lutsenko would later tell Bloomberg News that the two men talked over the course of two days and spoke about corruption in Ukraine, specifically about the investigations involving Mykola Zlochevsky, the owner of Burisma, a gas company in Ukraine. Biden's son, Hunter, was a board member for Burisma from 2014 to 2019.

February — Giuliani meets again with Lutsenko in Warsaw, where Trump's lawyer was giving a speech about Iran.

March 20 — Hill.TV airs an interview with Lutsenko, who alleges that then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch gave him a list of people not to prosecute. Yovanovitch is a career diplomat who also served as an ambassador under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. (Less than a month later, Lutsenko would recant this statement, telling TheBabel, an online Ukraine website, that he asked for a do-not-prosecute list but the ambassador did not give him one.)

April 1 — In one of several pieces on Ukraine, The Hill's conservative opinion columnist John Solomon writes that Joe Biden, as vice president, pressured Ukraine to fire its prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, in March 2016 at a time when Shokin's office was investigating Burisma, a private Ukrainian gas company, and its board members, including Hunter Biden. Solomon writes that Ukraine had "reopened" its investigation of Burisma after Biden had bragged about forcing Shokin out of office. (There is no evidence of any wrongdoing by either Biden or his son, or that Hunter Biden was ever under investigation. See "Trump Twists Facts on Biden and Ukraine.")

April 21 – Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky is elected president of Ukraine. Trump calls to congratulate him on his election victory. The White House emails the media a statement that says, "President Donald J. Trump spoke today with President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskyy to congratulate him on his victory in Ukraine's April 21 election." Trump "expressed his commitment to work together with President-elect Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people to implement reforms that strengthen democracy, increase prosperity, and root out corruption," according to the statement.

May — Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood writes in a letter to congressional committees that he has "certified" that Ukraine "has taken substantial actions to make defense institutional reforms for the purposes of decreasing corruption, increasing accountability, and sustaining improvements of combat capability enabled by U.S. assistance." The letter says "now that this defense institutional reform has occurred," the Defense Department can provide support to Ukraine. "Implementation of this further support will begin no sooner than 15 days following this notification."

This was the second notice sent to Congress regarding $250 million Congress had appropriated for security aid to Ukraine for fiscal 2019. According to an aide to Sen. Dick Durbin, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee on defense appropriations, the first notice on the Defense Department's plan for the appropriated money was sent in February. "We don't typically make these notifications public," the aide told FactCheck.org.

May — Giuliani meets with "a top Ukrainian anti-corruption prosecutor, Nazar Kholodnytsky, in Paris," according to the Washington Post. "Kholodnytsky — who was caught on tape advising witnesses in corruption cases how to avoid prosecution — had faced calls to step down from the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch," the Post reports on Sept. 25.

May 6 –– The State Department announces that Yovanovitch would be ending her assignment as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine "as planned," although her term was not yet completed.

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May 9 — The New York Times reports that Giuliani planned to travel to Ukraine to encourage Zelensky to "pursue inquiries that allies of the White House contend could yield new information about two matters of intense interest to Mr. Trump." (One was the origins of the Russia investigation, and the other was Hunter Biden's involvement with Burisma.)

May 11 — Giuliani cancels the trip, telling Fox News that he believed that Ukraine's new president was surrounded by "a group of people that are enemies of the president [of the United States], and in some cases, enemies of the United States and in one case, an already convicted person who has been found to be involved in assisting the Democrats with the 2016 investigation."

May 14 — Giuliani tells a Ukrainian journalist that Yovanovitch was removed as the U.S. ambassador "because she was part of the efforts against the President." (This is contained in the whistleblower's complaint.)

May 16 — Lutsenko, Ukraine's prosecutor general, tells Bloomberg News that there is no evidence that Hunter Biden violated "any Ukrainian laws — at least as of now, we do not see any wrongdoing." A former prosecutor said that the investigation of Burisma was dormant when Shokin was removed as prosecutor general in March 2016, Bloomberg reports.

Lutsenko, who has since resigned, says a corruption investigation into leaders of Ukrainian gas companies concerned a potential money-laundering transaction that had occurred before Hunter Biden joined the board. "Biden was definitely not involved," Lutsenko tells Bloomberg News. "We do not have any grounds to think that there was any wrongdoing starting from 2014."

May 19 — In a Fox News interview, Trump says Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who "was after his son," Hunter Biden. (There is no evidence that Hunter Biden was under investigation, or that Joe Biden took any official action on his son's behalf. See "FactChecking Trump's Fox News Interview.")

June 12 — Over two days, ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos interviews Trump. In one of the interviews, Trump tells Stephanopoulos that he would be willing to accept what Trump called "oppo research" from a foreign country. "If somebody called from a country, Norway, 'We have information on your opponent.' Oh, I think I'd want to hear it," Trump said.

