President Donald Trump on Thursday alluded to possible retaliation against a U.S. intelligence whistleblower and White House officials who provided information to the individual, according to audio of a closed-door meeting between Trump and U.S. diplomats obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
“I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information?” Trump said during a meeting with the U.S. mission to the United Nations in midtown Manhattan. “Because that’s close to a spy. 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.”
Trump’s remarks came shortly after the House Intelligence Committee released an unclassified version of the whistleblower complaint that alleges White House officials were increasingly concerned 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 federal government’s Whistleblower Protection Act provides protection to federal employees who report “government illegality, waste, and corruption,” but in the days leading up to the release of the complaint, the president has repeatedly attacked the credibility of the individual, saying he believed the individual was a “highly partisan” person.
Trump, facing an impeachment inquiry launched by House Democrats this week over his communications with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, continued to defend his request for Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden during a July 25 phone call. The call is part of the whistleblower complaint, with the whistleblower describing an effort by White House officials to “lock down” access to electronic records of the call.
Trump, speaking to reporters upon returning to Washington after three days of meetings at the United Nations General Assembly, accused Democrats of attempting to derail his 2020 reelection bid.
“They're going to lose the election, they know it, that’s why they're doing it,” Trump said.
Democrats have countered that Trump illicitly sought foreign assistance to influence the upcoming presidential election by going after a political rival. Biden, has maintained a steady lead among Democratic presidential candidates looking to run against Trump.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, continued to defend the impeachment inquiry, saying Trump engaged in a “cover-up” by initially attempting to block access to the whistleblower complaint and records of his call with Zelensky.
“We must take special care to protect the Intelligence Community whistleblower,” Pelosi said.
The president also took aim at House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who has led the push for the whistleblower complaint to be disclosed to lawmakers as required by law.
“We've done so many things that are so incredible … and I have to put up with Adam Schiff on … an absolutely perfect phone call to the new President of Ukraine,” Trump told reporters.