President Donald Trump called the complaint lodged by a whistleblower “a fraud” Monday as he continued to lash out at an anonymous U.S. intelligence official despite a warning by the individual’s lawyer that Trump’s previous comments had endangered his client’s safety.
In a spate of morning tweets, Trump also questioned whether House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who is leading the investigation, should be arrested for “treason,” renewing a line of attack from the weekend.
“The Whistleblower knew almost nothing, its 2ND HAND description of the call is a fraud,” Trump said in one tweet. He referred to the whistleblower’s account of Trump’s July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a description that closely tracked a rough transcript released by the White House.
House Democrats last week began an impeachment inquiry into Trump’s actions tied to the call, in which Trump repeatedly urged Zelensky to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, a leading Democratic contender for the presidency, and his son, at a time when the White House had suspended military aid to Ukraine.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Monday that if Trump is impeached by the House, Senate rules would force him to start a trial.
“I would have no choice but to take it up,” McConnell said during an appearance on CNBC, before quickly adding: “How long you’re on it is a whole different matter.”
In his latest tweets Monday, Trump also took fresh aim at the Bidens and the media, calling both “corrupt.”
Trump targeted Schiff for remarks at a hearing last week in which Schiff embellished what was said in the call between Trump and Zelensky. Schiff later said it was intended as a parody and should have been obvious to Trump.
“Rep. Adam B. Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people,” Trump tweeted. “It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?”
Trump’s most recent tweets aimed at the whistleblower came two days after Andrew Bakaj, a lawyer representing the whistleblower, sent a letter to acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire expressing fears for his client’s safety.
In the letter, Bakaj cited Trump’s remarks Wednesday in which he said whoever gave the whistleblower the information about the call was “close to a spy” and alluding to the death penalty.
“Unfortunately, we expect this situation to worsen, and to become even more dangerous for our client and any other whistleblowers, as Congress seeks to investigate this matter,” Bakaj wrote.
Bakaj also said that “certain individuals” have issued a $50,000 “bounty” for “any information” relating to his client’s identity.
In tweets Sunday night, Trump said he wants to meet his “accuser” and warned of “Big Consequences.”
“In addition, I want to meet not only my accuser, who presented SECOND & THIRD HAND INFORMATION, but also the person who illegally gave this information, which was largely incorrect, to the ‘Whistleblower,’ ” Trump tweeted. “Was this person SPYING on the U.S. President? Big Consequences!”
Trump’s attacks on the whistleblower brought a sharpe rebuke Monday from Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“We are going to get to the bottom of the whistleblower’s allegations, but we cannot lose sight of how truly dangerous the President’s response to these allegations has been,” Warner wrote on Twitter. “This President’s comments about ‘spies and treason’ and ‘what we used to do in the old days’ are totally unacceptable and will do serious damage far beyond this news cycle.”
In another tweet Monday, Trump promoted a false narrative that has been spread by Republicans in recent days that the intelligence community recently eliminated a requirement that whistleblowers provide direct, firsthand knowledge of alleged wrongdoings. The statute has never required that standard.
In his complaint, the whistleblower states that he does not have direct knowledge of the events involving Trump that he describes but says he has spoken to more than a half-dozen U.S. officials.
“WHO CHANGED THE LONG STANDING WHISTLEBLOWER RULES JUST BEFORE SUBMITTAL OF THE FAKE WHISTLEBLOWER REPORT? DRAIN THE SWAMP!” Trump wrote.
In another tweet, Trump complained that other countries have not provided enough military aid to Ukraine, asking “why is it always the USA that does so much and puts up so much money for Ukraine and other countries?”
“By the way, the Bidens were corrupt!” Trump added.
Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son, served for nearly five years on the board of Burisma, Ukraine’s largest private gas company, whose owner came under scrutiny by Ukrainian prosecutors for possible abuse of power and unlawful enrichment.
Hunter Biden was not accused of any wrongdoing in the investigation. As vice president, Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire the top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who Biden and other Western officials said was not sufficiently pursuing corruption cases. At the time, the investigation into Burisma was dormant, according to former Ukrainian and U.S. officials.
Trump also attacked the media on Monday for what he considers inadequate coverage of the Bidens’ actions in Ukraine.
“A Corrupt Media is so bad for our Country!” Trump wrote. “In actuality, the Media may be even more Corrupt than the Bidens, which is hard to do!”
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