July 18 — The Defense Department announces it will send the $250 million in security assistance funding to Ukraine.

An Office of Management and Budget official tells federal agencies that Trump had frozen security aid to Ukraine "earlier that month," according to the whistleblower complaint. Trump later confirms he blocked the aid, when asked about a Sept. 23 report in the Washington Post, based on three anonymous "senior administration officials," that Trump ordered Mick Mulvaney, the White House acting chief of staff and OMB director, to withhold the funding in mid-July.

July 19 — Trump's special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, texts Giuliani and says he will connect him with "Andrey Yermak, who is very close" to Zelensky. Volker suggests a three-way call between them the following Monday. The Wall Street Journal reported that after the call, according to a text message it was shown by Giuliani, Yermak told Giuliani that he was "sure things will move quickly from today onwards and we will be able to take this relationship to a new level."

July 25 – Trump calls Ukrainian President Zelensky. In a statement, Ukraine's office of the president says Trump expressed hope that Ukraine can "complete investigation of corruption cases, which inhibited the interaction between Ukraine and the USA." The White House does not issue a statement on the call. (Two months later, under pressure from House Democrats, the White House releaseda memo of the call in which Trump asked Zelensky to open up a corruption investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden. See the Sept. 25 entry.)

July 26 — Volker visits Kyiv and meets with "President Zelenskyy and a variety of Ukrainian political figures" and provides "advice to the Ukrainian leadership about how to 'navigate' the demands that the [U.S.] President [Trump] had made of Mr. Zelenskyy," according to the whistleblower complaint released Sept. 26.

Aug. 2 — Giuliani travels to Madrid to meet with one of Zelensky's advisers, Andriy Yermak. "The U.S. officials characterized this meeting, which was not reported publicly at the time, as a 'direct follow-up' to the President's call with Mr. Zelenskyy about the 'cases' they had discussed," according to the whistleblower complaint. Giuliani later told the New York Times that he "strongly urged" Yermak to "just investigate the darn things."

Aug. 12 — A whistleblower files a complaint, addressed to chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees, that says: "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."

The complaint alleges that Trump in a July 25 phone call pressured Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Some White House officials who listened to the call told the whistleblower that they were "deeply disturbed" by the phone call, and were in discussions with White House lawyers "because of the likelihood, in the officials' retelling, that they had witnessed the President abuse his office for personal gain," according to the whistleblower complaint. It also lays out a possible "connection" between Trump's request to investigate the Bidens and the White House's decision to suspend U.S. security assistance to Ukraine. 

Aug. 26Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community, writes to Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire to say that he has reviewed the whistleblower's complaint and has deemed it an "'urgent concern' that 'appears credible.'" Atkinson informs Maguire that, under the law, he has seven days to forward the complaint to the committee chairmen "together with any comments the Director considers appropriate."

Aug. 29 — The Defense Department confirms there is a hold on the $250 million in military aid appropriated by Congress, an aide to Sen. Durbin told us. This comes one day after Politico reports the Trump administration was "slow-walking" the money.

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Politico also reports that the Pentagon "has reviewed the foreign assistance package and supports it," quoting "a senior Defense Department official."

Sept. 1 — Vice President Mike Pence meets with Ukrainian President Zelensky in Poland during an event marking the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II.

Sept. 2 — In a press conference, Pence is asked whether he spoke about Biden with Zelensky, and whether the freeze on Ukraine funding had anything to do with "efforts, including by Rudy Giuliani, to try to dig up dirt on the Biden family." Pence cites the administration's "great concerns about issues of corruption" in Ukraine and says he "called on [Zelensky] to work with us to engage our European partners to participate at a greater level in Ukraine." Pence says he did not speak to Zelensky about Biden. 

Sept. 3 — A bipartisan group of senators sends a letter to Mulvaney, urging him to release the appropriated aid to Ukraine. "This funding is crucial to the long term stability of Ukraine," reads the letter from Democratic Sens. Durbin, Jeanne Shaheen and Richard Blumenthal, and Republican Sens. Rob Portman and Ron Johnson.

Sept. 9 — Three House committees announce investigations into whether Trump and Giuliani tried to pressure Ukraine into conducting "politically-motivated investigations under the guise of anti-corruption activity."

Sept. 11 — Republican Sen. Portman asks Trump to release the security aid to Ukraine. The administration does so that night. The $391 million includes $250 million Congress had appropriated for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative for fiscal year 2019 and $141.5 million in security assistance through the State Department.

Sept. 12 — The Senate Committee on Appropriations holds a scheduled hearing in which members consider an amendment to force the administration to release aid to Ukraine. Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham tells Durbin, the author of the amendment, that the administration had released the funds the night before "(b)ecause of your amendment. That's why it was released because I was going to vote for it. So I think they've got the message." 

