President Donald Trump disputed a Washington Post report Thursday that his interaction with a foreign leader had prompted an official in the U.S. intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint, saying it was inconceivable that he would say anything inappropriate on a heavily monitored phone call.
“Virtually anytime I speak on the phone to a foreign leader, I understand that there may be many people listening from various U.S. agencies, not to mention those from the other country itself,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “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? I would only do what is right anyway, and only do good for the USA!”
Trump dismissed the report as “Fake News” and said in another tweet that he was subject to “Presidential Harassment!”
Trump’s interaction with the foreign leader included a “promise” that was regarded as so troubling that it prompted the intelligence official to file a whistleblower complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community, according to two former U.S. officials familiar with the matter. The former officials spoke to The Post on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
One former official said the communication was a phone call.
It was not immediately clear which foreign leader Trump was speaking with or what he pledged to deliver, but his direct involvement in the matter had not been previously disclosed. It raises new questions about the president’s handling of sensitive information and may further strain his relationship with U.S. intelligence agencies.
The White House declined to comment late Wednesday night. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and a lawyer representing the whistleblower declined to comment.
Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson determined that the complaint was credible and troubling enough to be considered a matter of “urgent concern,” a legal threshold that requires notification of congressional oversight committees.
But acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire has refused to share details about Trump’s alleged transgression with lawmakers, touching off a legal and political dispute that has spilled into public view and prompted speculation that the spy chief is improperly protecting the president.
Atkinson appeared on Capitol Hill on Thursday for a closed meeting with members of the House Intelligence Committee, but he declined to provide any substantive detail about the whistleblower complaint, according to two people familiar with the interview.
The two people requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the meeting.
Atkinson made clear, one of these people said, that he had not been authorized to discuss the complaint – only process.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., called it an “unprecedented decision” not to share the whistleblower’s complaint with Congress. He said he knew that the Department of Justice had been involved in the decision to withhold the complaint and expressed frustration that he couldn’t get an answer about whether the White House is involved.
Schiff said the committee did not know at this point whether the news reports about the complaint itself are accurate.
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · John Wagner ·