Durbin agrees to withdraw the amendment, which would have tied the release of fiscal 2020 aid to Ukraine to $5 billion in Defense Department funding, once the committee shows a bipartisan consensus to find another way to make sure the money is spent as appropriated.

Sept. 13 — Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, issues "a subpoena to the Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire to compel the production of a whistleblower complaint that the Intelligence Community Inspector General's (IC IG) determined to be credible and a matter of 'urgent concern,' as well as the IC IG's determination and all records pertaining to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence's (ODNI) involvement in this matter, including any and all correspondence with other Executive Branch actors such as the White House."

Sept. 18 — The Washington Post, citing unnamed sources, reports that the whistleblower complaint involves Trump's "communications with a foreign leader," including "a 'promise' that was regarded as so troubling that it prompted an official in the U.S. intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint."

In a pair of tweets, Trump dismisses the report as "another Fake News story." He says, "I understand that there may be many people listening from various U.S. agencies, not to mention those from the other country itself. No problem! ….Knowing all of this, is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially 'heavily populated' call."

Sept. 19 — Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community, meets for several hours behind closed doors with Schiff, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, to discuss the whistleblower complaint.

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The Housepassesa stopgap spending bill that allowsthe fiscal 2019 Ukraine funding to be spent beyond fiscal 2019, which ends Sept. 30. The Senate later passes the bill on Sept. 26.

The Washington Post reports that a "whistleblower complaint about President Trump made by an intelligence official centers on Ukraine."

In a CNN interview, Giuliani admits that he asked Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. "The only thing I asked about Joe Biden is to get to the bottom of how it was that Lutsenko, who was appointed, dismissed the case [against Burisma]," Giuliani tells CNN's Chris Cuomo. "So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?" Cuomo responds. "Of course I did," Giuliani says.

Sept. 20 — Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, Trump is asked if he has read the whistleblower report. "[E]verybody has read it and they laugh at it," Trump says. "And it's another — it's another media disaster. The media has lost so much credibility in this country. Our media has become the laughingstock of the world."

Sept. 21 — The Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous sources,reports that Trump "repeatedly pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden's son," and urged Zelensky to "work with Rudy Giuliani on a probe that could hamper Mr. Trump's potential 2020 opponent."

Sept. 23 — Trump tells reporters, "We're supporting a country. We want to make sure that country is honest. It's very important to talk about corruption. If you don't talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?"

Sept. 24 — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces that the House will begin an impeachment inquiry. "The President must be held accountable," she says. "No one is above the law."

Trump confirms he withheld security aid from Ukraine, saying he did so because he wanted European countries to contribute more to Ukraine. (They contribute more than the United States. See "Trump Wrong on European Aid to Ukraine.")

Sept. 25 — The White House releasesa memo of the call, which confirmed that Trump asked Zelensky to investigate the Bidens. The memo isn't a verbatim transcript, but rather the notes taken by assigned staff.

In the call, Trump complained that the United States is doing "[m]uch more than the European countries are doing and they should be helping you more than they are. Germany does almost nothing for you." Trump said "the United States has been very, very good to Ukraine. I wouldn't say that it's reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the United States has been very, very good to Ukraine."

Zelensky agreed with Trump, saying "the United States is doing quite a lot for Ukraine." Trump then asked for "a favor," telling Zelensky he'd like him to look into CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity firm the Democratic National Committee hired after its server was hacked during the 2016 election. CrowdStrike determined that Russia was behind the cyberattack.

"The other thing, there's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great," the memo says Trump told Zelensky. "Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me." (There is no evidence that Biden "stopped the prosecution" to help his son. See "Trump Twists Facts on Biden and Ukraine.")

Zelensky responded that he will appoint a new prosecutor who "will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue." Trump said he would have Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr call Zelensky.

Sept. 26 — The House intelligence committee releases a redacted copy of the whistleblower complaint, and hears testimony from Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence.

Maguire says the whistleblower acted in "good faith" and "did the right thing." Democrats on the committee press him on why he did not initially turn over the whistleblower's complaint. Maguire says it was an "unprecedented" situation, and he was concerned about the possibility of "executive privilege," so he brought the matter to the attention of the White House and then the Department of Justice. He said he did not initially release the complaint based on the advice of lawyers in the Department of Justice.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Lutsenko says of Hunter Biden: "From the perspective of Ukrainian legislation, he did not violate anything." He went on to say that an investigation of Burisma's owner involved activities that occurred before Biden joined the company's board. "Hunter Biden cannot be responsible for violations of the management of Burisma that took place two years before his arrival," Lutsenko says.

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Shealah Craighead/White House

President Donald Trump boards Air Force One in New York, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2019, leaving the United Nations meeting en route to Joint Base Andrews, Md.